This 'beautiful' girl will remember policemen forever

This 'beautiful' girl will remember policemen forever

Falling flakes of snow feel like heaven. Tall deodar trees, serpentine roads and the bounty of picturesque landscape are slowly draped in all white. The magical soundless downpour reminds of the mesmerising first love--the ones in love will vouch for it. But this year’s  bone-chilling winter in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh was not all the same. Snowfall broke a 25-year-old record. Within no time, the ‘magical white’ had swamped an entire landscape.

Tales of hardship, agony, survival, grit and more followed. Like the one that is being celebrated in the hill town of Shimla as a story of “angels,” divine intervention and a baby girl named Shivangi.

Just when all hopes were lost, six policemen walked several hours in knee-deep snow for miles with a pregnant woman on the shoulders on pitch dark streets to a hospital. Shivangi, which means beautiful, is a month old now, thanks to the angel policemen. If this was about grit and survival, there was plenty of misery that snowfall alone brought. For weeks, major parts of the state were without power. Communication lines had snapped. Roads were inaccessible because of heavy snow.

Traffic came to a standstill and life completely out of gear. Candles sold like hotcakes, in some places for Rs 100 for a single candle. Several people died. Bodies of two engineering under-graduates were dug out weeks after they got buried under heaps of snow. Stocks of wood for fire would get pver in no time. Hot water was a luxury. Stuck in snow, ambulances couldn’t move. At places where power was restored, albeit temporarily, welding equipment was used to melt frozen ice in water supply pipelines. That was life in the hill state.

But the soul-stirring story of the six tough cops and the birth of Shivangi showed just how misery would seldom triumph when faced with a strong resolve to win. January 8, the first heavy snowfall in the erstwhile British capital triggered it all. A day and night of snowfall had broken the record of snowfall in Shimla. A family in village Prangyan in the bounds of Shimla was staring at a crisis. It had been days without power.

 Twenty-four-year-old Kamini was anxious as she was in the last stages of her pregnancy. Her husband Swaroop, a medical representative, had left for an outstation tour and could not return since snow had swamped long stretches of the highways and link roads. Kamini’s mother Sarla was there to help. But never did the family realise it would be no less than a miracle to pull them out of a looming crisis.

Kamini experienced early bouts of labour pain, much before the scheduled time given by doctors. She needed to be urgently evacuated to the hospital, 10 km away. By evening the labour pain got severe. Ambulance services expressed helplessness to reach the spot, reminding one of the downpour scene in an almost identical scene in famous movie 3 Idiots. Tears welled up in her eyes.

Villagers and Mukund Lal, the former deputy headman of the village, pitched in to help. But they realised that they could do little. Then Lal called up an acquaintance head constable Ravi Barari, a trained commando, for help. His colleague head constable Puneet Sharma was along with him.

The two cops were quick to understand that it was a life-and-death situation. Four other cops--Devinder Mehta, Shiv Kant, Piare Lal and Sunil Singh-- volunteered for the backbreaking task and walked to Kamini’s house with torches. A chair was pulled out and two logs were strapped on the sides for the shoulder lift. With Kamini secured in the chair, the brave six, along with Sarla and Lal, set off on the unthinkable journey.

The road was untraceable with deep snow and the night darkness made matters worse. Uprooted trees, electricity poles on the way were a nightmare to jump over with Kamini on the shoulders. The team was running against time. Keeping Kamini in good cheer was a challenge, Sharma recalls, saying they kept talking to her.

After four hours, the men sweating in cold heaved a sigh of relief. The hospital was in sight. Doctors were astonished. The men in khakhi had saved two lives just in time. The six waited at the hospital restlessly. By next morning, Shivangi was born.

The brave heart cops blessed her and went away. Certificates of commendation were only a little gesture to appreciate the men’s splendid feat. “I am going to tell Shivangi the story of her birth, the journey and the six God-sent angels,” Kamini says.

Himachal Pradesh’s Keylong and beyond remain cut off from the rest of the world for months every winter due to snow. Evacuations for the distressed and ailing are carried out through choppers, that too if weather permits. Tribal areas in Lahaul-Spiti were plunged into darkness for weeks. Telephone connections were snapped. The valley recorded six feet of snow. Nearly 200 trees got uprooted in Shimla alone. The heavy influx of tourists from Punjab, Haryana, and other states to witness snowfall added to the woes. LPG supply was badly hit.

For Shimla resident Ramesh Dutt, it was a nightmare when a tree fell on his house at midnight. There was no light, water or any mode of communication as the family moved to a nearby guest house at night.

Dutt says their dog saved lives alerting family members before the giant tree dropped from the rooftop. Akshay Kumar and Navneet Rana, the two students of the National Institute of Technology on Hamirpur campus were the unfortunate ones, like scores of others who perished in snow this unforgiving winter in the hill state.

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