Mumbai girl Zen G. Sadavarte and Akash M. Khillare of Aurangabad, are two of 22 youngsters who won National Bravery Awards, organised by the Indian Council for Child Welfare this month.
Zen G. Sadavarte saved the lives of 17 people by leading them to safety when a huge fire engulfed the 12th floor of her building in Mumbai in 2018.
She was ten years old then.
A student of the Don Bosco International School at Matunga, Zen’s inner courage came to the fore as scores of trapped people panicked.
She gathered clothes from around the house, doused them with water and instructed everybody, including her family and neighbours to wrap them around their lower face.
“In this manner, she helped 17 people move to safety without any harm from the fire or the toxic smoke, as they could breathe easily through the drenched masks,” said her proud parents Gunratan Savarte and Jaishree Patil-Sadavarte, both lawyers.
Gunratan Sadavarte said she is extremely concerned about “hunger among children” and plans to launch a national campaign for them, especially those from poor families in rural-tribal areas who are deprived of a mid-day meal on weekends which they are served during weekdays at the government school.
“Despiter her tender age, she has read the Quran, the Bible, studied Buddhism, the Constitutions of five countries, read Malala Yousefzai’s biography twice, Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace and other top classics. She loves to watch news and current affairs besides her studies,” Sadavarte said.
14-year-old Akash M. Khillare – who belongs to a small village in Aurangabad – was on his way to school one morning, some 3 km from home. While crossing an old bridge over the Dudhna river, he saw a woman drowning and screaming for help. Akash looked around, but there was nobody. He threw his school bag and plunged headlong into the river, some 70 feet below.
As he swam towards her, he noticed she also had a three-year-old child with her – both were being pulled by the river currents. Akash first rescued the minor girl and then went back in to rescue her mother. Both were brought ashore safely even as other villagers gathered and cheered his feat.
Later, the mother revealed she had gone to wash clothes on the river bank when her daughter fell into the waters and was dragged away by the current.
Though she couldn’t swim, she jumped in to save her daughter. Both were in grave danger till they were spotted and rescued by Akash.