On a sweltering afternoon in May 2013, Rajaram Joshi, a fisherman from Vashi in Navi Mumbai, had just returned home after selling his day’s catch. Just when he was about to take a nap, his phone began to ring incessantly. It was a call informing him about a lady who had jumped into the nearby creek.
When Rajaram reached the creek, he could hear the screams of the lady and there was no time to arrange for a boat. So, he jumped right in despite the high tide, carried her on his shoulders and sent her to the hospital. The lady who wanted to end her life was heavily pregnant when Rajaram rescued her.
This was not the first time he had saved someone’s life at the Vashi creek, which is infamously known as the ‘suicide point’. But this particular incident of saving the life of a lady and her unborn child encouraged him to carry forward his mission.
“After jumping into the water, the lady got scared of drowning and started screaming for help. When I got her out, she cried and thanked me for saving her. That incident changed the both of us,” Rajaram tells The Better India.
Rajaram is a fifth-generation fisherman who learnt swimming at the age of six from his late father. Having spent most of his childhood on a boat more than the playgrounds, Rajaram knows the sea inside out.
He first saved a life at the age of 12. It was summer vacation when Rajaram and his friends would often swim in the creek. One day, his friend Sandeep who didn’t know swimming also dived into the water. Although the water was around 30 feet deep, Rajaram managed to carry Sandeep on his shoulders and saved him.
So far, he has saved 49 people and helped the municipal corporation and the fire brigade remove 54 bodies from Vashi creek.
A thankless job
Rajaram neither takes any money for his services nor is hungry for recognition. So what makes him put his own life in danger to help strangers?
“Life is hard for everyone, including me, and ending it is the easy way out. But what about the loved ones who are left behind? Hope is one thing that I have in abundance and it is the only thing I can give others. So, when someone is jumping from the bridge they just want that one person to assure them everything is going to be fine and I want to be that person,” says Rajaram.
That said, not everyone is grateful for getting a second chance at life. Some fight with him while in the water demanding to finish the act while others, who come out alive, curse him. It is a thankless job but that has never deterred Rajaram.
Then there are others still who are full of gratitude. “I tend to visit the hospitals or police stations after saving people. I try to counsel them and convey their problems to their families. I have seen mothers, husbands, children breaking down and thanking me. Their blessings are my biggest reward.”
Though he is proud of what he does, Rajaram is disheartened every time he sees someone ending their life, irrespective of age. He has talked 22-year-olds to even 65-year-olds out of suicide.
“Youngsters’ problems are mostly related to love affairs and unemployment and the older ones are either in debt or have domestic issues. Every problem deserves equal attention but then there are times when people jump due to frivolous issues. I remember a young man who wanted to die because he wasn’t able to afford pizza for his girlfriend. Of course, I am here to serve people but we really need to pay attention to people’s mental health,” says Rajaram.
Due to his friendly nature and commitment to save people at any time of the day, the control room and fire brigade often alert him when they learn of someone jumping or about to jump. He has also been felicitated by former Navi Mumbai Commissioner, Dinesh Waghmare, on the occasion of National Fire Service Week a couple of years ago.
Rajaram, who has two children and a wife, has endangered himself on several occasions and last year he was left bedridden after he broke his back trying to save someone. Today, he is in recovery but has drained his savings.
“I am not able to go fishing and the pandemic has worsened my financial condition further. However, I have trained two of my fellow fishermen who keep an eye out near the creek. I hope to get better soon so that I can get back to my profession and cause,” he signs off.
You can get in touch with Rajaram at: +91 92242 92789
Edited by Yoshita Rao