This Kerala native was not thinking about survival when she led a tough rescue operation that saved seven fishermen in the Bay of Bengal. "I was just doing my duty," says Radhika Menon, whose grit and determination have made her the first woman to receive the Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea from the International Maritime Organsiation.
The rescue happened in June last year when the fishing boat 'Durgamma' drifted from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh to Gopalpur in Odisha. The boat had lost its anchor in the adverse sea weather, which had also washed away the food supplies. The fishermen were surviving on the ice from the cold storage and did not hope to make it out of the ordeal alive.
However, Radhika, who was at the helm of the oil tanker 'Sampurna Swarajya', spotted the stranded vessel. Despite waves that were over 25 feet high and winds of over 60 knots, Radhika initiated the rescue.
Back home, relatives and kin of the fishermen had lost hope of seeing them again and were preparing for their last rites when they received the news of the rescue.
Even as the International Maritime Organisation prepares to award her, the Kodungallur native maintains that she did not do anything extraordinary. "It is a maritime obligation to save souls in distress at sea and, as a seafarer and master in command of my ship, I just did my duty," Radhika told The Times of India in an email response.
This is not the first time Radhika has proved her mettle. Five years ago, she became the first woman to captain a ship of the Indian Merchant Navy.
The IMO award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, institued in 2007, is annually given to persons who perform acts of exceptional bravery and courage "in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment," often at risk to their own lives.