The weary fire-fighters, after a marathon effort to save the Ludhiana Hosiery Building, in Burrabazar, were leaning against an empty fire-tender, when a man climbed onto the second floor of the building and retrieved a few books from a half-burnt store.
The fire-fighters watched in amazement as Bipin Ganatra, known to be the “fire-fighters’ best friend”, made his way through the debris and helped put out the embers. The act was a replay of the Canning Street fire, the Bowbazar bomb blasts and the Firpo’s inferno.
Calcutta’s leading civilian volunteer in fire-fighting is once again a hero in Burrabazar. The 42-year-old resident of Dhirendra Mullick Street, in north Calcutta, has been showered with praise by none other than the fire services director himself. Sources said the fire brigade is planning to felicitate him for his efforts during such calamities. “This man is unbelievable. He works with the precision of a fire-fighter. His courage should serve as an example,” said B.M. Sen, fire services director.
On Saturday early morning, Bipin picked up the news of the fire on television. “Mujhe maut se dar nahin. Is duniya mein, main akela hoon (I am not afraid of dying. I am alone in this world),” said Bipin, sporting a smile.
From early in life, Bipin was known to be the “man for every crisis”. During the Firpo’s fire, he had fought the blaze non-stop for 14 hours and even helped retrieve some garments for the traders. “Since most officials, including senior policemen, know me, they never stop me from entering fire-engulfed buildings. Some of the firemen have even taught me how to hold the nozzle and train it on leaping flames,” said a drenched Bipin, before rushing out to help the firemen who were finding it difficult to get inside the caved-in top floor.
“He has been a great help to us. We will never forget what Bipin has done for us,” recalled Savitri Sharma, 70, who was rescued by Bipin from one of the burnt buildings in the nearby Babulal Lane.
For the man, who claims he enjoys playing with fire, Bipin seeks no reward. ‘Whenever I hear of a fire in the city, I feel the need to be present there and help out the trapped,” concludes the electrical shop-owner.