The image of Abdullah Shakeeb, armed with a slim hose, spraying against the angry fire that enveloped and engulfed Coast Line Hardware building, rose to national and international attention, mere hours after the incident. His story broke out first on twitter; avas featured that story simultaneously. His attempt then got national prominence, each news outlet covering the story. That then got featured on international platforms.
Any one who knows Shakeeb says he is a man of action. An unassuming man, Shakeeb is a civil servant. Avas sat down with Shakeeb.
"It's not just the fire, I cannot just stand by without attending when a situation breaks, an issue occurs. Its not easy for me to watch. I had to do something when the fire broke out that day. To me that was the best decision, for that time," Shakeeb said.
The Coast Line Hardware fire was one of the most dangerous and the biggest fires that had occurred in the country. The fire was also the most devastating one too. The fire highlighted many issues in the system. But the biggest lesson taught to the nation was taught by Shakeeb.
"I knew the small hose I had would not extinguish the fire. The hose was narrow, there was no water. But I could not stand at the sidelines, that's why I began spraying the hose at the fire! I could have easily evacuated the area," he said.
At first, he did not think the fire would impact the Sun Front building, where he lived with his family. As the fire continued to rage on, MNDF officers had ordered to vacate the premises. Shakeeb's wife, daughter and 81 year old father were immediately evacuated from the building to a safe area.
Some had mocked his actions that day. What impact would a narrow hose have on that fire? Shakeeb had a strong response to those statements. He had done so to minimize the level of heat from the fire to the area and the building. Had others taken example from his initiative, and joined with more hoses, the damage from the fire could have been significantly reduced.
Shakeeb said in that situation, many would not be able to think clearly. Some may try to find a ladder, when they had easy access to water. A situation like this disarray, confusion reigns unchecked.
He said had not anticipated that the action will push him to prominence. He was made aware that his photo had gone viral globally days after the incident. Shakeeb says that he is satisfied with the coverage. A very private person, Shakeeb had refused to let our photographers take a picture of him. The photo at the start of the article was sent by him.
Shakeeb says the lesson he wants all to learn from the case was on the importance of always helping, irrespective of whether the assistance would make a big impact, especially on the social issues.
Its true, at the time of any crisis, we either panic, take photos or selfies, or politicize the issue. There are no personal responsibilities. Shakeeb had demonstrated this, earning the respect of many in the process.