“The front door of the bus was on fire and the visibility was very low but I knew I had to do something."
Every year, the Government of India honours 25 children from across the country for their “meritorious acts of bravery against all odds” with the National Award For Bravery. This year 22 children qualified out which Adithya became the first child from Kerala to receive the award. The award was definitely well-deserved as sixteen-year-old Adithya braved self-harm to save the lives of 20 people from a bus fire.
Here’s how it happened.
For Aditya K hailing from Ramanattukara, life in Kozhikode primarily revolved around school and football practices. That’s when Adithya’s grandmother received an invite for a tour to Nepal organised for the pensioner’s of Calicut University.
As most of the pensioners were senior citizens, their families decided to join the tour to make it more lively.
Aditya and his family set out on the tour on the 25th of April along with his parents and grandmother. “There was a total of 72 people travelling with us and we truly had an amazing time. We travelled to Lumbini, Kathmandu and Pokhara. I remember being awestruck by the Pashupatinath temple and the caves nearby. Everything was going well until the unfortunate incident,” recalls Adithya.
“We started our return trip on 1 May in two A/C Tourist buses from Nepal to the Lucknow airport. The bus that I was travelling in had 43 passengers and we were 60kms from the Indian border and reached a place called Daunne. That’s when one of the aunties in the bus noticed smoke coming from the back.” he explains.
When the travellers pointed this out to the driver, he ignored it and said that it would probably be dust. But when the travellers smelt diesel, they began to panic and stopped the bus.
“My father, the tour operator and the cook who was travelling with us stepped out and went to see what was wrong. Suddenly, black smoke started entering the bus through the AC vent and the front part of the bus caught fire. I could only hear the screams and calls of help at that point. The situation was even worse because most of the travellers were senior citizens and I could just feel them looking around helplessly,” Adithya explains.
Adithya’s father Anish, who was standing outside, recalls that he broke a few windows so that the smoke could escape but he couldn’t do much because by then the bus started burning even more.
“The place that we had stopped the bus was quite isolated and we couldn’t find any water nearby to extinguish the flames.” says Anish.
“The situation was getting worse and we were running out of breath because of the smoke. The front door was on fire and the visibility was very low but I knew I had to do something so I walked around the bus trying to figure out a solution. And like a miracle, I found a hammer. I didn’t think twice. I broke the biggest window using all my might and kicked off the rest of the glass pieces. At that moment, I felt like the hopes of all the passengers revived,” Aditya recalls.
Aditya helped each of the passengers jump out of the bus through the broken window and recalls that he even had to push some of the reluctant ones out of the window.
“I made sure that the entire bus was cleared out before I jumped out. It was truly a relief to know that everyone had been saved because just moments after we all got out, we saw the entire bus go down in flames. If we had been just a few minutes late, none of us would have survived.” says Adithya.
“Besides a few bruises here and there, none of the passengers had been injured. It felt like a rebirth. After the bus went down in flames, I didn’t know what to tell my son. I just hugged him as tightly as I could,” adds Adithya.
“I’m not physically trained in any way but it was that moment of courage that gave me the strength to save the lives of so many people,” concludes Adithya.
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(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)