Bandstand drowning: Braveheart who went missing was an expert swimmer

Jan 11, 2016, 06:59 IST | Pallavi Smart

Ramesh Walanju, the braveheart who went missing after jumping in to rescue the college girls, was an expert swimmer and his family is unable to believe he could not cope with the waves

Ramesh Walanju hailed from the fishing community and had lived opposite Bandra Bandstand all his life – two factors that made him an expert swimmer. It was this confidence that pushed the 35-year-old to dive into the sea without hesitating when he saw three college girls drowning there on Saturday.

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The tragic drowning has shocked Ramesh’s mother Radhika (left) and wife Kalpana (centre). Pic/Shadab Khan
The tragic drowning has shocked Ramesh’s mother Radhika (left) and wife Kalpana (centre). Pic/Shadab Khan

“This is not the first time Ramesh jumped into the water to help those drowning. He knew swimming and was obviously confident he would save the girls and come out himself,” said his uncle, Suresh Sawant.

Ramesh Walanju
Ramesh Walanju

In fact, that day, he was on his way to a nearby society where he worked as a driver, when he saw the commotion at the beach and immediately understood someone needed help. He neatly laid aside his tiffin box, shoes, wallet and watch before he took the leap, but did not come back for them. Ramesh managed to save two of the girls — Anjum (18) and Masturin Khan (17), but did not make it back after he dove in the third time for Tarranum Shaikh (18).

“He had been living here since he was a kid. Most of us here know swimming, but in Ramesh’s case, he was very fond of it and would regularly swim with his friends. We do not understand what went wrong this time,” added his uncle, who was among several family members who turned up at Ramesh’s house to support his family yesterday, even as the search operation continued for him.

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Tears rolled down the cheeks of Ramesh’s wife, Kalpana, as she looked at their children.

Kalpana works as a domestic help in a nearby locality, and has three children – the eldest daughter has just started college, while the youngest, a son, is just 2 years old.

Ramesh’s mother, Radhika, said, “He was always ready to help people wherever possible. His circle of friends is very big. He was active in local politics as well.”

Ramesh’s family and friends are leaving no stone unturned to trace him, and they joined the rescue operation as well. Local fishermen went into the sea on Saturday night with five boats, while Ramesh’s friends and other youth searched the entire shoreline with torches.

However, family members are not satisfied with the authorities answers about the search operation, and lament the fact that citizens insist on going to such dangerous spots, putting lives at risk.

“That specific spot is very dangerous, but people keep going there and do not listen to advice from the locals. But because of this tragic incident, everybody is talking about the need to be careful around that spot,” said Sawant.

“His tiffin box, shoes, wallet and watch were kept at the spot where he had jumped from. He intended to return after saving the girls. The authorities should ensure proper patrolling or put restrictions in place at that spot to avoid more such tragedies,” said a neighbour present at the Walanju home.

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