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.
Guardian at the Mumbai’s suicide point
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.
No payment for his services, yet he’s available around the clock
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.