24 September 2020 04:41
Arati Saha has many accolades in the world of swimming. In 1959, she became the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel. Her journey as one of the most iconic swimmers from India resulted in plenty of accolades for her. She became the only Indian sportswoman to be awarded the Padma Shri. Her story of determination, success and resilience is an inspiration to many even today.
On the occasion of her birthday, Google honoured with a special Doodle. Born on September 24, 1940, Saha started swimming at the age of 4 and by the age of five, she had already won a gold medal in the 110 yards freestyle event in a swimming competition. In the 50s, Saha won 22 state-level competitions in West Bengal with her main events being the 100 metres freestyle, 100 metres breast stroke and 200 metres breast stroke. Her first Olympics was in the 1952 games in Helsinki and following that, she concentrated only on the breast stroke. Saha also participated in various long distance swimming competitions that would be organised in the River Ganga. At the 1958 Butlin International Cross Channel Swimming Race, Brojen Das became the first among the men and earned the distinction of being the first person from the Indian subcontinent to cross the English Channel. Logistics and determination Looking at the success of Brojen Das, Arati Saha began seriously thinking about participating in the tournament. However, she needed funding and after many efforts from friends and associates, she could not arrange the funds. A timely intervention by the-then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, saved her dreams. He arranged an amount of Rs 11,000 and even Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru also showed interest. Her first attempt in August 1959 saw plenty of obstacles. With conditions not favourable to her, Arati had to quit under pressure as she just fell short of reaching the English coast. In September 1959, during her second attempt, s he swam for 16 hours and 20 minutes, batting tough waves and covered 42 miles to reach Sandgate, England. On reaching the coast of England, she hoisted the Indian flag. Vijaylakshmi Pandit was the first to congratulate her. Jawahar Lal Nehru and many eminent people personally congratulated her. On 30 September, the All India Radio announced the achievement of Arati Saha. She was awarded Padma Shri in 1960. In 1999, the Department of Posts celebrated her conquest by bringing out a postage stamp of rupees 3 denomination. In 1996, a bust of Arati Saha was erected near her residence. The 100-metre long lane in front the bust was renamed after her. Arati Saha had one daughter, Archana, and worked for the Bengal Nagpur railways through her adult life. She died on 4 August 1994. One must thank Google for honoring and keeping the achievements of Arati Saha alive through the Doodle.