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A Narrow Escape

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Satish and Vidya landed at  Boston Logan Airport to spend some time with their daughter, Rachana. She with her husband Navin received them and took them to their house.

“So, how are you Baba and Aai? Was the wheelchair service at the airport okay, Baba?”

“There was no difficulty. Problem is, I cannot walk long distances and am unable to walk briskly even small distances. I get breathless immediately and have to stop for some time. The speed of tortoise goes okay with me for short distances, “ replied the septuagenarian Satish.

“I am okay in that respect. I am prepared to go for long walks,” Vidya said smilingly.

“Don’t worry, Baba. We will take you by car to different places. You don’t need to walk long distances. Whatever short walk you will have to take, you take it at your pace. Even slower than a tortoise. No problem.” Rachana assured Satish.

With most of the things automated, Satish and Vidya started their stay in the U.S. with full comforts.

After the acclimatization for a week, on weekends the old couple was taken to different sites of interest. Satish used to keep himself near the car, while Vidya used to move rapidly with the young couple. Aquarium, zoo, museum etc. were visited. Satish with his age and his coverage of different parts of the world had lost keenness in seeing such places. But his interest in nature was still active.

One Saturday they decided to visit Franklin Park. Wearing woolen jackets and gloves, the foursome went to park at two in the afternoon.

The lush green lawns having the backdrop of almost bare trees Satish found exciting. With bright sunshine, the atmosphere was very pleasant. After parking the car, they walked half a furlong at a snail’s pace. Made themselves comfortable on a bench. Rachana took out the thermos and they enjoyed the hot Etheopean tea. The temperature was around two degrees centigrade. They decided to take a small peep into the woods.  Satish led the group. Ten-minute walk and then Satish raised his flag. They all stopped.

In a fraction of a second, the sky turned dark, greenish. An air funnel, as though descending from the cloud, suddenly appeared at the south side of that big garden.

And there was an announcement on the public address system.

“A twister of EF rating 2-3 is suddenly generated near the south end of the garden. The funnel has hit the ground and roaring forward, it is moving towards the north. The winds are of speed above 100 mph. It can uproot or snap large trees and topple cars.

Everyone is requested to leave the garden immediately. Only two minutes are with you and the twister will strike the garden. It is moving from south to north. Please hurry up.”

There was a commotion in the garden. The visitors, however few, started rushing to the parking place and getting into their cars and leaving the park.

With a deafening roar, the twister entered the garden.

Satish’s family turned around but could not rush back. Satish told others to run fast and get into the car. He would come slowly in their direction. Of course, they did not agree. He shouted at Vidya and Rachana and insisted they  run and get into the car. Navin was holding Satish’s hand slowly pulling him.

The two ladies ran and got inside the car. From there they could see the funnel of the twister entering at the other end of the garden.

“Baba, somehow walk more faster,” Rachana called out.
“We are walking as fast as Baba can,” Navin yelled.

And there were creaking and groaning sounds from far away inside the garden. Few trees were windthrown, uprooted and a few were snapped.

Navin said, “Baba, let me try lifting you.” With all his might, Navin lifted Satish. But the strong winds blowing faster and faster made it extremely difficult for to keep the balance for Navin. It became impossible for Navin to move even inches in the required direction, lifting Satishand keeping balance.

Satish said,” Navin, You go and get inside the car and be ready to leave the place before the twister comes closer. I will come at my pace.”

Satish thought, “If I run this much distance, I am sure to get a heart attack and collapse. If I walk slowly in an attempt to save myself from heart failure, the twister will take me along with it. It seems this is the end of my life. Let others be saved.”

The speed of the wind was still increasing from roughly 110 mph to 160 miles per hour. Satish had to keep moving at whatever pace he could achieve. He pushed Navin desperately to leave him alone. Finally, looking at the situation, Navin ran alone to the car. He got inside and started the engine. They could not keep the doors open as the speed of the wind was increasing rapidly. All the dried leaves in the nearby area were being blown and they were flying very high. The public announcement system was giving repeated warning. “Twister has entered the garden at the southern end. In a couple of minutes, it will reach the northern end. Please, leave immediately.”

Satish was managing fast winds and trying to walk as quickly as possible. A distance of 5-6 meters was left and Satish was struggling to move even this much distance.

He was just ten steps away from the car. And the twister came in close proximity. The sound of twister like a jet engine was deafening. Vidya, Rachana, Navin all were at the edge of the seat. Vidya prayed to God to give some speed to Satish and to hold the twister for a few more minutes moving in their direction

The spiralling twister having come close, Satish somehow was trying hard to reach the car. Navin opened the door for Satish to enter. The gusty wind rushed inside, and gave a big blow to the car and gave a tilt. The two ladies shrieked. The next moment car settled back. The twister reached within a few feet from the car. Extending his hand, somehow, Satish touched the door. The raging tempest was trying to push Satish away from the car. But he firmly held the door. Navin unlatched the door from inside. Satish with all his strength was clinging to the door.He came close and pulled the door. He somehow entered the car even though fast winds were tilting the car again and again.Navin closed the door and started the car at the fastest speed.

The spiralling twister was just behind the car. Navin pressed the accelerator and moved on. At the first turn he moved the car in the direction perpendicular to the twister. After most anxious two minutes, he looked behind. The twister was going in the opposite direction. Still maintaining the speed, they reached a safer place. Navin looked at Satish. He was exhausted and was sitting leaning backward. Navin said, “Are you okay Baba?”

Satish had a smile on his face.


Vijay Likhite

The author is a B.E. (Electronics) from Mumbai University in 1971. Owned a manufacturing unit. A few science and technology based articles in Marathi were published in Sunday Edition of local newspaper.


  1. Avatar

    Our actions should be rational or instinctive? There is no right answer for this question, and this story lends strong support to the above view. In the face of extreme danger posed by the twister, Navin should have run towards the car without worrying about the old man. Yet, he lifted Satish, and tried carrying him, but in vain. If I were Satish, I would have just relaxed and stayed put in my original location, saying that there was no point in moving; anyway, Satish would die, whether or not he ran. Yet, he struggled on, half-step by half-step, with the twister breathing down on his neck all through. He was driven by his instinct for survival. The only rational decision in the entire episode was that by Navin, while driving the car. To avoid the twister, he took a turn perpendicular to the direction in which the twister was advancing. Unless I got my directions wrong, nature helped Navin by making the twister take an opposite turn—one more low probability event. I don’t know what would have happened, if the twister too turned in the same direction as Navin. On the whole, the story ended well. It was a comedy, not of errors, but of low probability events. Wonderful narration by Vijay Likhite.

  2. Raman Gopalan
    Raman Gopalan Reply

    Well written,moved like the twister turned to An interesting read.
    , Wards living in America do insist old parents for such trip
    One of them is not physically/mentally fit and prepared for such trips, then the other partner outsmarts the one .That may hit more than the twister especially the Indian aged couple .
    This has ignited me to narrate my real incidence that took place during my first American visit.

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