Calcutta, May 6: Two launch hands today jumped into the Hooghly to rescue in the nick of time a 17-year-old schoolgirl who had a moment ago been leaning a little too carelessly on the Howrah Bridge’s railing.
Jyoti Singh, who sat for Madhyamik this year, had been engrossed in the view of the river when she suddenly lost her balance and tipped over the four-and-a-half-foot-high parapet around 2.20 pm.
Sitting atop the stationary government launch at Jagannath Ghat, 23-year-old Atanu Das didn’t hear the splash or the girl’s scream, but he thought he detected a sudden commotion on the bridge. A small crowd had gathered near the railing and seemed to be gazing down at one particular spot in the river.
And sure enough, a hand was bobbing up and down in the water.
As Jyoti, who doesn’t swim, flailed about desperately, Das and the launch’s “master”, Sankar Dului, acted fast.
“I immediately drove the launch over to the spot and as we came close, Atanu jumped off the deck. I too joined him,” Dului said. “We swam a few yards and managed to pull the girl out. She was conscious but gasping.”
“The two men on the launch were really fast to react. They did a great job by reaching the girl within seconds after she fell. It was indeed a commendable effort,” said Ajay Ranadey, the deputy commissioner of police (port).
Nobody in the police could remember if anything similar had ever happened in the past.
From her bed at the Medical College Hospital, Jyoti managed to mumble her father’s mobile number. In the evening, Radheshyam Singh left the hospital with his daughter for their home in Rosemary Lane in Howrah’s Golabari.
Radheshyam, a grade-I mechanic who repairs air-conditioners and refrigerators, was away at work and Jyoti’s mother was taking a nap when she left home sometime in the afternoon, police said.
“With the exams over, she hadn’t had much to do in the afternoons. So she would often slip out and take a walk around the neighbourhood,” the father told the police.
As passers-by saw her fall, they rushed to the police constable on the bridge’s eastern slope, who nervously pulled out his wireless set and informed his seniors at North Port police station. They, in turn, ordered a sub-inspector, P.C. Kar, over the wireless to “intervene and take charge”.
Luckily for the girl, while the directions flew and wireless sets crackled, a village youth from Pathar Pratima looked up from the deck of Biswaprem and quickly took charge.