As soon as the two foreign workers saw the toddler they had rescued on Thursday, they broke into smiles and reached out to play with her.
"This is the baby!" one exclaimed to the other in Tamil.
Mr P. Muthukumar, 24, and Mr S. Shanmuganathan, 35, saved the toddler, Naureh Fitria Auni, whose head was stuck in between a horizontal metal pole of a drying rack and the balcony of the second-storey flat in Jurong East.
Her mother, Madam Noreen Saniri, had left Auni asleep alone in a bedroom when she took her five-year-old daughter to a nearby kindergarten at about 1pm.
In the 15 minutes that the 27-year-old housewife was away, Auni, who will turn three in August, woke up.
She then made her way through two doors to the balcony, carrying an iPad.
She is believed to have climbed up a table, dropped the device and slipped off the balcony reaching for it. (See infographics above.) Fortunately, her head got stuck, which saved her from falling.
That was when Mr Muthukumar and Mr Shanmuganathan, who were working at a nearby road, saw her and sprung into action.
They climbed up a water pipe on the exterior of the block to get to the second storey where they managed to free the dangling Auni. Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers later brought the toddler down.
By the time Madam Noreen got back, her daughter was safe, with only a small bruise on her cheek from her ordeal. (See report on facing page.)
The rescue was captured on video, uploaded on Thursday and went viral as Singaporeans hailed the workers as heroes.
The Indian nationals were presented with a public spiritedness award by the SCDF yesterday for their "quick thinking and selflessness".
But it was clear that they did not do it for the glory in the manner they modestly and patiently answered questions from the media during the award ceremony.
The men said that all they thought of during their rescue was the child screaming in pain.
Mr Shanmuganathan, who has been working in Singapore for four years, said: "I just wanted to get the baby to safety."
His own safety did not even cross his mind as he expertly climbed up to the unit.
"We didn't think about our safety, even for a second. The safety of the baby was our only concern. Nothing else mattered," said Mr Shanmuganathan, who has an eight-month-old baby back home in India.
He has yet to see his own daughter in the flesh but hopes to do so when he goes home for a visit in three months' time.
"I just thought of the baby as any other parent would have," he said.
Mr Muthukumar, who has been working here for three years, recalled how they heard Auni's cries and passers-by shouting for help just after they resumed their road-marking work following lunch.
"The cries of the toddler just made me feel so much pity for her. I knew she was in great pain and I wanted to help her," he said.
After one of their colleagues tried in vain to climb up, Mr Shanmuganathan successfully made his way up to Auni.
"I hoisted her up so she would feel more comfortable," he said.
Mr Muthukumar, who was not captured on video, then climbed up the pipe to help his friend.
While Mr Shanmuganathan stood on a ledge holding Auni up, Mr Muthukumar got on the balcony and pushed her head down.
Mr Shanmuganathan then gently wiggled her body to ease her head from the drying rack.
After a few minutes, they succeeded in freeing her - just in time for the SCDF's arrival.
"She immediately stopped crying when she was free," said Mr Muthukumar.
The pair then handed Auni to SCDF officers who brought her down using a ladder.
They had to go back to work after that so Auni's parents did not have a chance to thank them - until yesterday afternoon when The New Paper arranged for the heroes to visit the family.
The pair remained modest and shy when Auni's father, Mr Muhammad Fazlee Abdul Aziz, 28, thanked them profusely for saving her. But they were clearly smitten with little Auni as they played with her.
Mr Muthukumar, who could not stop smiling and pinching her cheeks, said: "She is very cute. And she loves to pose for the camera."
As Mr Fazlee looked at the three of them interacting, he said: "Now I know we'll be friends for life. I will never forget what they did."
HEROIC FOREIGN WORKERS
Four Bangladeshi workers helped two people trying to escape a fire get down from the parapet of their Ang Mo Kio flat.
They were given the Public Spiritedness Award by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for their quick thinking.
A tipper truck on Ayer Rajah Expressway toppled over and crushed a taxi, trapping its driver and passenger.
Two of the five crane drivers approached by SCDF to help lift the truck off the taxi were Chinese nationals.
An Indian national was captured on camera fending off an angry mob attacking the private bus in the Dec 8 Little India riot.
At the Committee of Inquiry in February last year, he was identified by investigators but he had left the country by then.
When three Bangladeshi workers saw fire raging through a block at Telok Blangah Crescent, they rushed to the block and pulled 10 residents to safety.
They carried the elderly residents out of their flats and down seven storeys before dashing back up the stairs to save more people.
Mum: I did not think anything would happen
In the 15 minutes that her mother was away, a toddler, who was left sleeping at home, could have got severely injured or even died. The difference between life and possible death was the size of her head.
Naureh Fitria Auni, who is almost three, had woken up and made her way to the balcony where her body slipped between a pole of an external drying rack and the balcony ledge.
Only her head getting stuck prevented her from tumbling to the ground from the second-storey flat at Block 371, Jurong East Street 32.
As Auni hung in agony, two foreign workers scaled up from the outside of the block to rescue her.
Her mother, Madam Noreen Saniri, told The New Paper yesterday that she had left the three-room flat at around 1pm on Thursday to take Auni's five-year-old sister to kindergarten, about a 10-minute walk away.
The 27-year-old housewife, who also has a nine-year-old son, said the little girl was asleep in the bedroom when she left. She did not think anything would happen in the time that she was away.
But Auni woke up and managed to open the bedroom door and then a sliding door leading to the balcony.
Residents and passers-by below were later horrified to see the girl on the ledge, wearing only a nappy, with her body dangling outside and her head trapped.
Fortunately, two foreign workers went to Auni's aid. An online video, which has gone viral, captured one of them climbing up swiftly from the ground to the second storey to help the struggling toddler.
By the time her mother returned to the block at about 1.15pm, Auni had been rescued and was out of danger.
Madam Noreen was surprised to see a large crowd of onlookers and the Singapore Civil Defence Force officers outside her block.
She realised something had happened to her daughter only when her neighbour gestured her to come forward quickly.
Madam Noreeen said: "I was so shocked and scared when I heard what had happened. I didn't think so many things could happen in 10 minutes."
She called her husband, Mr Muhammad Fazlee Abdul Aziz, who was at work, to inform him of the incident.
Mr Fazlee, 28, who works in facility management for Singapore Mass Rapid Transit, told his wife to get Auni checked at National University Hospital. He then left work early to check on his daughter.
He was relieved to see that apart from a faint bruise on her left cheek, she had emerged from the incident unscathed.
When TNP visited the family yesterday morning, Auni was happily watching children's shows on an iPad.
Mr Fazlee said of the foreign workers who rescued her: "I am very grateful the workers actually risked their own lives to climb up to save my daughter.
"They acted so quickly. They didn't even think about their own safety."
He said it was heartwarming to see people helping one another regardless of race and nationality.
Madam Noreen said: "I am thankful the workers saved my daughter. If she had struggled for another five minutes, she could have fallen."
When asked what safety measures they would undertake to prevent similar incidents from recurring, the couple said they would save up to install window grilles.
"We know it is dangerous for our children and we have been wanting to install window grilles for a while," Mr Fazlee said.
But the $800 cost would be a hefty sum for him. The sole breadwinner takes home about $2,000 a month and also supports his brother-in-law, who is studying in ITE.
The MP for Jurong GRC, Mr Ang Wei Neng, later said that the family would be offered free window grilles. (See report, right.)
The couple said they had used up most of their savings to buy their flat two years ago.
Even their iPad was bought for just a dollar as part of a promotion when they got a washing machine.
This article was first published on April 25, 2015.
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