No one told them to save lives or act upon what is right. For the 21 children from across the country the logic was simple — lives would have been lost or what is happening isn’t right.
These brave children — eight girls and 13 boys — are in the Capital now for the National Bravery Awards 2009, which Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh would give away on Thursday, January 21. The awardees receive a medal, certificate and cash.
They will also participate in the Republic Day Parade at Rajpath on January 26. Here are their stories:
Dijekshon Syiem (Meghalaya)
“Had I not saved him, he would have died and I would not have been able to meet him again,” 10-year-old Dijekshon Syiem said when asked what prompted him to jump into a raging fire and save his four-year-old neighbour Kishandonald in January last year.
A chirpy Class VIth student from Tiehsaw village from West Khasi Hill district of Meghalaya, Syiem rushed out of his house when he heard a loud cry.
His neighbour’s house was on fire and Kishandonald was inside, taking shelter under a bed.
“He was so scared of the fire, I felt pity for him,” Syiem said, as he struggled with the translator to narrate his experience.
But one thing he tells you quickly and with pride, without anybody’s help: “I want to be an army man when I grow up.”
Thoi Thoi Khumanthem (Manipur)
“I am Thoi Thoi. I read in class II,” a sprightly youngster from Haoreibi Makha Leikai village of Imphal West district said.
“I … saved a boy … from … drowning …I saw his shoes in water,” she said even as she struggled to get her next sentence in English and looked for help towards her father sitting next to her.
All of six, Khumanthem’s presence of mind saved four-year-old Maison Singh from drowning near her house in April 2009.
While returning from a grocery store, she saw Singh’s shoes floating in the pond and instinctively jumped into it. When she realised it was Singh, she began pulling him to the bank and in the process, drank water and started choking. When she started shouting for help, people rushed and pulled both of them.
“My mother is a doctor. She then gave us first aid,” the chirpy girl said.
Prity Devi Maibam
Ten-year-old Prity Devi Maibam had never seen a bomb.
Yet, on a March 2009 evening, when a miscreant hurled a bomb at her parent’s shop and it fell near a gas cylinder and kerosene bottle, she did not think twice before picking it up and throwing it away.
Her mother was managing the shop in her small village, some 25 kms from Imphal. There were a few customers, too. “I heard my mother shouting about the bomb … Bum phatne se sab marega (the bomb explosion would kill us). So I picked it up and threw it away from the shop.”
Thanks to her quick action, nobody was killed. But eight people were injured and the girl herself has splinters in her knees.
Maibam gets the prestigious Geeta Chopra Award for her bravery.
The coveted Bharat Award would be given to Haryana’s 13-year-old Gaurav Singh Saini, who saved around 50-60 people in a stampede at Naina Devi Temple.
Karan Nishad of Uttar Pradesh, who saved five persons from drowning, has been selected for the Sanjay Chopra Award.
Two children from Uttar Pradesh, Ranu Mishra (10) and Deepak Kumar Kori (12), have received awards posthumously. Mishra is one of the recipients of Bapu Gaidhani award along with Vijith V. (16) from Kerala and Narendrasinh Solanki (17 ½) of Gujarat for their acts of bravery.
The other recipients are Uddesh R. Ramnathkar (Goa), Zonunsanga & Lalrammawia (both from Mizoram), Sujith R., Amal Antony, Krishnapriya K., Sujith Kumar P. (all from Kerala), Vaishaluben Solanki (Gujarat) and Yogesh Kumar Jangid (Rajasthan).
Fighting for a cause
Enjoying puchka (gol gappa) at the press conference venue on Monday, the three bubbly girls looked like any other 11-12 year olds.
“I want to be a journalist when I grow up,” said Kalindi — who refused to get married at an early age, as she wanted to continue her studies – with her newfound confidence. Mahato wants to be a teacher while Khatun a doctor.
Kalindi (11), Mahato (11) and Khatun (12), all of whom chose education over an early marriage, have become inspiration to scores of girls across not just Purulia district but neighbouring Bankura and other north Bengal districts.
“When I told my teacher and class mates that I am going to Delhi, they were happy,” said Mahato, in a halting Hindi.
Khatun’s was the first instance and then followed a quick succession of similar ‘empowered’ girls’, helped by their teachers.
Hindustan Times had first highlighted the saga of these girls, prompting the President of India to invite them to meet her.
The girls, along with other girls in their locality, go out in groups of 10-12 to address meetings to discourage child marriage and convince parents against it.