Never to be Forgotten - or are they?
In the times of COVID-19, there has been an awakening as the equality agenda has firmly gone back onto the forefront. It was ignited by the killing of a black man in America which awakened the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, many people rightly argue that All Lives Matter, but one cannot take away the centuries of injustice faced by the Black community as well as other communities linked to the colonial past.
The problem is that we do not know what we don’t know, especially when it comes to what is not profiled in contemporary literature with easy access. It is only when someone or something happens, like the recent Black Lives Matter movement, that people’s curiosity is aroused, and people start to search about their own past.
It was in amazement to hear that Google Doodle celebrated the 80th birthday of an Indian swimmer. It is a story that most people would not have heard about and certainly, most Indians would be very proud of – if they knew! So, thank you Google.
On 24th September 2020, it would have been Arati Saha’s 80th birthday. She was a trailblazer. On 29th September 1959, she became the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel and competed in the 1952 Olympics in Finland at just 12 years old.
Saha was born in Kolkata, West Bengal. She was of three children and her swimming ability emerged very early in her life winning her first gold at age 5 years. She was already being seen as a swimming prodigy.
She had won 22 state-level competitions between the ages of 5 and 11 from 1945 to 1951. Saha broke the all India record in 100m freestyle, 100m and 200m breaststroke. Her inspiration was another India swimmer, Mihir Sen.
The Google doodle was drawn by fellow Kolkata native, artist Lavanya Naidu who hopes to inspire people everywhere to ‘dream big, no matter where you come from.’
The big question is why such amazing stories are not in the public psyche especially in India where such role models can help define future generations. For those people who would never imagine India as a swimming nation, will now think differently and perhaps we will see Indian swimmers breaking new barriers.
And what about other unknown greats that the world has forgotten. In the era of Black Lives Matter, let us be curious and search for those we should have never forgotten.