-Atraumatic tale of a teenage driver who lived to tell it.

Acrowd of at least ten people gathered around the accident spot. But not a single person offered help.

Atypical Kathmandu street- one narrow road with a garbage heap on one side and a taxi parked right next to it- is all it took for Pranaz Giri to experience his most harrowing, near-death accident at the age of nineteen. On his way to college, Pranaz’s bike, with friend Sakriya Lamichhane on the backseat, collided head-on with another student’s bike that was overtaking a parked vehicle.

“It was six thirty, the morning of September 1st and, as usual, I was on my way to college from my home in Baneshwor. Sakriya was behind me on my Unicorn bike and I was driving whilst listening to music. I was speeding moderately at about 45 km/ hr (which is not much by my standards then) so I certainly didn’t think an accident could occur.

Ataxi was parked besides a garbage dump in such a way that only one bike could pass by it, considering the narrow road. APulsar bike, driven also by a student of my college, was headed towards me. Driving roughly at 60 km/hr, the bike started overtaking the taxi from my lane because the garbage prevented him from going from the other narrow corner.

Next thing I know, I am point-blank at the face of the Pulsar; only a split second separates me from this imminent head-on collision. Asecond later, I taste thick blood in my mouth, feel a giddy heaviness in my head, and my vision is blurred.

The accident spot was only a couple of hundred meters away from home. But I was already knocked unconscious.

As for the taxi, it took off immediately- he knew he was parked at a wrong place and why would one taxi driver care for two unconscious teenagers?”

Twenty-year-old Sakriya’s morning started like any other. The chilly September morning signaled a ride with close friend Pranaz to college and when he got behind his friend’s bike, he had no clue that after some ten minutes he would be screaming for help for himself and his two classmates.

Acrowd of at least ten people gathered around the accident spot. But not a single person offered help.

Pranaz was vomiting blood and a part of his skull near his left eyebrow was cracked. The mother bike rider was unconscious and his tongue was very badly cut. The impression I had was horrifying- that they were spot dead.

But still, I had to swear crudely at the gaping public to garner any sort of bystander intervention and get them to BNB hospital.

Nevertheless, my own injuries were small compared to the other two: my ligament was torn and I needed bed rest for two weeks. Since then, I can never comfortably sit behind someone’s bike- not even my father’s.”

Pranaz woke up in hospital after two weeks. In the aftermath, scars remain. Along with some short-term memory loss, the inability to move his thumb properly, and the need for physical therapy, Pranaz also admits that his parents are ever more reluctant to let their son ride a bike. Today, he still loves riding, but whenever his vehicle’s speed increases, Pranaz himself is reminded, with a chilling flash of memory, of that faithful first morning of September 2010.

Adriver cannot be perfectly alert with every turn of the wheel or every honk. We are but humans. But does that mean the blame for accidents only falls on Kathmandu’s roads that are narrow, and traffic rules that are lax- or, at least, laxly followed? Taxis parked haphazardly a pile of garbage taking space, a typical Nepali who is blissfully unresponsive to a honking horn, maybe a stray dog that suddenly decides to cross the road- are only these things to blame?

Or is it really the “attitude” of young drivers- an intoxicating cocktail of adrenaline and arrogance, a flawed image of youth and invincibility- that needs intervention? Pranaz adds, “It is our age, in a way, to be thrilled by speed and ‘rough-riding’ and it is okay at some levels. I have been through the ‘speed is the freedom of the soul’ phase but youngsters really do need to think of the consequences and take responsibility. I think speeding in itself is not bad- just speed as much as you can control confidently. Today when I drive, I know I drive for people more than myself.”