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AMAZING tales of nine real-life Indian heroes

Last updated on: December 15, 2011 17:27 IST

AMAZING tales of nine real-life Indian heroes

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Each year for 20 years now Godfrey Phillips has been giving out awards for various acts of bravery. These are the winners of the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh-Goa zone.

One may never really know what it is that drives people to put their lives at risk so they can save someone else's.

Why, for instance, did Pritam Shinde jump into a blazing office building when he had little or no hope of returning alive or did 11-year-old Kiran Bhatt dived into an overflowing canal to save his brother from drowning despite not knowing how to swim?

What were Reuben Fernandes and Keenan Sentos thinking when they took on a mob of unruly eve teasers or Lajja Sharma who fought a miscreant single-handedly just so she could protect her fellow passengers she'd never met before?

These are real-life stories of everyday people -- people not quite different from us -- who stood up for those in distress.

Over the next nine pages you will find brief accounts of their inspirational stories that are part of the citations handed to them by the team of Godfrey Phillips Bravery Awards. Read on.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier




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A devastating fire had broken out on the 9th floor of Lokmat Bhavan in Nagpur. The fire brigade was called but it could not reach beyond the 4th floor.

There were people trapped on different floors of the 13-storey building. The fire was spreading fast. There was no time to waste.

Pritam Shinde appeared on the scene and showing unparalleled courage, he single-handedly rescued seven persons from the 11th floor of the building.

It was not easy reaching there. But he found his way through smoke and carried two persons down with him.

He led another five to safety and ensured that each of them was rushed to hospital for treatment.




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Kiran Bhat is all of 11 years old. He dived into an overflowing canal to save his 5-year old brother, Vishwanath Bhat from drowning.

The brothers were passing by the Tillari dam canal at Kasarpal in Goa when Vishwanath slipped and fell into the 50-meters-deep overflowing canal.

Kiran did not wait for help. He immediately jumped into the canal and with all the strength he could muster he swam and reached out to his brother.

He grabbed Vishwanath but was unable to bring him out. Even as he shouted for help, he saw none coming.

Kiran did not lose heart and allowed himself and his brother to float with the current, till they reached a crack at the canal construction site.

They held on to the crack with their tiny fingers, continued shouting for help and waited till some villagers rescued them.




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Lajja Sharma was travelling in the Jammu-Tawi Express when a man posing as a policeman entered the ladies compartment at Borivali station.

As the train chugged out, he closed the doors and few minutes later brandished a knife and asked all the passengers to hand over their cash, mobile phones and jewellery.

Even as he looted hapless lady travellers in a moving train, Sharma was boiling with rage. She controlled herself, lest a fellow passenger gets harmed.

But, when the unknown man started misbehaving with a young girl, she warned him. Infuriated, he pounced upon her.

Sharma fought bravely and caught his hand holding the knife and shouted for help.

Unfortunately, the rest of the ladies were too scared to react.

The miscreant dropped his knife in the scuffle. He caught Ms Lajja by the hair and bit her cheek so hard that a chunk of flesh came off.

Somehow, she managed jumped out of the running train even as someone pulled the chain and the train came to a halt.




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But for his brave act, a young life would have been lost, plunging a family in gloom.

8-year-old Hemant Kumar had gone to Tesua River for a bath. Excited that he was, he ventured into deep waters and was drowning in the fast flowing river.

As it happened, Bhisham Singh who was strolling there saw the child shouting desperately for help. Without thinking, he jumped into the river and swam hard to reach the boy.

The strong currents tested his strength but he did not give up. After 10-15 long minutes of struggle, Singh managed to bring Hemant out alive.




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On October 20, Reuben Fernandes and Keenan Sentos had gone to a restaurant for dinner with their female friends.

It was about around 11pm  when the two young boys stepped out of a restaurant in the western suburb of Andheri.

They got into an argument one Jeetendra Rana after he started harassing the girls who were accompanying them including Keenan's girlfriend, Priyanka Frenandez. Although Rana went away, he returned with 20 of his friends and stabbed Keenan and Reuben.

Since the fateful night, friends of Fernandes and Sentos and rallied around their families to protest against sexual harassment.

Click here to read more about the the night when two promising young lives were taken away



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Perhaps Abhishek Bhowmick's act isn't as macho as some of those you've read so far. Bhowmick loves his friends -- the stray dogs. He cares and tends to the needs of cattle on streets and spends more than 30 per cent of his salary for their welfare. 

For the kind-hearted Bhowmick, they are part of his family.

Bhowmick feeds them, provides medication, vaccination, and even arranges transportation of injured animals to hospitals. 

After he witnessed a neighbour killing the puppies of a street dog, Bhowmick was devastated and lodged a police complaint.

When the police refused to register the complaint, he threatened self-immolation.

Bhowmick resolved to give justice to dogs and decided to take all possible actions against people showing cruelty to animals.  He started donating a fixed sum of money to NGOs.

Apart from that he voluntarily helps injured animals -- sometimes funding money for the ambulance service or personally taking the dogs to the nearby vet and bearing all the expenses.

He has also started making monthly donations to CRY and others. Bhowmick feeds over 30 dogs every day. People from his area and others who know him rely on him when they see an injured animal.

In recognition of his selfless services for the welfare of street animals, particularly dogs, Abhishek Bhowmick was awarded the Social Bravery Award.




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The Berojgar Mahila Sewa Samiti (BMSS) in Chattisgarh has played a significant role in bringing about a transformation in the lives of poor and backward people of Chhattisgarh.
 
The Samiti is making continued and sustained efforts for environment protection and judicious utilisation of natural resources.

Its drought mitigation and poverty alleviation programmes are backed by self-help groups and promotion of thrift and credit societies and it is also contributing to the field of education.

BMSS' Bal Shramik School provides children from slum areas free education, books and daily lunch called 'Madhya Bhojan'.

In addition, Maha Bali Hanuman Higher Secondary School is imparting quality education in Bhilai. 

The Samiti has also launched laudable awareness campaigns like Jagruti, Kavach, and Khushi, to promote prevention of HIV/AIDS among truckers, migrant labours and commercial sex workers.

BMSS has started a survey in the forest areas of Chhattisgarh for Medicinal and Acromatic Dye Plant (MADP) with a view to creating new employment opportunities for the people of Durg, Patan, Berala, Raipur, Abhanpur, Jashpur, Koria, Transport Nagar /Industrial area National/State highway and slums of Bhilai, Jagdalpur and Bastar.

In recognition of its commendable services for the upliftment of poor and backward people, the Berojgar Mahila Sewa Samiti (BMSS) of Chhattisgarh was awarded the Social Bravery Award of the 20th Godfrey Phillips Bravery Awards.




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No handicap could come in way of success.

Raju Uprade cannot sit or walk straight as he has enjoined legs. Yet, he never gave up and kept his poor mother in high spirits.

The 28-year-old is a software developer with GMRT, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Defying all odds, he completed his bachelor's degree in Information Technology after obtaining the Dhirubhai Ambani Scholarship in 2002.

His younger brother also suffers from lower limb unevenness.

However, his indomitable spirit has been a source of inspiration for the younger brother. He keeps telling him that God has made them what they are to prove to the world that with strong will and determination they can achieve what few can aspire for.

In recognition of his determination to overcome his physical limitations and to emerge victorious, Raju Uprade of Maharashtra is awarded the Mind of Steel Award of the 20th Godfrey Phillips Bravery Awards.

Earlier this year, Uprade wrote in to us this touching pieceabout his mother and the sacrifices she made.



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Phoolbasan Bai Yadav has successfully brought in transformation in the lives of hundreds of village women by involving them in various income-generating activities.

She has started Women Self-help Groups (WSHGs) in Chattisgarh. Presently 19,780 women from 1,540 WSHGs are running various businesses. 

Yadav has contributed significantly to make the women self-independent and occupy high positions in society. Her social work has not only attracted government's attention, but has also encouraged small savings to the tune of crores of rupees.

WSHGs are now threatening the monopoly of their male counterparts by taking up unconventional assignments.

They are into mine contracts, bricks and roof tiles construction, fisheries, market contracts and running fair price shops etc.

The groups have also taken up social causes. Child marriages are being opposed and group marriages are being encouraged.

Anti-alcoholism and childcare are some other areas of their activities.

In recognition of her efforts to make rural women self-sufficient, Phoolbasan Bai Yadav of Chhattisgarh was awarded the Amodini Award.




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