At 5.30 a.m. on Friday, August 10, Ramesh Kartha set out on a run from his apartment in Kakkanad. It was raining heavily and there was darkness all around, except for the street lights. Ramesh was wearing a white singlet and blue shorts and running barefoot. The IT professional was in training to take part in a few marathons in the USA in October. In his running career, Ramesh had taken part in the prestigious Boston marathon, and has raced in Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok, Mumbai, Pondicherry and Mysore. In total, he has participated in 30 marathons.
As he ran in front of the Youth Hostel, near NGO Quarters, suddenly, from a pocket road, a car appeared. Before Ramesh could realise what was happening he had been hit on his left side by the vehicle. The panicky driver did not stop. Instead, he accelerated away.
The runner fell forward and landed on his face. When he sat up he saw that his leg was broken. “I held my leg and tried to stand up, to go to the junction, and find help, but I could not do it,” he says. A desperate Ramesh tried to wave down a few people in their cars. “Some slowed down, but they were not sure whether I was a drunk or somebody like that,” he says. “So the people sped away.”
Ramesh was not surprised by this reaction. “One of the reasons why people do not help, both in Kerala and India is that you can get charged,” says Ramesh. “The case goes on for years. The driver would have to go to the court multiple times. I feel that 60 per cent of drivers who cause accidents and speed away have the fear of getting embroiled in a legal tangle.”
But, as always, there will be somebody who will respond. In this case, it was Rockey Roger, a BPO professional, who works at Muthoot Technopolis, Kakkanad. He had just finished the night shift and was on his way home. Suddenly, he saw a man lying on the ground and waving his hand. “I was thinking that in the Bible it is always mentioned that we should help people in distress,” he says. “So I stopped the car.” It was raining heavily and Ramesh was drenched. “When I lifted Ramesh, I noticed that his leg was dangling,” he says. “I knew that it was broken.” He placed the injured runner on the backseat and took him to the Sunrise Hospital.
X rays revealed multiple bones fractures. Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. D.S. Manjunath decided to put a steel rod through the bone. But Seema, Ramesh’s wife, who had arrived within minutes, at the hospital, following a phone call from Rockey, told him that her husband was a runner. So, instead of a steel rod, Dr Manjunath inserted a titanium rod in a four-hour operation. And the reasons were simple. “With steel, there is wear and tear,” says Ramesh. “There could be mineral deposits on it. In extreme heat, it could expand and contract. Titanium does not have these issues and it heals faster.”
Today, a month later, Ramesh is, indeed, healing well. He says that by November he will start training once again. “I don’t think I will feel nervous or scared,” he says. “But I might start off in a stadium first.”
The fact is that Ramesh loves running too much. “I go into a Zen state halfway into the run,” he says. “There is no other experience that gives me the thrill and joy which running gives me.”
But Seema is worried. “I told him not to run on roads, but to do it in parks and stadiums. In the USA, where we lived for many years, there were runners’ trails which were safe. But Ramesh tells me that in Kochi you can stroll to a shop to buy something and get hit.”
In fact, Ramesh almost got hit a few months ago. One day he was running on the right side of the road, near the Info Park. A car which was coming from the opposite direction suddenly veered towards him and brushed past. The driver braked suddenly. He rolled down the window, poked his head out, and told Ramesh, “Sorry, I dozed off.”
So, what is the lesson he has learned from this hit-and-run incident? “Anything can happen at any time,” says Ramesh. “I will try to run with all my senses in an alert state. Never take life for granted. It is a gift that one must enjoy to the fullest.”