Little Heroes With True Grit
By TARUN NANGIA
Published: 26th Jan 2014 07:40:42 AM
Eight-year-old Gunichand Devi from Manipur turns shy when asked to explain what prompted her to risk her life to save her nine-year-old cousin Maisan Saingh from drowning. But good deeds need no explanations, and for her sheer grit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conferred on her the national bravery award two days before Republic Day. On October 24, 2012, nine-year-old Maisan was nearly electrocuted at a tube well, the force of the current catapulting him into a eight feet deep tank. Gunichand Devi leapt into the water without thinking of the consequences and dragged him out by his hair, saving his life.
Gunichand is not alone in this pantheon of the brave, some of whom also died saving others —three Malayalee teenagers who turned saviors; a 17-year-old leopard fighter from Maharashtra; an eight-year-old braveheart who conquered Kedarnath’s floodwaters to rescue her brother; a 15-year-old who hit back at her molesters are all part of the honours list of 25 children from all over India for showing exemplary perseverance in the face of danger.
Most of the awards went to children who saved others from drowning: it is the second largest cause for explained unnatural deaths in India. On February 21, 2013, 38-year-old Kalimuthu, while bathing in the Manimala River, Kottayam in Kerala strayed into a whirlpool. Hearing his cries, 11-year-old Subin Mathew, 10-year-old Akhil Biju and 13-year-old Yadhukrishnan, who were playing by the riverbank jumped into the swirling waters risking their lives. Akhil stretched out his hand towards the drowning man, but he was too far away to grab a hold. Yadhukrishnan, too, offered his hand, but his attempt also proved futile. Finally, as the minutes passed ominously, Subin threw a dhoti towards the sinking man. Holding the other end of the garment, they dragged Kalimuthu to the bank and safety. Perhaps, in eight-year-old Mahika Gupta’s case, God was the saviour. While praying at a temple in Kedarnath on June 16, 2013, muddy waters suddenly inundated the devotees in the worst flash floods in recent history. She heard her brother’s panicstricken cries as the waters bore him away. No swimmer she, Mahika leapt in bravely and reached her brother, and held on to him tightly.
The siblings spent three days without food and water before being rescued and safely brought to Delhi. Mahika received the “Bharat Award” for bravery.
But 12-year-old Aryan Raj Shukla did not live to see his award. On May 13, 2013, he and four friends had gone to Guptar Ghat in Faizabad district in Uttar Pradesh. Aryan sat on the ghat steps watching his friends swimming and frolicking in the Sarayi River. Suddenly, he saw them being swept away by a powerful current. Like Mahika, Aryan couldn’t swim. But that did not prevent him from leaping into the river, and help them to stay afloat holding on to a bamboo pole thrown by the onlookers. One by one, he pushed them towards the shore, but he didn’t make it. He was awarded the Bapu Gaudhani Award posthumously. Like Aryan, 10-year-old Maushmi Kashyap saved 11-year-old Keshkali from drowning in the Gomti River near Lucknow. Her effort proved futile, because Keshkali held on to her in panic, dragging both down into the murky depths. Mausmi received the Bapu Gaidhani Award posthumously.
The hinterlands of India are a landscape of rivers and temples. On September 2, 2012, 12-year-old Manoj was visiting Ranganathaswamy teample on the banks of river Cauvery in Karnataka. Suddenly, the boy noticed the physically disabled Manchamma caught in the currents. As Manchamma’s daughter and an aged aunt watched helplessly, Manoj jumped into the river to save her. Like little Keshkali and Mausumi, the old woman grabbed Manoj’s leg. But he was strong enough to free himself, seize her by the hair and swim with her to safety. On September 15, 2012, Saurabh Cahndel from Madhya Pradesh rescued Riftein and Hasnein from drowning in a village pond. They had gone swimming with two of their friends, who sank and died.
The North East witnessed many brave rescues in 2013. On October 11, 2012, while bathing with and six friends in the Spread Eagle falls of Meghalaya, 17-year-old Manio Chachei from Nagaland saw two of them slipping and getting caught in a 30 to 40 feet wide whirlpool. He leaped in after them. Manio’s skills as a swimmer were well known, but they couldn’t save either his friends or him. On August 20, 2012, seven-year-old Tanvi Ovhal saved his four-year-old sister Nirmitee Ovhal who had fallen into a water tank at a construction site. On April 12, 2013, eight-year-old Ramlalhruaitluangi of Mizoram saved her friend from drowning, as did 12-year-old M. Khayingthei (12) of Manipur who saved a friend from the river’s deadly embrace, but lost his life battling the currents. On May 4, 2013, nine-year-old Vanlalhruaia saved her friend from the angry waters of Tuidai river in Mamit district.
On December 7, 2012, Kangleinganba of Manipur was brave enough to descend into a nine feet deep pond and rescue three-year-old Lisa Devi and two year old Sanu Devi who had fallen off a ladder.
Fourteen-year-old Hani Ngrudinthari from Mizoram is a two time heroine—saving five friends from drowning in Dialdawk river.
Also read: Stories of Grit and Valour