We all know that Sivaji Rao is a conductor-turned-hero. Here, I present to you, a real-life-hero-turned-conductor and his version of the incident which made him an unsung hero.
“My name is Gopinathan. I live in a small slum area in Triplicane adjacent to the famous Marina beach. Our place was a happening but tiny street in the slum, a little away from the sea. Kids playing all day, neighbors’ street gossip and songs blaring from adjacent temple, the place will be a din forever.
I lived with my wife and 2 kids and we had a small business operating from the first floor of my house. We had taken up our family business, one that had been the bread-winning-occupation for over 3 generations, weaving and embroidery. We were experts in designing sarees with embroidery work on it. Our main customers were located in Sowcarpet and I used to take my bike there and win deals time and again. Business was going just fine then…
On the previous day, even though it was Christmas, I had gone to meet a client and he had paid rupees ten thousand to me in cash, and I had casually kept it in my shirt pocket. I just hung the shirt on the door hook and went off to sleep. The money lay untouched. The next day, dawned as a doomsday on all of us!
Yes, it was the 26th of December, the boxing day. But the year was synonymous with something tragic – 2004. The beach near my house was the most popular spot in Chennai. People used to come here for walks, laughter therapies, a game of cricket… That morning, the beach had attracted crowd for the same reasons.
We did not even know a word called Tsunami existed till then. My kids who were playing with the neighbors’ came running to me and said: “Big waves came…. people are crying… car, boat, even people got dragged into the water by the waves… come soon… come and help…” I thought they were playing a prank. Or someone had scared them inadvertently. But their faces shone with truth, and I decided that this was a thing for me to go and check out.
So I took my shirt from the door hook and wore it. Then I started out on my Bullet bike towards the main road, to check what had happened, and see if I can give a helping hand. The kids came running behind me till the end of the street.
When I drove along the beach road, a young man carrying a teenage girl (she was unconscious) signaled me to stop. Voice shivering, he said, “this is my sister… she is unconscious… she has swallowed sea-water… please admit her in the nearest hospital that you find… I have to go help my mother”. Poor boy, I took pity on him and agreed to help.
Both of us together placed the girl on the backseat of my bike, her back lying on the seat and limbs and head hanging on each side. I drove with one hand behind, holding that unconscious girl. It was a hell of a sight on the road, with people screaming, running helter-skelter.
The nearest hospital in that area was the CSI Kalyani. We were the early entries into the hospital, apparently. The staff had however got information on the calamity and readily admitted the girl. I was not even able to give them the girl’s name, as even I did not know. They told me that they were taking her to the ICU and will try to save her in whatever way possible. With that assuring words, I took off back to the beach road, hoping I can be of more help there.
Thus, I transported a second person, and then went back a third time. Now, there were policemen around trying to bring in some order. Unfortunately for me, they were also rounding up a few thieves who were making use of the chaos and stealing stuff. That was when I remembered the cash I had in my pocket. I was one sure suspect to the police, if they noticed. So I had to returned home.
But back home, I was very restless. I wanted to atleast know the condition of those people I admitted in the hospital. So I took my bike and went there. There was a mad crowd at the lobby, and people coming in now were being rerouted to nearby hospitals, as there was no space left.
I saw this lady, whose face looks like a xerox-copy of the first girl I saved. Mustering my courage, I went to that lady and spoke. Inquired her if she had a daughter who was admitted. Told her that it was me who admitted the girl. The lady thanked me profusely and then informed me that the girl had been in critical condition in the ICU and only few minutes before did the doctors confirm that she is out of danger. I was so happy that something good had happened out of this episode and the girl was saved.
A few days passed and life turned back to almost – normal. Then one evening, a car came to our area, to my house. The lady and her husband had come to visit us and personally thanks us.
Now, I don’t do the embroidery work any more. I am a bus conductor at the B19 route. My wife just now found an old piece of paper with the lady’s number. I am wondering if I can call…”
I was so humbled on hearing this story and was reminded of the kural
Kaalathinaal seidha udhavi siridheninum
Gnaalathin maana peridhu
What he did might have been a very simple thing. But, to have the heart to go out and help however he could, in times of crisis… and to think of going back and helping more people… is something worth applauding. He would definitely be a hero-figure at least to the families of those whom he saved. Kudos, Mr.Gopinathan!!
– Until next,