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I guess we were not brave enough to admit our mistake back then…

We are back again with a survivor story which I came across while on my trip to Assam, the land of blue hills, rivers and streams and tea estates. The story is about an unsung hero, importance of learning basic survivor skills and about the value of life. It is a story about a near drowning incident that happened…

Neal kamal , From Dudhnoi Assam, is an only child of his parents and at present doing his MBA and this particular incident had happened when he was in the eight standard.  The incident as narrated by him goes thus.-

It was a hot summer and we usually went for a bath in the nearby river after school or sometimes even escaped early when we had sports or games during the final period of school. I did not know how to swim. Of our group of six, only two knew swimming and even the two of them were just beginners, with Muktang being the more confident of the two. We the non swimmers usually did not venture out far into the river and preferred splashing in the shallow waters near the river bank. The two swimmers used to go out a little further occasionally, tempting us but we used to refrain. That day however we the non swimmers dared to try out a fool hardy plan. We decided to form a human chain with the two swimmers- Muktang leading us and Pranab (name changed) the other swimmer, in the middle after two non swimmers and thus move a little bit further to the middle. I was the second one in the chain and slowly we started making our way towards the middle. We had planned to just go a little far, not quite in the middle. Little did we know that the river current was strong and more so beneath. We had taken just tentative steps when suddenly the ground gave away and I was pulled away from the other four behind me,by a strong current. I tried to grab Muktang in a panic, in the process pulling him beneath, with me. I splashed furiously with my feet and tried to hold on to Muktang. Even he was having a hard time fighting the current as he had to bear both our weights. In a bid to save us he gave me a hard push towards the river bank , to Pranab’s hands who was swimming along in the shallower side. But He missed and I was pulled away by the current. I splashed wildly in the process gulping a lot of water. The more I resisted, the more I was pulled away and down. Meanwhile Muktang kept following me not losing hope. There was no one in the near vicinity. Pranab had given up and stayed behind. I was becoming exhausted and had a feeling that death was not far behind. Everything seemed blurred with flashes of light in between, when the river reached a bend; the current slowed down but not before its force propelled me towards the shallower side. I would still be dead as I had completely exhausted myself, but Muktang had followed me and taking the opportunity had lunged ahead and grabbing me somehow, made towards the bank through the shallow waters.  The boys ran up to me and pumped out the water, whatever I had swallowed. I was fine within half an hour or so. Not much physical damage only a little bit of ego. But seriously speaking, when our group, later on when the shock of the moment had settled, realized how close we had come to a disaster. My friends shuddered as it struck them that had come near to witnessing a tragedy and how they would have faced my parents. I realized the trauma and damage to my parents if… How irresponsible we had been – more so Me. It was a second life for me and it was because Muktang hadn’t given up hope. How I wanted to tell everyone how he had saved me, but there were two minor problems – one –our act of irresponsibility would have come out in the open and second- my parents would have been terribly hurt. So Muktang remained unsung and unheard of and I do feel guilty when I watch children receiving the bravery awards in the television.  My friend could have been one of them, but I guess we were not brave enough to admit our mistake back then. It took a lot of introspection and guts to narrate this story. I admit even now I am apprehensive what my family might say after hearing about this. But that single incident changed my view of life and I feel that was when I decided to be a more responsible person in the future. And yes I decided to learn swimming. The thrill of risk is no doubt exhilarating for some, but unnecessary risk is not a sensible thing.

Author’s Note– Little incidents may change the view point of many and what may be a setback then, can be a big learning point as well as turning point too. Thankfully, Neal Kamal was not too late to learn his lesson of life.

As for a drowning man, there are seriously no such basic life saving tips. Of course it is a fact that, the more you struggle in panic the more you will be pulled downwards, but it will be idiotic to advise a drowning man not to panic and just let the resistances go and try to float, not swim. A non swimmer will obviously panic in that situation. So the only thing that can be said here is that – please take swimming lessons. It is a life saving skill and you never know when you may need it, over and above the health benefits of swimming.

Second thing, is that, rivers have a very strong current below and the calm surface may be deceiving. So keep that in mind when you next decide to splash about, especially a river in a rainy season.

0 17 February, 2011 Survivors February 17, 2011

About the author

She is a Doctor by profession , working in Delhi. Loves traveling, mind games and playing with words… And also the chief-co brewer of GingerChai. She is the chief brewer of some of the interesting categories you see in GingerChai. Follow @manishalsam

View all articles by Mani Padma


  1. Rachana Shakyawar

    The story was very touching!!
    If one is lucky enough to be saved it is definitely a miracle to believe in!
    I know you are referring the river Brahmaputra which definitely looks so calm on the surface and have very strong currents underneath. I have stayed in Guwahati,Assam for many years and have come across to many of such kind of horrifying incidents. My heart sinks when even I remb. that when I was in school, one of my school boy who was playing at the banks of the river drowned and perhaps as your story is being narrated I could visualize the same incident!!
    Really sad!!
    However! grt post!!

  2. Anu

    Great post! As you’ve mentioned…little things (and this wasn’t really a little incident actually) do alter the course of our way of thinking!

    1. mani

      Thanks Anu. This series was started for just this purpose only. To project the learning lessons /incidents of life and the battles for survival.

  3. Keeravani

    How true the statement I guess we were not brave enough to admit our mistake back then… When we look into our own life chapters we would realize many such incidents. Liked the series.

    I have to comment in one of your previous post, promise will do it in a couple of days.

  4. Matangi Mawley

    Makes me want to learn swimming!

    That was a really touching inceident… I come from a place where River Cauvery flows with all her might. I have always been guided by my dad- whenever the current is strong. My dad would tie a lengthy rope- one end around my waist and the other at an electric pole nearby. I was wade in water- at a safe distance. Yet- it is only minutes before the current gets rough. even then- I had not managed to get swimming lessons!

    really touching.. very well written!

  5. Anney

    This was really touching Mani. I remember teaching a friend to float . She was considered unteachable by everyone. I took the challenge and drank a lot of water in the process! Reading this felt like I was there, watching….

  6. preeti pradhan

    The story was very touching……..nd very well written…..
    and title of your article “I guess we were not brave enough to admit our mistake back then…” grab all my attention to read this…..

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