The Department of Tourism recently felicitated four Drishti Marine lifeguards who have rescued several victims from fatality. They have also managed to avoid mishaps from occurring owing to their prompt reactions and alertness. In conversation with NT BUZZ these lifeguards share an insight into their life and speak about the risk involved in their job
VENITA GOMES| NT BUZZ
While enjoying a dip or a splash at the beach we often ignore warnings given to us by lifeguards. They continuously shout and whistle, calling us out of the water when the tides go up or the level of the waves increases but without adhering to the instructions we turn a deaf ear to them. Ignoring the instructions can not only be foolish but can be life-threatening. Therefore, lifeguards are always on their toes ready and alert to act if they spot any danger. And for the four Vinod Salelkar, Sakharam Bandekar, Laxmikant Gaude and Sandeep Gaonkar lifeguarding is more about saving lives.
In last few years the four have managed to rescue several people. The 49-year-old, Sakharam Bandekar who is currently posted at Arambol has rescued a total of 27 victims. Supervisor and lifeguard, Vinod Salelkar who has been with Drishti Marine since 2008 has rescued around 60 people. While one of the youngest 23-year-old Ponda-based Laxmikant Gaude who also bagged gold medal in 1500 metre category and Silver in 3000 metre category at the state-level swimming tournaments rescued 15 people. Similarly, Sandeep Gaonkar, positioned at Palolem beach has rescued 9 people from the might of the waves.
There have been several rescue operations which involve lifeguards and there always has been one experience that is life-threatening or at least fearful. Despite the threats they face, a lifeguard has to be alert at all times, as it can save a person’s life.
Recounting an incident that occurred at Betalbatim Beach in the month of May, Laxmikant says: “On Sundays and Saturdays there is huge rush of tourists coming to Betalbatim Beach and while I was patrolling with my jet ski around 11 a.m. I came across a domestic tourist who was drunk and was taking a dip at the beach. Later I got a call from the team that the tourist was drowning, the whole team geared up and got him out of the water. The person was profusely vomiting therefore we contacted the captain and carried out the cardiopulmonary resuscitation and later took him to the hospital. He was in ICU for nearly 2 days but he came out of it alive. If we hadn’t given him CPR at first we would have not been able to save him. Therefore it is important for us to remain alert all the time.”
Stating that though lifeguarding involves a lot of risk, it is a highly satisfying job, Sakharam says: “There is self-satisfaction in saving lives of people. It’s something that makes me happy from within. Once you have that feeling in your heart it’s the best. The more lives you save the happier you become”.
While for Laxmikant, a lifeguard’s job is a learning process. He says: “Being a lifeguard I am able to learn a lot about medical emergencies. And with this knowledge I can reach out to people whenever they need me. Even when I go out with my friends and family, they rely on me whenever there is a medical emergency. I also teach others about first-aid and other things that I have learnt.”
Consuming alcohol and venturing into the sea has always had a hazardous outcome, despite which people often continue to do so. “Many tourists, especially the domestic tourists visiting the beaches often consume large amounts of alcohol and venture into the sea. Despite several attempts they turn a deaf ear. Due to which we need to keep an eye on them continuously. Because a person under the influence of alcohol is unable to control himself and does not get the proper judgement of the scenario and at the same time it involves a lot of risk factor,” says Laxmikant. He adds that when the situations go out of control and tourists don’t listen to their instructions, the lifeguards immediately contact the police and hand over the situation.
During the monsoons when the rip of the current is strong, the lifeguards advise people not to venture into the sea but despite several attempts people don’t listen. Vinod says: “We tell them not to take their children into the water especially when the tide is high but they don’t listen. But they keep lamenting that it is the first time they have come to Goa and what is the point if they don’t get a chance to enjoy the sea.”
Vinod also speaks of drowning incidents that are associated with water sports activities, as sometimes even life jackets are not able to keep people afloat for a long time. He says: “Many a times the people in-charge don’t inform or provide proper guidelines to the water sports enthusiast and tourists, as to what is going to happen during the ride and therefore they are unaware. For example, during the banana rides there is an element of surprise thrown in to make it more enthralling – the people are pushed into the water thus many get trapped in the currents. Thus we have had to rescue these people also.”
Though there is a risk involved in being a lifeguard the four prefer to continue with their job in the coming years as they believe that it is not only their duty but their responsibility to reach out to people who are in need.