“I have always enjoyed doing something meaningful for people and serving them,” says 13-year-old Parikul Bharadwaj, who was bestowed with the National Bravery Award this year, under the Social Service category.
Parikul has been working along with her doctor parents in the high altitude Kedarnath region, tending to pilgrims and tourists, and providing them with medical attention.
Having made a name for herself in the India Book of Records as the youngest social worker of the country, her recognition this Republic Day makes her and her parents the proudest.
Not only is her work courageous but also fraught with dangers. The weather is often harsh in this region.
Speaking to The Better India, Parikul says, “The place where I work, Kedarnath, is about 14,000 ft above ground level, where the temperatures often dip to -9°C.”
Parikul, however, is unfazed as she has been doing this for a few years, and says that it has become ‘second nature’ to her.
Why social work?
“In 2009, my parents started working in Kedarnath, providing medical assistance to trekkers. I joined them about four years ago, with little assistance, like providing water to those who queue up outside the temple. The queue is often almost three kilometers long and has many senior citizens who find it difficult to sustain for so long.”
Many who line up also suffer from medical conditions that require timely medication, but they do not want to leave their spot in the queue. Parikul sees that they have their medicines at the stipulated time.
“I go there and give them food, warm water, and their medicines. In case we feel that someone requires focused intervention, we take them to the hospital that we have established near the temple,” she explains.
2 June 2019
What started as just another day, soon turned into something that she would perhaps never have imagined.
“I was going with two other team members on our regular rounds when I saw a lady standing in the queue with her family. She seemed to be in great distress and was unable to breathe. Upon checking her oxygen level, we found that it was way beyond the permissible limit.”
The lady was clad in many layers, so Parikul started removing some of them to help her breathe better.
Recollecting that day, she says, “I gave her half a tablet of medicine that is usually prescribed in such cases and rechecked her. Even that did not seem to help, and her levels were consistently dipping.”
While attending to her, Parikul noticed that her husband too had difficulty in breathing. The girl did not get overwhelmed and saw to it that the couple were air evacuated and taken to the hospital. Her presence of mind in the situation was admirable.
She is also skilled in rappelling, slithering, river crossing, and mountain climbing. And since her parents are doctors, she has also been trained in providing first aid.
Before Parikul could be a part of the team, she underwent intensive training. “Mountain medicine is one of the toughest services in India, and we are immensely proud of our daughter. She has undergone training with services such as Border Security Force (BSF), and Air Force. She joined us during her summer vacations to put all that training to use,” says Dr Pradeep Bharadwaj, her father.
A student of class 9 at St Mary School in Delhi’s Cantonment area, Parikul spent her 45-day summer vacation last year serving the pilgrims and trekkers at Kedarnath.
This sense of service came to her naturally as she always saw her parents put their patients first. She says, “I am not sure I know of a life other than this. I feel happy when I can do something for people and help them out.”
For saving the lives of the two pilgrims in Kedarnath and being one of the youngest social service workers in high altitude, Parikul was given the National Bravery Award this Republic Day. The family was in Jaisalmer when the news reached them. Her father gushes, “It is a matter of great pride and honour for the entire family.”
When I asked Parikul how her peers at school reacted, she says, “Nothing has changed. I am still a friend, and other than the occasional comment, it is all just as it was.”
Does she wish to follow her parents’ footsteps and become a doctor? She answers, “I wish to write the civil services examination and become an IAS officer. I also want to establish an institute where we train people to work and serve at high altitude areas.”
To know more about her work, log on to her website.
Here’s wishing her the best in whatever field she chooses!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)