Nothings appeal to us more than a French term to describe anything. In this case, it is Near-Death Experience (NDE). This French term was proposed by French psychologist Victor Egger as a result of discussions in the 1890s among philosophers and psychologists concerning climbers’ stories of the panoramic life review during falls. They also collected subjective observations by workers falling from scaffolds, war soldiers who suffered injuries, climbers who had fallen from heights, or other individuals who had come close to death (near-drowning, accidents). This subject is a very serious topic that borders on Psychology, Science, and Philosophy. But I am not a proponent of each specialty but wanted to share my own experiences of NDE. And incidentally, I had two of them. The only purpose of sharing is to be able to help others navigate through this and come out of it.
The first NDE happened when I was in my last year as a teenager. Gotten into the most premier engineering institute in India, life was ahead with full of promise. It was the first DurgaPuja festival of our hostel life after the start of the first semester. To reach home for the first time leaving it for education, we got into Geetanjali Express unreserved for thirty six hours journey till Pune. We got into a sort of stability sharing seats with few friends who were lucky to get reservations. I was on the top berth. Geetanjali was galloping at very high speed after midnight. Suddenly there was a bang and the entire bogey got thrown off track. Inside there was a complete blackout and we at the top tumbled on below berth. There was a burning smell and a lot of dust sprung around. The total blankness, while I was fully conscious, was the hallmark of this NDE. The darkness was scary and sill I remember as I tried to comprehend the situation. Soon noises started around with few torches here and there, and finally, there was a sense of movement of people around. Nothing was as assured as I felt that day through the existence of life around. Then we got out of that bogey sprung six feet above the ground on the space near the track. We assembled around, collected our luggage, and waited in the middle of nowhere for someone to rescue us. We saw the first light of dawn and witnessed scenes of a derailed train and injured people around us. Gosh, it was really a narrow escape from the inevitability for every person Numbed as we were; we just waited for the next train to go home. We endured 40 hours of delay but to reach home alive was itself a celebration. But at that age, we were so unaffected that I remember enjoying the rest of the journey as if nothing had happened. But the lesson learned was to look ahead without getting sacred and scarred.
Life moved on for decades and the second NDE came as part of ailment which led me into hospitalization. Things deteriorated so drastically that I had to be admitted to another hospital for advanced care. The only memory I have about this entire episode from being at home feeling drowsy till waking up inside an ambulance for this transfer is of two very strong people lifting me up on a stretcher. I mistook them for being much-dreaded Yamdoots. Oh, this is what happens when you die! I was thrilled then despite being weak and helpless. I felt I had a chance to know and experience what happens when one dies. But then I realized that I won’t meet my people again. No, I did not want to die. I don’t recollect anything later but inside that hospital bed, I remember thinking to myself. I have to live and survive to complete my agenda. And to Survive, I need to toss myself from one side to another myself without any help. If I do that, I will live. I had to move. It seems the nurse tried to hold me. But I later came to know that I resisted her and finally tossed. The entire life span of mine flashed during that movement from one side to another with all achievements, failures, happiness, sadness. I remember my victory then. After taking that first step to surviving, I was confident that I will fight every step and I did.
Hospitalization offered me an opportunity to reflect upon and recalibrate everything in life. Lessons were learned from every failure. Each Victory was analyzed. Positive sets of memories were cherished and each sad memory was locked in encrypted storage. NDE is a good teacher. The immense amount of pain I endured, taught me to celebrate every moment of existence as a festival, value every relationship like a treasure while discarding everything negative as trash. I still believe that after an accidental exit from the stage as an actor on the theatre of life, it was that small movement of mine that led me to the escape route to reenter the stage and continue the act.
Experts argue that the general features of the near-death experience include impressions of being outside one’s physical body, visions of deceased relatives, and religious figures, but for me, two things stand out: assurance given by movement around in that pitch darkness and sense of survival given by one voluntary movement.
As we see a lot of people fighting against a disease, it’s very important for everyone to believe that you will overcome it. No point getting scared by disease whatever it may be. You need to get through it and yes you can turn over this page and write your story next page.
Similarly, our nation had the first wave and now the second wave can be compared to NDEs in terms of collective functioning. We survived first and we will survive the second. Let’s stop blaming everything and try to help each other as we can and we will fight this invisible enemy.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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