Story By Sadaf Modak | Originally Published On mumbaimirror
Rajaram Joshi saves those who jump off the Vashi creek bridge. He doesn’t seek money or recognition.
Rajaram Joshi clearly remembers the first time he saved a person from drowning — he was 12, and the boy he saved, seven. “My father, who was also a fisherman, taught me how to swim. During a swimming class, he told me that while drowning, a person clutches on to you and transfers his body weight to your shoulder. He also taught me how to handle such a situation without putting my life in danger,” recalls Joshi. These are lessons he keeps in mind every time he ventures into the water to save a life.
A fifth-generation fisherman, 37-year old Joshi fishes at the Vashi creek in Navi Mumbai, one of the entry-points to Mumbai. The bridge, a part of the Sion-Panvel highway, has gained a reputation as a suicide spot due to the increasing number of people who choose to end their lives there.
Joshi is summoned by the control room every time it’s alerted about a suicide attempt, to help rescue the person. Over the course of three years, Joshi has rescued 22 people who have jumped off the bridge in an attempt to commit suicide. He says he has also recovered 18 bodies in the same period. “After I receive a call from the control room, I reach the Vashi creek usually within seven minutes. I rush to the creek on my bike, so I have often reached before the fire brigade,” Joshi smiles.
Joshi enters the water on a boat or guides the fire brigade during the rescue mission, armed with his knowledge of the sea and its tricky terrain.
Though much sought after, Joshi has never accepted money for his efforts, even if a rescue mission has led to the loss of a day’s catch or damage to his fishing nets. The call can come any time — morning or night, high or low tide. “At times, the call comes in the middle of the night. Usually, rescuing someone can take anywhere between 10-30 minutes. If the person has drowned, it takes much longer to trace their body, sometimes hours,” he explains.
Why Mumbai kills itself
Joshi says that a majority of those rescued were youngsters who decided to end their lives over failed love affairs. Other reasons include domestic issues such as marital trouble, abuse, financial debt or pregnancy out of wedlock. “People think jumping off the bridge is an easy way to die. It causes a lot of physical pain and people scream helplessly. People decide to kill themselves after much back and forth. But once they jump and see people rushing to save them, they hope to get rescued. And that makes it important for me to give them that last hope,” says Joshi.
This is also probably why Joshi goes beyond his brief and meets the people he saves. He visits them at the hospital, or meets their friends and family. “Many youngsters get influenced by films and try to commit suicide. Usually, in the case of young boys, I counsel them and explain to them that it is futile to kill yourself over lost love. I once also went and met the parents of a couple who had tried to commit suicide because the parents opposed their relationship. I think they were eventually allowed to marry,” laughs Joshi.
Joshi, who was felicitated by the Navi Mumbai Commissioner Dinesh Waghmare on the occasion of National Fire Service Week this year, says he does not look forward to awards or recognition for his work. “I only began making a note of the lives I have saved since 2012 after a police officer advised me to do so. I have not been recognised by the government for my work — I do not even have a Police Mitra card. I am only worried about my family. If something were to happen to me while saving a person, my family will not get insurance from the authorities,” says Joshi, who lives in Vashigaon along with his wife and two children.
One-man suicide watch on Vashi creek
Offering to save lives at any time of the day or night, with little regard for his own life
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Whenever he is informed about a rescue, Rajaram comes immediately. He extends all help and ensures that the person’s life is saved
Asst Station Officer,
Vashi Fire Brigade
Mumbai Mirror marks its tenth anniversary by celebrating this city’s heroes. The men, women and institutions featured here have made it to our honour roll for their exemplary acts of courage, as well as for their simple yet profound expressions of humanity that have changed this city for the better.