Eight-year-old Mahika could not figure out what was happening around her, but she was certain of one thing — she had to save her brother from the deluge surrounding them. On June 15, 2013, her family was praying at the Gaurikund Temple near Kedarnath when they got caught in the Uttarakhand floods.
Separated from her mother, she single-handedly ensured her brother made it to safety.
For her actions, Mahika was presented with the bravery award by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday. But it is not her first. She was among the 25 children who received the President’s National Bravery Award on January 24, 2014. She was conferred the highest honour — the Bharat Award.
Mahika and her brother Dhairya were travelling with their mother to Kedarnath as part of a 16-member group while their father stayed behind in Delhi. Recounting the incident, Mahika’s mother Renu Gupta said, “We did not even have time to think. I have no idea how and when I was separated from my family. The next thing I knew, I was floating in the river.”
The now 10-year-old remembers the day more clearly than her mother. “We were sitting on the floor of the temple when the water suddenly rushed towards us. The building began to shake. I couldn’t find my mother but I saw my brother screaming,” she said.
Mahika, who is four years older than her brother, put one arm across his stomach and another on his face to stop water from entering his mouth. “I did not know how to swim. We kept floating for at least two hours in the water,” she recalled. She had never heard of a “flood” and did not know what it meant.
While she kept floating with the debris, someone called out to her and pointed out a hotel window in her path. Holding onto her brother, Mahika managed to pull herself towards the window. People caught hold of the children. “They cleaned us up because were floating in muddy water and gave us some clean water and food,” she said.
All this while, Renu, who was unconscious, kept floating. “When I regained consciousness, I found myself caught between iron rods. I gathered all my strength and got out of the water. I then followed people walking in one direction,” she said.
A day and a half later, Mahika found her mother walking towards the building she was in.
Mahika, a Class V student at Presentation Convent School, Yamuna Vihar. “I want to be a judge,” she said.
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