Arati Saha – Google doodle on first Asian woman to swim across English Channel

Devdiscourse News Desk | Kolkata | Updated: 24-09-2020 01:12 IST | Created: 24-09-2020 01:12 IST
Arati Saha – Google doodle on first Asian woman to swim across English Channel
Arati Saha is best known for becoming the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel on September 29, 1959. Image Credit: Google doodle

Happy Birthday Arati Saha!!!

Google today celebrates the 80th birthday of Arati Saha, an Indian long distance swimmer with mesmerizing doodle. She was born in Kolkata on September 24, 1940 in a middle-class Bengali Hindu family.

Arati Saha is best known for becoming the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel on September 29, 1959. She covered a breathtaking 42 miles from Cape Gris Nez, France to Sandgate, England (a route depicted in today's Doodle) to become the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel — a feat considered the swimming equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.

Arati Saha's father Panchugopal Saha was an ordinary employee in the armed forces. She lost her mother at the age of two and half. She used to accompany her uncle to the Hooghly River at the age of four where she learned to swim.

Noticing Arati Saha's interest in swimming, Panchugopal Saha admitted his daughter to the Hatkhola Swimming Club. Her precocious skill in the water attracted the mentorship of one of India's top competitive swimmers, Sachin Nag. At the age of five, under Sachin Nag's wing, she won the gold in 110 yards freestyle at the Shailendra Memorial Swimming Competition.

Many may not know that Arati Saha's mentor, Sachin Nag won the first gold medal for India in the Asian Games when he won it in men's 100 metre freestyle swimming at the 1951 Asian Games in Delhi. He also competed in the water polo at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics.

Between 1946 and 1956, Arati Saha participated in several swimming competitions. Between 1945 and 1951, she won 22 state-level competitions in West Bengal. Her main events were 100 metres freestyle, 100 metres breast stroke and 200 metres breast stroke. She came second only to Dolly Nazir of Bombay.

A record-setting prodigy by just 11 years old, Arati Saha became the youngest member (and one of only four women) on the first team to represent the newly independent India in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. At the age of 18, Arati Saha made her first attempt to cross the English Channel, and though it was unsuccessful, she never gave up. Just over a month later, she conquered miles of churning waves and currents to complete the journey, a historic victory for women across India.

Arati Saha, in the year 1959, under the supervision of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, married Dr. Arun Gupta. She had a daughter named Archana. On 4 August 1994, she got admitted to a private nursing home in Kolkata with jaundice and encephalitis. After battling for 19 days, she died on 23 August 1994.

Arati Saha was awarded Padma Shri in 1960. In 1999, the Department of Posts celebrated her conquest by bringing out a postage stamp of ₹ 3 denomination. Google today honors the great Indian long distance swimmer for her massive contribution in inspiring women everywhere.

Also Read: Jovita Idár: Google doodle on Mexican-American journalist, civil right activist


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