Google on September 24, remembered the Indian swimmer Arati Saha on her 90th birth anniversary and honoured her with a special Google Doodle.
Arati Saha broke all the stereotypes by opting for an unconventional career. Saha chose to be a swimmer at the tender age of 5. She then went on to win 22 medals, before even completing a decade in her career.
She became the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel, a milestone which was very male dominant during that time. Saha even became the first sportswoman to win the prestigious Padma Shri. And she achieved all of this by the age of 19. Impressive, isn’t it?
ARATI SAHA’S EARLY LIFE
She was born on September 24, 1940, to a middle-class Bengali family in Kolkata, West Bengal. Around the age of 2, she lost her mother and was raised by her grandmother in North Kolkata, where she started learnt swimming at Champatala Ghat. When her father noticed her interest in swimming, he admitted her to the Hatkhola Swimming Club for better training.
A #GoogleDoodle for Indian swimmer Arati Saha, who was the:
🌊1st Asian woman to swim across the English Channel
🇮🇳 Youngest member on the 1st Olympic team to represent India
🏅 1st woman to receive the Padma Shri award
— Google Doodles (@GoogleDoodles) September 24, 2020
After training there for months she was finally noticed by India’s first Asian Games gold medalist swimmer, Sachin Nag, who chose to train her under his mentorship. He is said to have impressed by Saha’s natural inclination as well as grit towards the sport. Soon after, her career kick-started and the rest is history.
Saha’s career in swimming started at an early age of 5. Between 1946 and 1951, she participated in several state-level swimming competitions during which she won around 22 medals in events like 100m freestyle, 100m breaststroke and 200m breaststroke for her home state Kolkata, West Bengal.
Apart from all her uncountable victories, Saha began her international journey in the year 1952, with the onset of Summer Olympic Games at Helsinki, Finland. She was one of the four women participants and the youngest member of the Indian contingent. Although she didn’t win any medals, she represented India at an International level which was an achievement in itself, especially when women’s presence, during those times, was highly invisible in sports.
Saha is also the first Indian sportswoman to be awarded the Padma Shri – the fourth highest civilian honour in India, in the year 1960.
“IN 1948, SHE WON TWO SILVERS IN 100M FREESTYLE AND 200M BREASTSTROKE, A BRONZE IN 200M FREESTYLE AT THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HELD IN MUMBAI, HER FIRST VICTORY AFTER INDIA GAINED INDEPENDENCE.”
Google Doodle, a special animated graphic that features influential and inspiring people who changed the world with their acts. On Thursday, Google Doodle featured Arati Saha who is a feminist as well as a national icon for all the women as well as men. She swam 42 miles, across the English Channel, from Cape Gris Nez, France to Sandgate, England. The doodle has been illustrated by Kolkata native and guest artist Lavanya Naidu.
“Happy birthday, Arati Saha, and thank you for channeling your passion to inspire women everywhere,” Google Doodle wrote on its page.
In the year 1999, the Department of Posts celebrated her conquest by bringing out a postage stamp of ₹3 denomination.
On August 23, 1994, Saha died due to acute jaundice and encephalitis, just a month before turning 54. After battling for 19 days straight she died quite early. Her extraordinary achievements, courage, power and a will to never give up will always stay with us and will inspire many. She inspired many to follow a journey like hers and inspired some to follow something that makes that particular individual empowered.