When India’s brave kids grow up
She fought men who would have raped her and was stabbed 17 times. She wants to be a police inspector and take on people committing crimes against women. He saved a school mate from drowning but got rewarded for it a year later because he faced a terrorist threat for wanting to go from Jammu and Kashmir to Delhi receive the award. Today, he’s a model and actor who has very little recollection of that eventful day.
Every year on Republic Day, all of India cheers as they parade proudly down Rajpath. Winners of the National Bravery Award are selected for exemplary acts of bravery. One wonders, however, what happens to them afterwards? Does life change or do things continue as normal?
About 19 years ago, he saved someone’s life, but all that model-turned-actor Muzamil Ibrahim remembers is the proud smile on his mother’s face and the admiration of his school buddies On September 24, 1992, when studying in Class 3 at the Tyndale Biscoe School in Srinagar, Ibrahim, then seven, was playing by the pool when a student pushed another playfully into the deep end. Though not a trained swimmer then, Ibrahim jumped in. “I somehow managed to keep him afloat and bring him to the edge of the pool before we both lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes, we were in hospital.”
Though his name was shortlisted for the National Bravery Awards in 1993, he could only get it a year later. “When terrorists came to know that someone from the Valley would visit Delhi to get the award, they came to my house and threatened my parents,” he says. It was the then state governor, KV Krishna Rao, who formally handed him the award a year later.
“Because of the threats, I had to stand with my back to the audience and not show my face for newspaper photographs,” Ibrahim recollects.
Years later, this model and actor, who has worked for labels like Armani, Cavalli and Hugo Boss, was involved in another rescue in Goa. He saved a 60-year-old woman from drowning, which got him the Godfrey Phillips National Bravery Awards in 2009. For Ibrahim, however, “at the end of the day, the blessings (of the people rescued and their families) mean more than anything else”.
Shambhavi Ray, now a 22-year-old graduate from George Washington University, Washington DC, will never forget July 29, 2001. Then a student of Apeejay, Noida, Ray was with her mother when three men on a bike snatched the older woman’s purse, dragging her a good 15 metres. Desperate, Ray hit one of the criminals so hard that all three fell with the bike. When they got up, she kept hitting them till they panicked and fled.
Winner of the Bravery Award in 2003, Ray says, “For someone just 13 years old, having lunch with the President of India and taking an elephant ride on Republic Day was a big high. It showed you a world beyond what you had seen. I have since gained so much confidence that when I applied for undergraduate studies in various universities in the US, I managed to qualify for most of them,” she says.
Vandana Yadav, a recipient of the Geeta Chopra National Bravery Awards in 2007, still bears the scars of an attack by three men. “I was at a farm, about one km from home, when the three men with daggers tried to molest me. When I resisted, they stabbed me but I kept fighting till the villagers gathered to catch them. By that time, I had received 17 stab wounds, lost a lot of blood and later spent two months in hospital,” she says. Today, the Indian Council for Child Welfare pays for her school education, uniform, conveyance etc. “Without government assistance, it was difficult for me to even think of school education. Now, I am in Class 12 and want to become a police inspector and book those who commit crimes against women,” says Yadav.
For Antara Srivastava, daughter of star comedian Raju Srivastava, who got the Bravery Award in 2007 for foiling a robbery attempt at home and saving her mother’s life, the bravery award means more than just letters of appreciation and a cheque. “What I have achieved has encouraged me to be brave and confident. It has given me something which remains with me forever,” she says.
Subhash Kumar, a 2008 Bravery Award winner, is hailed by people in village Niwajpurwa in the outskirts of Lucknow as Jaanbaaz (brave). The boy who rescued his brothers and a physically challenged cousin from their burning home, feels the money they got was not what mattered. “The cheques worth Rs 45,000 and Rs 80,000 I got with the award were used up long ago. The bigger achievement was the honour and respect I got in a big city like in Delhi.”
Kumar, who wants to join the army, says he is filled with patriotic fervour whenever he looks at photographs of himself with the prime minster, president and other dignitaries.
Saumik Mishra of Lucknow, who won the Sanjay Chopra National Bravery Award in 2008 for taking on two criminals single-handedly, says the honour meant a lot to him. “First it motivated me to do good work for society and at the same time it had a message for other students to be inspired by the winners.”
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