The unsung hero

 People were seen running at a frenzied pace. Screams rent the air, ‘Carlton Towers is burning’. Smoke billowed out from the huge structure that stood at the corner. A surge of humanity rushed forward to witness the horrific sight. Some were seen calling for help, some had gathered because, as ‘disaster tourists’ they just wanted to be at the scene of action. And there were some, like Ramakant, a young man who blindly pushed forward because he needed to save as many lives as was possible. This man from distant Orissa came to Bangalore to make a living.

This shy, self-effacing man stood out that fateful day because he did what nobody else from that stunned crowd could do before him. He rushed towards the entrance without a thought of his own safety. It was blocked. The fire spread and he could not get in. He jumped up holding a water pipe as a support. He found a foothold on a ledge. Shards of broken window glasses came crashing down. One huge chunk fell on his head.
Miraculously nothing happened. He felt a slight bump, shook his head as if to shrug it off, then continued on his bizarre journey up.

Some other bravehearts followed. Somehow they found the strength to hold on. It was dark. Power snapped soon after fire broke out. With the dim lights of cellphones collectively showing them the way, they reached top floor and managed to rescue hundreds of petrified victims. Ramakant and his band of good Samaritans guided the traumatised people out into safety. He heard the din of rescue efforts and collective gasps of horror at a trapped woman’s loud fall to a horrific death. After rescuing scores of survivors, he huddled into a corner and wept silently because of the lives he couldn’t save. As he recounted to us the grim details, he did not want to dwell on his achievement but lamented on the lives he could not save.

As a colleague gently removed his blood splattered shirt and replaced it with a new one, the others stood silently with lumps in their throats at this unlikely hero amidst them. Such unsung heroes abound among us. If only we have the eyes to see them. More power to you, Ramakants of the world!

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