The MET department had warned of strong winds and rains in Mumbai for that particular day, in 2005. People were busy with their chores and travelling as usual. As the clock ticked, the sky started to change its colour from melancholic blue to morbid grey, and then terrifying black.
The pleasant drizzling had turned into intense downpour which neither stopped when the sun went down, nor did it acknowledge its rise the next morning. The waves in the sea looked murderous, and not romantic. Huge waves crashed against the coast with loud, silencing thuds. People were asleep in their homes feeling safe without knowing that their beloved city was sinking at a fast pace. The fishing boats were crashing head on, and dancing at the mercy of sea waves.
With the crack of dawn people realized that it was no more the city they knew. Mumbai had flooded, drains had become part of the ever-consuming sea, vehicles floated all around, and basements had turned into pools. Low-lying areas were crying for mercy but one could hardly distinguish them from the waves.
The railway network had collapsed, airport had became non-functional, and there was only water filling the city’s canvas. The maximum city had to kneel before the fury of nature. It was only now that the authorities were staring at the appalling gloom that the city has encountered. Mumbai had come to a total standstill.
Amongst all this gloom stood a dazzling example of bravery, a 13-year-old girl. Asma Ayyub Khan of Bal Griha School, run by Childrens Aid Society, in Matunga, chose action over fear in an act of enormous courage and wit. Black, muddy, and toxic water had entered the school compound and the building. Around 40 children were panicking not knowing what will happen to them. There was no way someone would risk their life to save them.
It was at that moment that this 13-year-old displayed grit and lunged forward. In pursuit of safety, she started to drag two children at a time through five feet of swivelling waters, a little above her own height. She repeated this breathlessly till all the kids found a safe place.
Asma not only risked her life for others, but also won over millions of hearts by her act. Never for a moment she doubted her super human decision. What she did is an unfathomable act of bravery for which she was awarded the from the then-Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh.
The biggest highlight of her act is that Asma did not know how to swim. She could have died but guess she knows how to keep fears at bay. She stands as a shining example to all of us, to come forward and help in times of tragedy and turmoil. Human courage and endurance found a residence in Asma Ayyub Khan, forever.
Share this brave heart’s story because she belongs to a rare breed.