She saw her mother being killed and house set on fire, a sight that would have shaken the bravest of souls. But six-year-old Pooja Kabadwal did not flinch and rose to save her two younger brothers.
The little girl's courage astounded even the elders of her nondescript village in Almora, Uttarakhand, and earned her the prestigious National Bravery Award along with 23 other children.
For the 24 awardees—12 boys and the same number of girls—the story is more or less the same. Some saved their near and dear ones from drowning, while some revolted against social evils like childmarriage.
Ankita Ashok Bhosale, a six-and-a-half-yearold from Maharashtra, saved a woman who was drowning in a river, using a saree.
This year's Sanjay Chopra award was given posthumously to 12-year-old V Teja Sai and 13-year-old C V S Durga Doondieshwar, who rescued four of their schoolmates from drowning in an Andhra Pradesh village.
Fifteen schoolchildren died in the accident on November 26, 2005. The Geeta Chopra award has gone to 13-year-old Vandana Yadav from UP who suffered 17 stab wounds but prevented an assault by three men.