"The ambulance was stuck and the driver called for help. I did what I felt was right," says Karnataka's 12-year-old Venkatesh, who won the National Bravery Award on Republic Day.
“Almost there, please do not fall….I cannot tell amma about today’s stint…It is only a few metres, I know the way….no, I will not fall!” Venkatesh told himself as he struggled to breathe.
He made his way wading through waist-deep water with near-perfect heroic jumps and confidently directed the ambulance to proceed on the bridge that was submerged in water due to heavy floods.
“I have played on this bridge multiple times and I know the route. All I need to do is maintain a distance from the ambulance in case it slides and loses its balance,” he reminded himself on the afternoon of 11 August 2019.
The 12-year-old from Hirerayanakumpi village in Karnataka’s Raichur district heaved a sigh of relief when he saw a man waving a hand at a distance.
He felt proud as he got the ambulance safely to the other end of the bridge. The vehicle was headed to Machanoor village in Yadgir district, carrying a dead body and six children.
The driver and 2-3 villagers who saw the heroic efforts of the boy lauded him for guiding them amidst the floods.
Venkatesh joined his friends as the incident was over, or so he thought.
Little did the class 6 boy know that one villager had filmed the entire event and uploaded it on a social media platform. The video went viral within minutes. A few days later, the local boy was declared as a hero by several media houses.
12-year old brave boy from Raichur in Karnataka, Venkatesh helped an ambulance driver cross a bridge submerged in water by guiding him to the safe main road. #KarnatakaFloods pic.twitter.com/nlZvdlmZGl
— Vibhinna Ideas (@Vibhinnaideas) August 16, 2019
Cut to 26 January 2020, Venkatesh was presented with the National Bravery Award by President Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi.
IAS officer P Manivannan, Secretary, Labour Department, nominated him for the bravery award to the Women and Child Development Department after seeing how he risked his life to help the ambulance pass smoothly.
“I am of the opinion that the young student is entitled to be encouraged and honoured for his act of bravery and wish to recommend for considering and including his name in the list of bravery awards in this year. I hope my recommendation will be weighed favourably,” Manivannan wrote in the letter.
Guiding an ambulance in a flooded region is no mean feat. No wonder it has made the local boy a hero among his relatives, school teachers and friends.
Despite the recognition, he remains the same boy who loves cricket eating puliogre (tamarind rice) and fights with his siblings.
Dismissing all the praises, Venkatesh tells The Better India, “While I am grateful for the prestigious award, I am still unable to understand why I was chosen. I admit it was dangerous but I did not go out of my way. The ambulance was stuck and the driver called for help. I did what I felt was right.”
Risking Life Is Not Okay, Safety Should be A Priority: Venkatesh’s Parents
Unaware of all the developments, Venkatesh carried on with his life without even once mentioning the incident to his parents. It was only after the clip was aired on television did they learn of his act.
“Venkatesh had stepped out to play with his friends as the school was shut with the village being flooded due to incessant rains. He left the house, assuring his mother, Devamma, that he would be safe,” shares Devandra, Venkatesh’s father.
Risking his life at a time when people were warned to stay indoors did not go down well with the parents.
“It was a foolish decision on his part as anything could have gone wrong, and for that, we reprimanded him. Safety should have been his first priority and this act could set a wrong example for kids,” adds Devendra, a farmer.
It took some time for Devandra and Deviamma to appreciate their son’s efforts, “We are proud of the fact that he did not think twice before helping strangers, a gesture that is rarely found in today’s time.”
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As rightly pointed out by Devandra, helping strangers is a virtue worth applauding in a child but equally important is the rule of safety that we must keep in mind.
Featured image source: Sarvesh Javalli/Twitter
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)