The 29th of April 1995 – In Quest of the Last Victory

48 In Quest of the Last Victory
I was the captain of the team. Not because I was the best but because
I was good and, being a hard task master, I could prepare the team well.
The 29th of April 1995
I came out of my room, ready in the big boots and overalls (the dress
for the competition), locked the door and put the keys in my pocket.
I buttoned the pocket. I wasn’t nervous or excited. I had been through
so many such competitions. This wasn’t going to be any different.
I had grown up playing among such obstacle courses. I jogged to the
obstacle course ground feeling the stiffness of my muscles and the
air moving in and out of my lungs. The smell of the dry grass was in
the air. I could sense that I had excessive energy in me. The energy
accumulated during the seven days of forced isolation in the hospital
was still there. I wanted to run fast. But I was calm otherwise.
The team got together and we started doing some warm-up ex-
ercises. The time allotted to our company was 5.45 p.m. Other com-
panies were going over the obstacle course turn by turn to furious
cheering from their supporters. The company before us started its
attempt and now it was our turn. We moved to the starting point
of the obstacle course to occupy our positions and formation. As we
lined up there, waiting for the starting shot to be fi red at 5.45 pm on
the 29th of April 1995, I was eager to do well and was cheering my
team mates to put in their best performance. We stood in rows of
four as a maximum of four only could cross an obstacle effi ciently at
a time. I was in the second row with four guys in the front row. We
were jumping on our toes ready to take off, waiting for the shot to be
red. This was going to be routine. At this moment, as a matter of
chance, I happened to look in the direction of the audience.
There was a well-organized audience sitting in chairs under colour-
ful canopies, along the length of the fi eld. The scene struck me hard.
An Appointment with Destiny 49
It probably reminded me of something from my childhood.
(It reminded me of the audience that, years ago, had watched the
race in which I became the last child to reach the fi nishing line. It re-
minded me of the laughter of that audience). Again I saw an audience
sitting in a similar manner. Suddenly, I had a surge of adrenalin. My
muscles stiffened and I wanted to run very fast. It seemed as if, all
of a sudden, all the frustration I had suffered on my past close losses
and failures in different matches had come back to haunt me and
instigate me. This generated an unbridled energy in me.
The shot was fi red and I took off with a burst of speed. (In running
I was a good starter. I could take off with great speed, maybe because
of my muscular built). Within a few seconds I had moved past every-
one and was ahead by a few yards. I ran a few steps and jumped over
the eight-foot pit. Another few steps and I walked over the zigzag
balance. I started climbing the ‘high ramp’. This is an obstacle con-
sisting of a set of parallel bars to reach a platform at a height of eight
to ten feet, to jump over. As I reached the obstacle, my speed slowed
down a little as I had to climb. All the other runners were right
behind me. I reached the top of the ramp at high speed and as I was
about to jump, I got a strong push from behind. … The push could
have been deliberate; but then that can happen in sports. Only, the
effect that push had on the rest of my life was by far beyond anything
the person who pushed me could have intended to attain, that is, if
he did it intentionally. However, I have never carried any ill-feeling
towards the person who might have pushed me. Nor did I ever feel
the need to check with the person who was behind me whether the
push was deliberate.
The push and my speed made me trip and tumble at high speed.
The next fraction of a second I was heading, head forward, towards
the ground at a devastating speed. Falling straight head down on
solid ground from that height and at that speed would have meant
50 In Quest of the Last Victory
certain death. With my whole body weight behind me, every bone
in my skull and neck would have got broken and crushed beyond
repair. The possibility of my imminent instant death had shrunk in
immediately and a deathly yell came out of my throat. I had a frac-
tion of a second or two more with me before I met the ground and
my more than certain death. One fraction of a second made me see
myself ‘rolling over into a somersault’ as a hope and I went for it.
I put every bit of my energy to tuck my head in for a somersault.
My fall, however, did not permit a somersault; my body was not in a
position to go in for a somersault straightaway. But, in that moment,
that was my only hope for life. As I tucked in my neck and began the
somersault, I hit the ground with a deafening thud. The lower neck
took the complete impact of the fall and the weight of my body. It
was like a million volts of current passing through my body in an
instant of time as I rolled over the dry ground several times before
coming to a halt facing up. My body literally disappeared. I did not
have any feel of my body. It seemed the body had ceased to exist. My
body… Where was my body? I couldn’t feel a body below me. In an
instant, all senses from my body had vanished. It felt unimaginably
weird. My course mate and friend Pasbola bent over me looking into
my eyes and said, ‘Gulia move, come’.
With the air that was still left in my lungs I said ‘You go, I am
coming’. He dragged me out of the way of the coming runners to
prevent further harm and moved off. The runners passed by and I lay
there seeing the clear early evening summer sky. I couldn’t feel the
presence of my body below me. My body didn’t exist. The last few
words had taken the breath out of me. I tried to pull in a breath but
couldn’t. I could feel very little air moving in and out of my mouth,
just enough to keep me alive. I could only move my eyeballs and
scan a part of the sky above. A few very still and small shreds of white
clouds were all that I could see. I wondered if I was alive. I wondered