She could have been any vendor selling nimbu paani at Juhu beach had it not been for the life jacket that she wears.
Sheela Parkane (35) has been earning her living by selling the cooling drink at the beach for 25 years. But while preparing the lemon squash, she has also taken upon herself, the task of looking out for visitors who might find themselves in troubled waters.
“We have seen enough people drowning and their families mourning,” Sheela says, while preparing the drink for a customer.
Sheela and her husband, Prakash Parkane (40), decided to join the Juhu Beach Lifeguard Association in 1994. They are not doing this to earn extra money but as community service.
If she sees people venturing deep into the sea, Sheela leaves her stall and runs to warn or rescue them from impending danger.
Sheela, a mother of four, lives in Chembur with her family. To reach Juhu, she has to travel for two hours back and forth every day. She reaches the beach around 3 pm, prepares her stall, wears the life jacket and looks around to check if anyone is going into the deep. This has been her routine for more than 16 years.
“I alert and save people as a part of my duty and not as an obligation. Although we are attentive towards all visitors, we keep a closer watch on children and youngsters, as they don’t even realise when they enter deep waters. As soon as I see someone in knee-deep water I run to warn them from going any further,” Sheela said.
She has been provided with a life jacket and a lifebuoy that she keeps close to her stall. On most days, she is accompanied by her husband and one of her four children.
However, for the past few days, she has been spending half her day taking care of her husband who sustained injury, after a pointed object pierced into his foot, while trying to save two youths from drowning.
Sheela says that while she had been saving people since several years, it is only since 1994 that she has been officially involved with the association.
“Sheela leaves her stall unattended every now and then in order to rescue or warn people,” said another seller.
Despite losing out on money while running to save people, Sheela continues with the job without a second thought.