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The girl from Kalna who swam across international channels

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Bengal is indebted to Sayani Das, not because she crossed Australia’s Rottnest Channel in end February, as the first ever Bengali to achieve this feat, but because she has shown enough grit and courage against the usual pang of debts and lack of funding, to reach her goals and make Bengal and India proud of her feat. It was just a year back, when Sayani had crossed the English Channel and frankly there was no one to come to her financial aid. Thankfully, after the Australian feat, the state government has taken up her achievement as a matter of pride and even the chief minister has personally congratulated her.

This young girl from Kalna has really made us proud and now many organisations and even individuals have come forward to help and buy her world class swimming suits and gear needed for such international feats. But so long she has fought against all odds. Even she was recognised by the crew of Singapore Airlines that took her to Australia and Sayani was happy that they appreciated her achievements and honoured her. Swimming across Australian channels was different as compared to English channel. Though Sayani had experience of swimming in the sea, Australian waters are often choppy depending on the climatic conditions and their seas are infested with dangerous sea creatures specially sharks and sting rays that can pose a threat to any swimmer. Thus, Sayani had to take special classes in Australia to know how to protect herself from a shark attack. There were earlier swimmers who had been attacked by sharks and part of the flesh from their torn off.

Swimming across Rottnest channel was no mean joke. Sayani had a boat accompanying her with parents, her uncle and a family friend on it. And though she swam for six hours at a stretch she could not eat anything, other than sip protein shakes and water, that too she had to swallow them while floating. There was no way she could get on the boat. Every kilometre was marked with balloons for the swimmer to understand how much stretch she has covered. Sayani’s encounter with a deadly man-eating shark was thankfully not too scary, though while swimming she could hear helicopters and drones above, to locate the shark that was seen within one kilometre radius of where the swimmers were swimming.

Sayani’s next aim is Gibraltar. Her only headache is who will fund it. As she puts in even a good swimsuit cannot be used for more than thrice when one is swimming in the sea. She usually practices in village ponds and does not have a plush swimming pool to herself. But she has braced all odds and even tried a hand at the sea at Puri to prepare herself to swim in international oceans. Hope the state government and corporate bodies would soon come forward to help her tide over the financial need so that this mermaid of the sea can make Bengal more proud in the years to come!