Forty-year-old Ramesh Walunj will always be remembered as the braveheart who selflessly sacrificed his life while trying to save two drowning girls.
He was a resident of Jaffar Baba Colony and was working as a driver with a family living at Bandstand. At around 10:30 am on Saturday morning, Ramesh was in Kadeshwari temple near Bandra fort when he heard screams coming from the direction of the sea.
He rushed down to the edge of a small cliff where he learnt that three girls had fallen into the water while trying to take a selfie.
Source: Ashwin Kumar/Flickr
They were trying to take a picture while standing at the rocky beach of Bandra Bandstand.
“They planned to go to Bandra Fort on Saturday morning. They walked to the edge of the rocks and were taking pictures when a large wave hit them from behind. The girls lost balance and fell,” Ramachandran Dhawale, senior inspector of Bandra police station told The Indian Express.
The three girls, Tarannum Ansari (18), Anjum Khan (19) and Masturi Khan (19), were residents of Baiganwadi in Govandi. Tarannum and Anjum fell into the water, and Masturi was trying to help them get out. Ramesh had reached the spot by then and he helped Masturi in pulling out Anjum.
According to eyewitnesses, Ramesh was the only bystander who went into the water to try and save the girls. Ramesh’s neighbour, Raju Makwana, said that Tarannum had been washed some 15 feet away from the shore. Ramesh reached her, but the tide swept them away as soon as she grabbed hold of him.
But according to the police, Ramesh swam some distance and turned back when he was unable to find her. However, he was washed away by a wave before he could reach the shore. The police reached the place about 15 minutes after Ramesh was last spotted. They identified him based on the driving license in the wallet he had left behind with his clothes and lunch box.
“He left home at 10.30 am after I packed his lunch box. But since he had time on his hands, he went to the temple to sit there for some time,” Ramesh’s wife Kalpana told The Times of India.
Ramesh’s neighbours informed that he was a natural swimmer and was the kind of man who tried to help everyone in the case of a crisis. He was known for saving lives. According to a Bandra fire officer, Ramesh always jumped into the water to help people as he lived close to the sea. He had saved at least 30 people from drowning till now. He used to join the rescue operations as well. He is survived by a wife, two daughters aged 16 and 14, and a 2-year-old son.
Anjum was admitted in Bhabha Hospital and was discharged after being given first aid. The police recorded statements of Anjum and Masturi and allowed them to go home. Two Mumbai Police boats and fishing trawlers started with the search operations initially, but by 4 pm, a Coast Guard helicopter had also been called in to look for the bodies of Ramesh and Tarannum. They have not been found till now.
Even though he was the sole breadwinner who earned Rs 10,000 a month, his family is very proud of Ramesh for this act of bravery.