On Tuesday, February 18, residents of Aluva Manappuram were witness to an extraordinary feat - an 11-year-old visually-impaired boy swam across the Periyar river from Advaita Ashram to Aluva Manappuram.
R Manoj, a class VII student of School For The Blind, Aluva, swam 600 metres across the Periyar in 30 minutes. At 8:10 am on Tuesday, he was flagged off by Swami Swaroopananda Swamikal, head of Advaita Ashram. Amidst loud cheers and applause, Manoj reached his destination by 8:40 am.
Along with Manoj's parents, hundreds, including his school headmistress, teachers, and classmates were present at the sand ghats of Aluva Shiva Temple to cheer him on. The band team from his school also played continuously to encourage the boy.
"We hear about many cases of drowning. If we know swimming, accidents in water can be avoided. My initiative is to make people aware of the importance of swimming," Manoj was quoted by The New Indian Express.
Manoj was trained by Saji Valasseril, who has trained over 3,000 people to swim in Periyar, for 30 days. In 2015, he had trained Navaneeth, another visually-impaired person to swim across the river. Saji also accompanied Manoj while he swam.
As Manoj is fully blind, he swims according to the sound signals given by Saji, who swam ahead of him in guidance, reported The Times Of India.
"It was so easy to train him. It took him 30 minutes to finish as he was swimming in a relaxed mood," said Saji.
"Parents of differently-abled children encourage them to get trained. However, the other parents never bother about it. Any child or person who trains for one hour for a month can master swimming. Parents should always encourage their children to learn swimming. And it should be made part of the school curriculum," he added.