Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
“I just did what felt right to me,” said the 50-year-old pavement dweller in south Mumbai, who not only forced open a manhole to flush accumulated rainwater but also stood at the very same spot for nearly seven hours, warning motorists of the open manhole that lay under the submerged street.
While a video of her selfless act, captured by a resident, went viral on social media, Kanta Maruti Kalan, the woman at the centre of it all, had lost Rs 10,000 that she had saved to fund online education of her two daughters, reports Mumbai Mirror.
The incident dates back to the morning of 3 August 2020, when overnight rains had flooded the streets of Mumbai, including the Tulsi Pipe Road in Matunga West. As more water gushed into the street, setting motorbikes afloat, the flower-seller waded into the knee-deep water, tied a cloth to the manhole and flung it open with the help of others.
But what prompted Kalan to stand guard, while her tent and money were washed away?
In August 2017, the body of Dr Deepak Amarapurkar, a renowned gastroenterologist, was recovered from Worli, two days after he had fallen into a manhole in Parel. Three years later, when Kalan stood by the open manhole from 6 am to pm, all she wanted was to avert a repeat of the 2017 tragedy.
Decades ago, Kalan made the pavement outside Matunga her new home as it was close to the Dadar Market. While she is a mother to eight children, only two of them presently live with her on the pavement, while the other six have moved away.
Her husband, who was paralysed following a train accident nearly 15 years ago, too, stays separately. The two daughters living with her are in Class 8 and 10 and it is for their education that she had saved the money that is now lost.
She developed a fever after standing all day in rain and was chided by BMC officials for opening the manhole.
"“Some BMC officials came and asked me the next day why I had opened the manhole. But what could I have done? I had no choice. Floodwater was rising quickly and no one had turned up to help.”" - Kalan to Mumbai Mirror
But while officials were not too happy, Kalan says that some policemen and other people personally lauded her act.
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