Mumbai, Jan 21 : Mumbai girl Zen G. Sadavarte, who shot to fame two years ago when she helped save at least 17 lives, has been selected for the coveted Indian Council for Child Welfare's National Bravery Award for 2019.
Along with her, a boy from Aurangabad, Akash M. Khillare has also been selected for the same award and both will be honoured along with 20 other young bravehearts from all over India.
Both Zen (12) and Akash (16) displayed rare and exemplary courage which has earned them national laurels besides making them "young idols" for the youth.
Here is the real-life story of Akash M. Khillare: One morning, Akash, belonging to a small village in Aurangabad, was hurrying to his school, some 3 km from home. On the way, 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, around 70 feet below.
As he swam towards her, he noticed she also had her three-year-old daughter with her and they were being pulled in the river currents. Akash first rescued the minor girl and then went on to rescue her mother and brought them ashore safely even as other villagers gathered and cheered his feat.
Later, the crying mother said she had gone to wash clothes on the river bank when her daughter fell into the waters and was getting dragged away by the current.
Though she couldn't swim, she jumped in to save her daughter and both were in grave danger till they were spotted and rescued by Akash.
The story of Zen: Zen is a Class VII student of Mumbai's Don Bosco International School, Matunga, and her inner courage came to the fore during a massive fire that engulfed the 12th floor of Crystal Towers in Parel around 8 am in August 2018.
As scores of trapped people panicked, the 10-year-old Zen collected clothes around the house, then doused them with water and instructed everybody, including her family and neighbours to cover their noses and breathe through it.
"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.
Later, her efforts were lauded by the media and the civic and state government, and now she will be recognized at the national level.
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 told IANS.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at email@example.com)