Even a Sparrow

from Vidya

The village in India where my parents live is surrounded by hills and is accessible only by car. The nearest train station is seventy kilometers away. I was going to school in America. As soon as vacation started I took a plane to New Delhi, then a train as close as it would take me. My father met me in his small car and we began the drive home.

The road twisted and turned with a steep hill on one side and a steep valley on the other. About ten kilometers from our village, in the middle of a sharp turn, suddenly the engine stopped completely and the steering froze. Instead of completing the turn we kept going forward, heading right for the steep drop-off into the valley below.

My father and I were too shocked to speak. We looked silently at one another, our eyes wide with fear.

I was so frightened I couldn’t even pray. I closed my eyes and waited for the car to topple down the hill. A single thought came, “Dear God, how can this be happening? I haven’t even seen my mother yet.”

At that moment the car came to a sudden stop. The nose had run into a small mound of soil at the very edge of the road, put there perhaps to stop erosion. The car was battered by the impact. We were shaken up. I had a cut on my knee, but otherwise we were unscathed.

Bad karma had been mitigated. Why? We didn’t know.

A few days later we revisited the place where the near-accident had happened. My father remembered that shortly before he went to pick me up, he had stopped at exactly that same spot. A little bird had fallen onto the road. Concerned that it might be run over by a car, he had stopped, picked up the bird, and moved it safely into the trees nearby.