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Monday, August 29, 2005

Hero who saved 20 in deluge

“He came as a god in our hour of need, I owe my life to him... For me Kini is the real Mr India,” says visually-impaired Raju Chavan (27). Chavan and Sheela (14), a mentally-challenged girl were rescued by Pandurang Kini (37) on July 26.

Bus stalled

As Kini took the BEST bus (Number 339) from Andheri station to Majas Depot, around 3.30 pm, the water levels were rising everywhere.Sheela, her mother and Chavan were among the 20-odd passengers in the bus. As the bus reached the Veer Savarkar Chowk near Andheri railway subway, it stopped moving.

Water levels rise

“In the beginning, everyone thought that staying in the bus was safer, but when the water rose to the seat level, the passengers started panicking,” says Kini.

Getting out

By 5.30 pm, it became clear that chances of survival inside the bus were slim. “There was 10-foot-deep water outside. I realised that if we could reach the garbage dumper next to the bus entrance, we would make it,” adds Kini.

Makeshift ladder

Kini pulled in some wooden logs that were floating past and with the help of Salim, another passenger, used it like a ladder. All the passengers climbed out this way and reached the garbage dumper. All but Chavan and Sheela.“I had resigned myself to my fate, and asked everyone to leave me alone and save their lives, but Kini refused to leave. He said, “Jab tak tum dono ko nahin bachata, main yahaan se nahin jaoonga,” says Raju. Kini, over six feet tall, carried Raju and Sheela on his shoulders and climbed the ladder and reached the dumper.

Final shelter

However, soon the dumper too started filling with water. Kini then used the same wooden plank and connected it to the roof of the Pink Plaza Restaurant and Bar. “Sheela got hysterical and had to be tied to my back with a rope before I could carry her to the roof,” recalls Kini. Kini, a resident of Sher-e-Punjab, is a financial planner with the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) while Chavan is a specialist in scientific body massage therapy.

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