Since he joined the fire brigade 18 years ago, firefighter Chhagan More has never had a chance to celebrate Diwali with his dear ones. He has to be alert day in and day out throughout the year, but considering the spate of fire accidents during the festival of lights, he has to be even more cautious to ensure the safety of more than 40 lakh citizens in Pune.
More is just one of 500 firemen in the city who believe in celebrating their work instead of Diwali. The firemen, deployed at 11 fire stations across in the city, believe that duty is above all. While the rest of the city immerses itself in fiery celebrations, they are busy attending to calls that report fire breakouts from stray crackers or rockets.
Forty-year-old More, attached to the Bhavani Peth fire station and presently deployed at the firecracker stalls near Mhatre Bridge for the 2-9 pm shift, says that although he misses his family members, especially his kids, nothing is more important when it comes to the call of duty. And the family appreciates his dedication to the job.
“My family understands the nature of my work and my responsibilities. My children proudly say that their father serves lakhs of residents,” says More, adding that even after the day’s work, his duty continues. Sometime, he has to attend to emergency calls throughout the night.
His colleague at Bhavani Peth fire station, Kailash Shinde, has a similar story to share. He always misses the dawn of Diwali due to his night shifts. “I love Abhyanga Snana (ceremonial oil bath on Diwali). However, I haven’t been able to enjoy one due to my night shifts during Diwali,” says 44-year-old Shinde, who thinks that “a fireman’s duty is similar to that of a soldier guarding the border”, making certain that his fellow countrymen are safe from harm.
“My mother sometimes complains about my absence on all the important festivals ont eh cvalendar. However, I try to make her understand that as ours is one of the essential services and we can’t shirk the responsibility we have been trusted with,” said Shinde, who has been not spent one Diwali with his family members in 15 years.
Amid these stories, one would consider fireman Satish Dakhave of Sinhagad Road fire station lucky. Although he can’t celebrate Diwali, but for the first time in over a decade he would get to celebrate Bhai Dooj, which falls on Tuesday. “My sister would be very happy as for the first time in the last 12 years I have invited her to my home on Tuesday morning to celebrate bhai-dooj,” said 40-year-old Dakhave.
Despite the disadvantages that come with the occupation, the firemen say they have never regretted joining the fire brigade. According to Dakhave, he gets the utmost satisfaction when he sees tears of joy in the eyes of the people he saves from blazes.
There are 11 fire stations across Pune, manned round the clock by around 500 firemen, who work in three shifts
In 2011 the fire brigade received 37 calls of emergency during the four days of Diwali festival
In 2012, the number of calls the brigade received during Diwali was 55
This year, in the last couple of days, the brigade has received 15 calls of help
We celebrate Diwali in a different way: Cops
Inspector Bhanupratap Barge, Faraskhana police station
It’s been a few months since we got a breather. We are on our toes since Ganeshotsav. Now, it’s Diwali followed by Muharram. In short, festivals mean added responsibility and extra duty for us. During Narendra Modi’s visit to the city, we had to be extra cautious. We have been working round the clock for at least 12-13 hours a day, without a leave.
You need to be ready even when you are at home so that you can leave the moment you are asked to report for work. But all this is part and parcel of our job. We are entitled for people’s safety. But at times our families feel bad when like others we aren’t there to celebrate festivals like others. We are used to it. My two sons are studying abroad and my wife understands my responsibility. This helps me concentrate on my duty without feeling guilty of neglecting them.
Traffic Inspector Neelam Jadhav, Shivajinagar-Deccan
Our Diwali goes away managing VIPs. It’s very difficult for all the policemen to get a holiday during this time, as safety of citizens during festivals is our top priority. I don’t choose to take leaves during the festival, and my mother visits me. I want officials with families to take an off so that they can be with their loved ones.
Currently, I’m busy managing traffic at Deccan and Shivajinagar, as these areas get clogged during festivities. At times I end up working past midnight to regulate state transport buses, which gets quite stressful. But the happy faces in the buses, heading home to be with their families, are stressbusters and make up for the extended working hours.
Inspector Sushma Chavan of Crime Branch
Since we have been entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the citizens, it’s almost impossible for us to celebrate the festival with our families. I was part of the team investigating a few high-profile murder cases for the last few months and have been in and out of the city ever since. Even now we are tied up with Diwali and VIP security arrangements.
Some police stations fall in areas that get extremely crowded during festive season. Where there is crowd, anti-social elements like chain snatchers and pickpockets try to take advantage of the situation. Hence we need to beef up security in such areas. Most of the time we are out on duty during Diwali, but thankfully our families understand our job. I try to balance my personal and professional life by spending quality time with my family whenever I’m with them. - Swapnal Tilekar
During the 4 days of Diwali
Number of calls the fire brigade received in 2011
Number of calls received in 2012
Number of calls received till yesterday during this Diwali