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Navaz N Currimbhoy
Currimbhoys, the home department store

For the last 12 years, Navaz Currimbhoy has lived close to the beach at Muthukadu near Chennai. And, every Sunday morning, he went sailing.

Until December 26, 2004. On that Sunday, Currimbhoy heard a roaring sound. He rushed outside to see a huge mass of water coming towards his house. In no time, his compound was full of water.

The first wave had not fully receded when he saw 75-year-old Rajathi Amma trapped under a fallen electric pole. With the help of another man, Navaz rescued and sheltered her in his house.

Then, he heard a faint sound from the next compound; it was coming from under a crushed mass of thatch. Under it were a young girl of 10, a little boy and an old man.

The old man was dead.

Navez couldn't revive the boy, who seemed barely alive.

He knew the girl would survive if she was taken immediately to a hospital; she was sent with a person going in that direction. The girl, who was Rajathi Amma's granddaughter, survived.

Hearing women in the fishermen's village shouting for their children, he ran towards them with a long rope. He threw the rope towards those who were in the water, so they could have some support to help them reach land.

Then came the second wave; it was worse than the first. But it was the third wave that proved most dangerous.

Forty-two-year old Navaz continued to help where he could.

After a couple of days, a villager stopped Navaz on the road and said, "Sir, thank you for coming forward to help us. When people were running away from the beach, you ran towards it."

Text: Shobha Warrier. Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj

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