Mumbai: Swept away by waves, man swam 5 hours to safety

Updated: Nov 27, 2014, 09:29 IST | Vinay Dalvi |

Ravi Tanmay Chaudhary fell into the waters at Bandstand after a high tide crept up on him, was luckily dragged towards the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, where he climbed onto a pillar and was eventually rescued after 5 hours

From having a quiet evening, listening to Mohammad Rafi and watching the waves break against the shore at Bandstand, to finding himself adrift on the dark, endless Arabian Sea, with only a boxy thermocol piece to keep him afloat, Ravi Tanmay Chaudhary’s life changed drastically in a matter of moments.

Ravi Chaudhary
Ravi Chaudhary

Struggling to breathe in the water for five hours, shivering and wondering if he would ever see his family again, little did the 20-year-old know that luck was actually on his side.

Cops stand near pole number 27 of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, where the 20-year-old compounder had climbed atop a base of the pillar
Cops stand near pole number 27 of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, where the 20-year-old compounder had climbed atop a base of the pillar

For, instead of leading him out to the open ocean, the waves that had dragged him in took him towards the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, where he climbed onto a pillar. Chaudhary was rescued seven hours after his ordeal began.

Just another evening...
Chaudhary, who lives near Lilavati Hospital in Bandra and works as a compounder for a dentist, had gone to Bandstand on Sunday to relax after having dinner. “After coming home from work, I had dinner and went to Bandstand, near Taj Lands End, to relax and enjoy the breeze.

I was sitting on the rocks and listening to Mohammad Rafi songs on my cellphone. I was lost in thought and enjoying the music and didn’t realise that the water level was rising around me. When I did realise it, I tried to get back, but lost my footing and fell into the water,” said Chaudhary.

“In no time, I lost my phone to the waves that were hitting me hard and pulling me in deeper into the water. In my struggle to get to the shore, I did not even realise when the earphones slipped off my ears. I had practiced swimming at a pool near St Andrews as a kid and so I knew a little bit of swimming.

I used all my training to try and stay afloat, but water was entering my mouth and nose and making it difficult for me to breathe,” said Chaudhary, who was born and brought up in Bandra along with his two brothers.

Hope floats
Chaudhary was desperately looking for something to cling on to, but everywhere he looked, he could just see water and lights dimming in the distance. “There was nobody I could call for help and I started thinking of my family my mother, retired father and brothers.

I wondered what would happen to them if I didn’t make it, as we are a very poor family and I am the sole breadwinner,” he said. Thinking about his family gave him a boost and he decided he would not lose hope.

After another twenty minutes of swimming and staying afloat, he found a boxy piece of thermocol, which had probably fallen off a small fisherman’s boat. “I caught hold of the thermocol and rested on it. It gave me some time to relax and breathe easy after a very hectic period of thrashing about,” said Chaudhary.

By now, even the distant lights had all but disappeared and Chaudhary found himself enveloped by a deep darkness, which also began to snuff out the hope he was so desperately clinging on to. After a few hours in the water, he began to question the odds of his survival.

Hope cemented
After nearly five hours of oscillating between hope and despair, Chaudhary finally saw a pillar in the water and realised it was part of a bridge. “I started pushing myself towards the pillar using the thermocol sheet.

The force of the waves had eased by now and thus I was able to do so. I caught hold of the pillar and managed to climb onto its base,” said Chaudhary, who was shivering violently by then. He did not leave the piece of thermocol, however, as he knew he might need it again.

Standing on the base, Chaudhary started yelling out for help, “I kept shouting bachao, but nobody could hear me. I kept doing it at intervals as I was too tired, but got no reply. An hour passed like this, before somebody answered.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard somebody ask ‘who is there’. I shouted with all my strength after that so the person could hear me.” Worlikar, who works as a security guard on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link was patrolling when he heard the noise near pole number 27, which is closer to the Worli end of the Sea Link.

“Worlikar immediately informed our police station and since I was the night inspector on duty, I immediately went to the spot and saw that a person was standing on one of the pillars under the bridge,” said Inspector Arjun Kengar from the Worli police station.

Rescue operation
Around 4 am, Kengar informed the Mumbai Police and asked them to send their boat and the fire brigade. While the boat was taking time, the fire brigade personnel from the Bandra unit had reached the spot.

The fire brigade officers were carrying a big rope with them and it was decided that Worlikar would go down with the help of the rope, tie Chaudhary to it, and the rescuers would pull him up.

“We tried this and managed to pull Chaudhary up with a lot of difficulty. We immediately rushed him to the nearby Nair Hospital, as he was suffering from terrible pain all over his body,” said Kengar.

The police only made a diary entry of the incident as Chaudhary had fallen into the water by accident. “All my joints were paining after I was rescued. I had never swum so much and all I wanted to do was fall asleep.

I was also terribly hungry and cold. The doctors gave me some painkillers and, when I got up in the morning, I realised that the previous night had been one of the most horrible ones of my life, but I had made it out alive,” said Chaudhary.

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