I did it! Activist Sudeep Dalvi with friend Kenneth Silveira at the Captain of Ports Jetty pavement by the river Mandovi… however full of regret for the loss of his fellow musical warrior Manuel Pereira
By Tara Narayan
For good swimmers Sudeep Dalvi and Manuel Pereira it was just a way to highlight the failings of the government of the day! But the well-intended swim across the Mandovi river on April 3, 2021 turned into an unimaginable tragedy which nobody in or on the river Mandovi took seriously till it was too late and Manuel Pereira was no more…why, why, why?
THEY are grown men in the prime of their life and with their hearts in the right place – but surely their love for cuss four-letter words, dare-devilry and egoistic highs is misplaced and eskewed? It is very definitely time to pause and think, albeit belatedly. Sudeep Dalvi has many friends and well-wishers and is known for his enduring passion for causes where he sees injustice and subversion of the truth…his foul accusations on Facebook against Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant have earned him both ire and arrest.
A painful injustice which further riled him up. Unwilling to swallow the acts of injustice done to him quietly he is on a constant mission to stir up an indifferent or self-preserving fearful public’s conscience! This time it is about the number of persons being arrested and put behind bars in India – true, you cannot fault him on this.
So Sudeep Dalvi decided he would do a protest swim across the river Mandovi (his war cry this time being “the Mandovi is not a river, it is my mother!”) late Saturday afternoon on April 3, 2021, hoping it would be easier with a low tide. It was all fun and whoosh, whoosh, whoosh out at the Betim ferry jetty point that afternoon at 4pm and nobody said anything when his reportedly equally aggrieved friend Manuel Perriera decided at the last moment (presumably) to accompany him in swimming across the river Mandovi from Betim jetty to Captain of Ports jetty. The swim would not take them more than an hour at most.
Both men set off on their swim from Betim jetty at 4.30pm to the cheers and bantering jeers of a group of their friends. Some friends decided to observe their swim by getting aboard on one of the local ferries going across and then by road to the Captain of Ports jetty where the two swimmers were due to emerge from their swim to a rousing welcome back, congratulations and celebrations presumably!
ALAS, that was not how it turned out as a terrible tragedy unfolded. Say it was a swim which could have been a better planned. Say this protesting group of Goenkars were already been in the bad books of the government and police from past protests. Say better sense could have prevailed. Say wisdom comes only when it is too late. Say bad things happen only to good people. Say when trouble it comes one after another.
But say above all this was a tragedy which could have easily been avoided if there had been more carefulness, awareness and discipline in the organization of the swimming event. After all this is not the first time someone decided to swim across the river Mandovi to protest about something or another which they didn’t like about the government and wanted to highlight an injustice! Some swimmers have swum across the river for the fun of it in the past (long before the casinos came along to squat on the river) or as an adventure sporting challenge…just for a lark to cool off on a hot day.
But this time around something didn’t seem quite right from the beginning. Perhaps the group of friends led by swimmer Sudeep Dalvi who’s become both cause celebre and bête noire of some kind didn’t take the protest swim with the seriousness it deserved. It’s pointless asking him why he permitted his friend Manuel to join him at the last moment? Or if even had taken permission for the swim across the river Mandovi or did the river port authorities know about it? Surely a conscientious river authority would have some systems in place to come to the rescue quickly if anyone gets into trouble on or in the river?
As it happened half way through the swim across the river when Manuel got tired and wanted out, why was there no quick help available to him to save his life? The report is that a King’s casino service boat did turn up to throw a lifebuoy to Manuel to save his life but the water boat’s underwater wheels stirred up such powerful surge of water that instead of enabling him to get on to the boat he got sucked under and disappeared. The casino boat in-charge had also offered to rescue Sudeep who was keen to finish his swim but Sudeep had refused.
Sudeep Dalvi and his friends following and video-graphing in the local ferry apparently missed what had really happened. The presumption was that the casino boat had rescued Manuel and all was well, Sudeep should continue his swim. As it turned out the presumption of rescue turned out to be wrong and this they learned much later on. Sudeep had not waited to see his friend aboard the casino boat but had continued with his swim in the false belief that Manuel had been rescued!
FUNNY or not so funny. It was only later, much later that when they couldn’t find the whereabouts of their friend Manuel Pereira that alarm bells started ringing. The immediate task upon the swimming hero’s return was taking photographs to mark the event and a general gung ho spirit ruled at the completion of the successful swim. Congratulations were handed all around. It was as if all was well at the Captain of Ports jetty as they expected and waited for their friend Manuel to join them any moment.
All the group of friends took it for granted that Manuel had been rescued by the casino boat and would turn up one safe piece to recount his side of the story! Sorry, Manuel didn’t turn up. That’s when the truth dawned on them, the rescue attempt had failed. Manuel never made it aboard the casino servicing boat and the in-charge reported to his boss, who in turn called the marine police to look for the missing swimmer.
By that time hell’s bells started ringing and it was too little concern, too late. If a fellow swimmer was with you, a dear friend, got into trouble in water, would you give up your own swim to help him or continue your swim on the presumption that had been rescued and all was well? As a matter of fact according to what Sudeep says, the casino boat man had also offered to take him off the water…and he had refused. But at that point of time he did not see if Manuel had been rescued and was on the boat? Clearly, he didn’t wait to see the rescue through and unable to track Manuel who had gone under anew the boat’s panicky in-charge decided to forget about the failed rescue. Or was ordered to do so!
These questions must be asked. The onus of raising an alarm falls on whom? All of them surely? Three alarms should have been raised. First, by Sudeep Dalvi, second by his friends on the ferry boat, and last but not least of all by the casino boat’s in-charge and his boss who had offered but failed to rescue the floundering Manuel in the water! Maybe even triggered his disappearance underwater into a dangerous situation.
The dead body of Manuel Pereira of Candolim was found much later after 38 long hours had passed along the jetty side of the river by the marine police. So we return to questions which must haunt several people not excluding the government of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. Why didn’t Sudeep Dalvi give up his swim to do the right thing by his friend Manuel? Why didn’t his friends in the ferry not notice that the perceived rescue had failed and Manuel was still lost in the river waters?
When the solo victor turned up at Captain of Ports jetty and was welcomed why were no questions asked about what happened to Manuel and where was he? Undoubtedly, efforts were made to trace him but confusion ruled with anxieties and misgivings running high. Manuel’s body was recovered on Monday morning, April 4, 2021, at Malin’s jetty down the riverside. It is really an inexcusable tragedy and who is responsible is out for the jury to decide. The group of friends comprising some worthies like Avertino Miranda, Kenneth Silveira, Manuel Simao Cardozo and Sudeep Dalvi to some extent surely? Also the casino boat in-charge who’d offered help the two swimmers but didn’t report back that Manuel was not saved but lost in water surely? River authorities who are ignorant about what is going on in their own backyard and have no systems in place for rush rescues in emergency situations?
Undoubtedly hindsight is odious and Sudeep Dalvi has now acquired more hellish devils to plague his conscience. A swim across the Mandovi with all those casino and tourist boat joyrides and business boats going up and down is a joke? A game to take lightly? Are no permissions required and displayed before you swim across the river Mandovi like this? And if permission is given to whomsoever isn’t someone responsible to take the call in an emergency mishap to save life? Shouldn’t there be a rescue boat accompanying the swimmers however short the distance may be?
Are there no minimal safety rules in place so that someone may be rescued courtesy a reliable alarm on one of Goa’s primary rivers of commerce? It’s a shame and a most disgraceful tragedy all around. It’s a sorry comment on the state of anarchy prevailing in the state with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, unable to see beyond his own compulsions of omission and commission when it comes to governing Goa in the smaller and larger interests of the state.