He need not see the Periyar to conquer it

Visually challenged student, accompanied by headmistress, will swim across the river today

When 11-year-old Ibin C. Thomas swims cross the Periyar on Thursday morning, it will be a victory in the face of severe odds.

A 7th Standard student at the School for Blind, Aluva, Ibin lost his sight completely in an accident at the age of four. But that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his dreams in arts and sports besides having proved his mettle in quiz.

The conquest of the Periyar, however, is going to boost his confidence like nothing else. Giving him company in the water will be his school headmistress Jiji Varghese.

“He will be swimming across the Periyar on just the 20th day of his training while the teacher has been training for longer. I am planning to train all 70 students of the Blind School as it will be an unparalleled motivation for people from all walks of life to take to swimming. The fact is that not a single life needs to be lost in drowning in our State that is full of rivers and lakes, only if swimming is given due importance,” said Saji Valasseril, who has been giving free training to people of all age groups for the past 11 years. Since 2010, he has trained over 3,000 people and more significantly, over 1,000 among them have swum across the Periyar.

Haunting memory

The haunting memory of desperate parents of 30-odd children of the School for Blind being separated from their wards when Aluva was marooned in the deluge of 2018 is what prompted Ms. Varghese to think about giving swimming lessons to her students. So far, five students from the school have undergone training under Mr. Valasseril.

The teacher and her ward will swim across the Periyar from the banks of Adwaithasramam to the Sivarathri Manappuram on Thursday morning. The idea is to send across a message on the need to co-opt swimming in the syllabus of school children and for the empowerment of the differently-abled.

Manoj, another 11-year-old visually challenged student, had swum across the river under the tutelage of Mr. Valasseril last month. “We are planning to start the vacation swimming sessions towards the end of this month. We are eyeing to train around 1,000 during this vacation,” Mr. Valasseril said.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:39:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/he-need-not-see-the-periyar-to-conquer-it/article30985787.ece

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