Is there a link between motorcycle accidents and ghosts? On 15 July 2016, CNN carried an intriguing story. “Many people think a Kentucky man captured a supernatural moment when he took a picture of a fatal motorcycle crash…The photo appears to show the faint outline of a figure hovering over the accident scene. The man involved in the motorcycle crash later died at the hospital….”

The picture went viral and thousands of people claimed it showed the biker’s soul leaving his body. Coincidentally, the dead man’s name was Charles Deadman and Deadman’s daughter told People that the image of a ghostly white figure with a human form rising skyward above the busy emergency team was “likely him coming back for a moment, to say goodbye to his family.” This is just one of the several motorcycle accident and ghost linked accounts that have been published.

In India, perhaps the most well known and revered is the ghostly link between a 350cc Bullet motorcycle and its erstwhile rider.  According to Wikipedia, on 2 December 1991, Om Singh Rathore, also known as Om Banna was travelling from Bangdi near Pali in Rajasthan to Chotila, when he lost control of his motorcycle and struck a tree. “Om Banna was killed instantly, his motorcycle falling into a nearby ditch. The morning after the accident, local police took the motorcycle to a nearby police station. The next day it was reported to have disappeared from the station and was found back at the site of the accident. Police, once again, took the motorcycle, this time emptying its fuel tank and putting it under lock and chain to prevent its removal. Despite their efforts, the next morning it again disappeared and was found at the accident site.

“Legend states that the motorcycle kept returning to the same ditch. It thwarted every attempt by police to keep it at the local police station; the motorcycle always returned to the same spot before dawn. This came to be seen as a miracle by the local population, and they began to worship the “Bullet Bike”. News of the miracle motorcycle spread to nearby villages, and they built a temple to worship it. This temple is known as “Bullet Baba’s Temple”.

Besides becoming a religious site where hundreds of devotees offer prayers every day for a safe journey, the Om Banna temple near Jodhpur today is also a major tourist attraction, ranked 17 on the list of major landmarks on TripAdvisor. Many stories do the rounds of how Om Banna still rides across the road, often helping those in need.

It was while I was on a visit to the Om Banna temple that I learnt the story of Nand Lal. He belonged to a family of pandits or priests from Rajasthan but he was determined not to become a pandit. And yet, Nand Lal’s parents were happy when Nand Lal’s dream of getting a job with a good firm came true. His first dream fulfilled, Nand Lal began nurturing a new dream. He wanted to buy a motorcycle, a new one, not a second hand one. This second dream was easier to achieve than his first dream. His father gifted him a motorcycle.

Besides becoming a religious site where hundreds of devotees offer prayers every day for a safe journey, the Om Banna temple is also a major tourist attraction. 

When Nand Lal turned twenty five his dream was to find another job with a better firm. He soon received a call letter and left excitedly for the final interview. Nobody knew what actually happened. Some said it was the fault of the truck driver who overtook another truck, swerved and collided head on with Nand Lal’s motorcycle.  Some said it was Nand Lal’s fault.

Whatever the truth, both Nand Lal and his motorcycle were smashed to pieces. But Nand Lal’s dreams were obviously not shattered. More than a month and a half had passed since the tragic incident. But in the calm of the morning, his family and sometimes neighbours would hear somebody revving up a motorcycle by the side of the house. When they peered out of the window, the sound would die away. Some nights, his widow heard someone opening Nand Lal’s cupboard, but when she switched on the light, there was no one there.  There were other happenings too which bore his unmistakable imprint. “I knew it was him”, she said, “I could smell him, I could feel his presence”, and his parents echoed that conviction.

“He died suddenly, with  dreams unfulfilled,”  his father said at that time, “ and once he comes to terms with this reality, his spirit will leave of its own accord, maybe in a few months, maybe longer. Perhaps he will have a new dream – to be re-united with us in his next birth… No, don’t say this house is haunted—this was and is his home. Let his spirit be free to stay with us, to roam here for as long as it chooses”.  And Nand Lal still continues to roam there despite the passage of time, revving up his invisible bike every now and then.

When a friend of mine who happens to be a psychologist heard the account, she dismissed it. “How could you believe it”, she admonished me. “Here was a family who suffered a sudden separation but they didn’t want to accept it, didn’t want to accept that a loved one was no longer with them. So their imagination created this spirit, this ghost link”.

“Now that”, I responded and still believe “is a bit hard to swallow too, especially because death and separations were not new to the father in particular. As a priest, he had spent a virtual lifetime seeing death at close quarters. And what about the actual acts, a non-existent motorcycle revving up which neighbours heard too and a string of other incidents… Amongst other factors, it was obviously his close links with his family, his love for his bike and the power of his dreams that keeps Nand Lal’ spirit tied to earth.”   Just as the heart has its reasons that the mind doesn’t always fully understand, so do spirit phenomena, especially those linked to motorcycles often defy “logic” as we, and that includes skeptics and rationalists, define it.

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