| Mukti Bhattacharya recounts the rescue
It was a new cotton sari, worn for the first time by a 35-year-old woman, that proved a lifeline for eight-year-old Karan Mallik and pulled him out of the basement tank at Nandan. His brother, Vikky, drowned in it on Wednesday.
Lakshmi Barman was nowhere to be seen after she took off her sari and helped two of her colleagues save one of the sons of an Alipore family she had never met before. But Nandan was left saluting the spirit of the Uttarpara resident, who didn’t think twice in her desperation to save a child.
Barman and her colleagues, Mamata Mitra and Mukti Bhattacharya, were preparing themselves for a busy Wednesday at the Nandan canteen, which they run. They were discussing Barman’s new sari when they heard a child’s cries for help. Running to the spot from where the shouts came, they saw two kids gasping for life in Nandan’s tank. A third was pleading with bystanders to save his friends.
The three women were initially too surprised to do anything. Their cries attracted the attention of some Nandan staffers, who waded into the tank to save the two children.
But the moss in the bed of the tank made things difficult. Getting into the moat to help the two boys, the Nandan staffers found that they were in urgent need of some themselves, Bhattacharya later said.
“Then, we decided to throw at them one of our saris,” she added. “I was the first to offer my sari, but it was immediately turned down, as it is made of a synthetic material and would have been difficult to grasp,” she said. The sari worn by Mitra was rejected for a similar reason.
Barman immediately offered hers, Mitra said. “We helped her take it off and told her to go into the canteen,” she added.
As Barman ran into the canteen, Mitra and Bhattacharya came back to the railing around the moat. Careful not to slip and fall into the moat, like the rescuers before them, they threw the sari into the tank, tying the other end to the railing.
The lifeline was caught by a Nandan staffer, who sent up a gasping Karan first. The two women busied themselves pumping out the water from Karan’s stomach, while the Nandan staff tried to look for Vikky, who had disappeared.
The 10-year-old was spotted a few minutes later. When he was brought out, he was senseless. SSKM Hospital confirmed he had died before his body was retrieved.
Both Mitra and Bhattacharya, however, said they had done nothing special. “We just did what we felt had to be done,” they said, echoing Barman, still inside the canteen. They refused to believe they had done something heroic.