Locating an accident victim in Bangalore: Some lessons

I had one of the most disturbing experiences of my life yesterday. Got a phone call around 4 pm from Bangalore Traffic Police with one man – speaking fast and furious in Kannada – telling me that a lady I know has been in a road accident and has to be shifted to the St John’s Hospital.

Now, this is an acquaintance through work and although we’ve been in touch for years now and worked together “virtually” I dont know much about her except her phone numbers and e-contacts. I presume they called me from her last received call as I had been trying to reach her earlier in the day.

Anyway, coming back to yesterday’s incident, the moment the policeman understood I can’t speak Kannada, he hung up on me. Five minutes later, he had a passer-by call me up who knew a bit of Hindi and I managed to pass him the home phone number of my colleague. By now, I was frantic and trying to call her home number myself, but to no avail. At around 6, another policeman responded to my sms on her phone saying “she was out of danger and her husband had been informed.” Beyond that, he couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me anything.

In the evening I called St John’s Hospital telling them I needed information about a friend who had been in an accident and was reportedly brought to their hospital. After answering a barrage of questions, my call was transferred to the Emergency ward who looked up their records and told me – Yes, a person by that name had been brought to them, but had since been admitted to the cardio-thoracic ward.

I was asked to call that department which I did. Another round of interrogation and then I was told that there had been no admissions yesterday in that name! Another brick wall! I guess I just have to find her address now and go visit her family to ensure that all is fine. Both the phone numbers remained unanswered till this morning.

THOUGHT 1: It is shameful that after 8 years in this city, I still cannot speak the local language. The five minutes after the first policeman hung up on me were among the most torturous of my life. I just have to do something about it…and I advise all my non-Kannadiga friends in this city to do so. Life can jerk you out of your comfort zone in the most unpredictable of ways and believe me, there could be worse scenarios than the rogue auto-driver turning a deaf ear to your arguments in Hindi!

THOUGHT 2: When, if ever, will our public institutions like hospitals be able to pull together the communication act? It was plain pathetic the way they were just transferring calls from one person to another without being able to share any concrete information. And I am not even getting into the sensitivity aspect. I am sure this is the same response that people get even if they call (God forbid) on receiving news of any mishap striking a close family member or while trying to locate a missing person…

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