I was driving as usual to my office. It was morning time and an office rush. I was weeding through the traffic. When I stopped at the signal near the SiddhiVinayak temple in Prabhadevi, a tall Man standing at the signal opened the front door and took seat next to me. I was surprised – how did this guy get into my car when the doors were latched? I was stunned and was not able to speak.
The Man however smiled and said “Don’t panic Dr Modak. I am no terrorist nor an extremist. I am – as many call me – the God”
I knew many psychopaths who think Godly about themselves. I thought of pulling the car aside after the signal and get this cranky guy out of my car somehow. But there were still 75 seconds left for the signal to turn green.
The Man continued “Dr Modak, I am not a psychic or a cranky. I am the God – as many call me so”.
Well then Mr. God, why are you here? I asked just to keep the Man busy in some conversation.
The Man said calmly but again with a smile (that looked to me now a bit divine) “Dr Modak, I came here to tell you that you have now only 30 minutes left to live. You will drive the car ahead – from Prabhadevi to the Babulnath Temple, then take a right turn and stop the car under a Banyan tree. You will switch off the ignition. You will rest your head on the steering wheel of the car. It will be a massive cardiac arrest. I will join you there to free your soul and take you with me. It will a painless death – so natural – just like a leaf falling from the Banyan tree. So don’t worry”
The Man said this in all seriousness that almost made me believe him. I took a second look at him. He had indeed a Godly face, an aura – and eyes that had all the compassion and kindness. “Well, see you at Babulnath then in the next 30 minutes Dr Modak”, The Man – (or the God?) – said in a matter of fact tone and simply disappeared.
The traffic signal turned green and I drove ahead.
I started thinking.
Assuming the Man was really the God and that I had only 30 minutes of life left, I didn’t know what to do. There was so much of unfinished agenda and thirty minutes were just not enough even to list what I always wanted to do. Too short a notice to die, – I muttered to myself and shifted the gears to move towards Babulnath Temple. I was now heading towards the Worli sea face.
I first thought of my family. My wife, my daughter and son. My sudden death will be quite a shock to them – I realized. I felt bad. Not fair Mr. God.
I always have been shy to say to my wife that I love her and that I love her deeply. I wish I had said so. May be she already knows – I don’t have to say – I convinced myself.
My son and daughter stay in the United States. This Xmas I wanted to have a family get-together for old time sake. I wanted to sleep with them on the same bed telling them the same stupid stories when they were kids. They would laugh at my silliest pranks and jokes. A great stress buster it was. But I now knew that was not going to be.
I thought of calling all of them on the mobile phones and just listen to their voices. But I restrained as I thought I will be choked with emotions. “Come on – Let me be practical and surgical … I said.
I then thought about my three elder sisters. The thought that I won’t be seeing them again, bit me hard and I felt wounded as I had not seen them lately – despite their repeated invites. The work had kept me busy. Was that worth? I said to myself.
My car was now at Haji Ali. I looked at the watch. There were only 10 minutes left to reach Babulnath Temple. The story ends here – I said this with a sigh. I changed the gears.
I remembered my friends and colleagues. I thought of the good times I had and the professional work I did with them. I remembered men and women I worked with – in my office and across the world. Some interesting faces flashed with bitter sweet memories. I won’t be seeing these faces again.
My Roland keyboard. My collection of music. I realized that I hardly gave time to play and listen to music.
I then thought about the book on Environmental Management I wanted to complete. It will remain incomplete I said.
My heart longed for the lectures I used to give and the pleasure I used to get working with my research students. There were so many intellectually rewarding and inspirational discussions.
I recalled my ambitions. I always wanted to bring change in the environmental governance, reform environmental education and build more environmental entrepreneurs that practice ethically. These dreams of passion were not to be fulfilled.
I had always assumed that I had enough time to do what I wanted to! But that was the mistake. We often don’t realize limited time we have.
I reached the Babulnath Temple and entered the alley as instructed by the God. I found that large Banyan tree. I parked and switched off the ignition.
I was calm now as the reality of death had sunk in me.
The God was waiting .
He opened the door and took a seat. There was silence for a while. He then said “Dr Modak, You arrived on time – but my apologies. There was a mistake. The thirty minute warning was for someone else. You still have more time – a few years perhaps. But I will have to check the records”. He smiled – a bit naughtily – “Generally, my staff does not make such mistakes. Apologies again”
I was shell shocked. The 30 minute drive from SiddhiVinayak to Babulnath Temple was the hardest in my life. This drive had made me review my life of 60 years in just 30 minutes – and rather brutally to realize what I ought to have done and what not! There was so much in my mind and in my chest that came out. I was pretentious and perhaps hiding my emotions all these years. And I had never realized that there was so much of unfinished agenda in my professional life.
I thought of two options. One option was to get on to life again and do what I wanted to do, talk to my wife, meet with my children and sisters, see my friends and colleagues and toil hard to make my dreams come true in the environmental profession. But I thought that this option was rather not exciting!
Second option was to convince the God that there could not have been such a mistake and the 30 minutes of warning for me was just right!. That option made more sense as I was now ready.
I looked up to the God to speak about the second option, – but by then he had simply disappeared!
He disappeared just like a breeze.
The next time you stop at the traffic signal next to SiddhiVinayak temple, look for the tall Man. He will make your 30 minute ride from Prabhadevi to Babulnath – a journey to remember.