-Runa Mukherjee Parikh (Ahmedabad)
There was a thrilling sense of deja vu in the Jhala household when Ahmedabad-based Veerangana Jhala (7) was conferred the National Bravery Award 2023 ahead of Republic Day (January 26) in Delhi by Major General (Retd.) ‘Ironman’ Vikram Dogra, for displaying extraordinary courage in saving 60 human lives in a fire on August 7, 2022 that gutted their apartment building in Ahmedabad.
Unlike her grandfather Krishnakumarsinh Jhala who was presented the All-India NCC Best Cadet Junior Division award by then prime minister Indira Gandhi on Republic Day in 1969, Veerangana was deprived of the privilege of being part of the R-Day contingent of bravery awardees because this ceremony was discontinued in 2017.
Nevertheless this courageous child of Adityasingh Jhala, a hospitality chain consultant, and gemologist mother Kamakshi, and class I student of the Cambridge (UK)-affiliated Adani International School, Ahmedabad, is delighted with all the attention. The many plaudits and hosannas this young braveheart has received include a scholarship until graduation.
“When Veerangana switched on the air-conditioner in her bedroom that night, a spark triggered a raging fire that engulfed our apartment in the Bodakdev suburb. The minute she saw the spark, she came running to inform me in the adjacent room. I immediately sent her out of the apartment to request a neighbour to call the fire brigade and alert all our neighbours, mostly senior citizens. Our elderly neighbours informed me later that my little girl not only helped them evacuate to a nearby garden but even managed to switch off the main electric switch,” recalls mother Kamakshi.
According to father Adityasingh who was away on business that night, Veerangana had been familiarised with the fire drill exercises which are normative in the hospitality industry where he works.
Mother Kamakshi attributes her daughter’s bravery to her rural upbringing. “We spend a lot of time in our village Chuda with our extended family members. Spiritually grounded and connected to her roots, she has developed a deep sense of duty and empathy towards challenged and elderly people in particular,” says her proud mother.
Certainly her life’s journey has begun well.