A 42-year-old man has been working as a majhi (boatman) at a rowing club on the Rabindra Sarobar premises for 23 years.
The “primary duty” of the man, who is paid around Rs 10,000 a month and stays at the club, is to take rowing boats to and out of water. But several times in the past, when a rowing boat toppled in the water, the man took a dinghy and rescued rowers.
On Saturday, when a 90kmph storm battered the city, the man was among the first responders. Here’s his account of the “bhayabaha (dreadful)” evening.
The sky was bright and sunny in the afternoon. Suddenly, dark clouds appeared.
I have spent over two decades on the lake’s waters. But as the wind and rain started, the same lake became like a rakshas (monster). I had never seen it like this.
There were six to eight rowing boats in the water. All were trying to come back. Visibility was poor. After a while, I heard cries that boats had toppled.
I ran to the bank and saw several boats had overturned. I can't recall the exact number. Everything happened so quickly.
By the time I took out a dinghy, a couple of rowers who were closer to the bank had come back. They confirmed that several were in the water, which was rough. Club officials had rushed out, screaming and shouting directions to us.
I had another majhi on my dinghy. Together, we sailed towards the Dhakuria side of the lake amidst heavy rain.
Close to the first island, we rescued two rowers who were clinging on to their boat and brought them back to the bank.
Over the next 30-40 minutes we made a round trip of the entire course. When we came back to the bank, we heard that two boys were still missing.
We took to the waters again and went up to the islands. We kept shouting “koi hai”. I was hoping the missing boys somehow swam till the island. We lit torches, but….
We came back empty-handed after a long time.
When the two boys were fished out by divers, I could not bring myself to see that.