How An Ordinary Hero Saved 250 People From Dying

"Everyone has a hero inside them. They just need to identify that quality and come forward to help.” - Rajesh Damodar Kachi

It is so easy to call movie stars, doing impossible stunts, "Heroes." But is this what being a hero all about? A true hero is someone who has dedicated his or her life for a cause bigger than oneself. They are like us, ordinary people, they are as scared as us but they still chose to go on. We, today, are going to talk about a person who is no less than a 'Hero.'

Meet, Rajesh Damodar Kachi or Raju, (49) who runs a humble bhurji-pav stall in Old Tofkhana, Shivajinagar, Pune. The description doesn't sound so impressive, fitting a hero, does it? Now what if I told you, this man has saved more than 250 people from drowning in Mula-Mutha Rivers. He has selflessly done all of this without ever expecting cash or bravery awards. Doesn't he sounds heroic, now?

He was just 19 years old when he first saved a girl, who had accidentally fell into the Mutha River near Dengle Bridge in Pune. Without thinking twice he too jumped into the river to save her. Speaking to the Pune Mirror, he said “After I saved the girl, her family came to my house to thank me. The joy in the survivor’s eyes and the blessings showered by her kin was my reward. I cannot describe how wonderful that feeling was. From that day onwards, I decided to keep saving people’s lives.”

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So for the last 30 years, this stall owner has dedicated his life to saving people from drowning. Apart from this, he has also helped in fishing out 600 dead bodies from the Mula-Mutha Rivers, drowned due to suicides or accidents. He doesn’t only rescue the victims, but also takes them to the nearest Sassoon General Hospital and inform their families.

“My shop is right opposite the Dengle Bridge. And so, every time I am called or learn about someone drowning, I immediately leave my shop and rush to offer help. I get calls from people residing along the river — in areas near the Omkareshwar Temple, Sangamwadi, Dengle Bridge and Railway Bridge — if they spot someone drowning. Most of the time, the condition of the survivor is not stable, and he or she has to undergo surgery and be kept under observation. Very often, I have waited for a couple days till the person is stable, before leaving. This gives peace to my heart,” he told Pune Mirror.

Even Pune police turn to him for help in case of rescue operations or drowning. Without even thinking of his own safety he gets to work. The then sub-inspector of Shivajinagar Police Station, Mahesh Kumar Sartape, was so impressed with Raju that he made a 23-minute documentary on him, which earned Raju the moniker of ‘Raju the Savior.’ Mahesh Kumar is now a police inspector in Mumbai. Shot in a year, this documentary film ‘Raju the Life Savior’ has won over 15 national and international awards in 15 short-film festivals. You can watch it on YouTube here. This short film made Raju a Hero and helped him win several awards and felicitations, which he truly deserved.

Raja’s doesn't only tries to help in drowning emergencies but includes all kinds of crises. When heavy rains disrupted the city in 1997 and 2004, Raju swam across the flooded waters, helping families move their belongings from their submerged homes. He also rescued the physically-challenged, senior citizens and children.

When asked about his amazing fitness and his breath control. He said, it was because he didn’t smoke or chew tobacco, or consumed alcohol. Instead, he swims and exercises regularly.

Though his friends call him crazy, they think he should focus more on his work and family, but his family whole heartedly supports him, which includes his wife Kalpana, daughter Sonali and sons Aakash and Ashish.

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There were times when his own life was in peril while saving others. Once when he was trying to save an 80-year-old woman who fell into the Mutha River from the Shivaji Bridge. She hugged him so tight, holding his arms in panic that it became really difficult for him to swim and pull her out of the river. “It took a struggle of 15 long minutes to save her,” he told the publication.

The most difficult is fishing out dead bodies from the rivers, most of them are decomposed beyond repair. “I remember a few instances when I had to remove severely decomposed dead bodies. I couldn’t even eat for a couple of days, but that didn’t stop me,” he adds. “I want to continue saving lives as long as I can. I can imagine the pain a family goes through after the death of their loved ones, he said, when asked what motivates him to work so selflessly.

Picture Source : The West Herald, The Better India and The Pune Mirror

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