Aluva: T N Radhakrishnan has bridged a great divide. The man born with a useless right arm swam across the Periyar River on Wednesday in a show of sheer grit and persistence.
Radhakrishnan, a senior clerk in the Taluk Office at Aluva, swam across the widest stretch of the river – 200 meters – in 20 minutes. He had undergone 21 days of rigorous training before he achieved this feat. He had waited all his life to test this limit.
Radhakrishnan, who was the chairman of the students’ union at the St Paul’s College at Kalamassery, had always wanted to learn how to swim. He thought he was nearer his goal when he met Saji Valassery, the swimming coach who has helped many people overcome their challenges.
Saji, however, was not hopeful about Radhakrishnan’s chances. He sent him away but Radhakrishnan persisted. He would go to the riverbank every morning to watch Saji coaching his students. The coach was impressed by Radhakrishnan’s determination.
Saji let Radhakrishnan join the camp along with the other adults. The trainer had long coached children to master swimming. This year, he started classes for the adults as well.
Radhakrishnan said he had guzzled river water by liters while he was learning to swim. He would often go down, unable to support him with one arm. Finally, he was able to float for an hour. Then he took up the ambitious challenge.
On Wednesday, the World Water Day, he started from the steps near the Advaitashram. Tehsildar Sandhya Devi was there to encourage him and flag off his swimming round. Advaitasramam secretary Swami Sivaswaroopananda’s short speech preceded the effort.
Twenty minutes later, Radhakrishnan had reached the Sivarathri Manappuram on the other side, to the applause of his friends and colleagues gathered to witness his achievement.
Saji said Radhakrishnan’s achievement should be an inspiration to everyone across the country.
Saji has helped many people push their limits by crossing the wide river. They include Krishna S Kamat, a kindergarten student born with a faulty spine, M S Navaneeth, a blind teenager, and Niveditha, a five-year-old girl.
Saji was also the force behind Malu Sheika, the first girl to swim across the widest stretch of the Vembanad Lake.
He has been training children for free for eight years.