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Fear over Rabindra Sarobar tragedy holds back budding rowers, families

Death of South Point students during Saturday thunder squall casts shadow on popular sport

Jhinuk Mazumdar, Debraj Mitra | Published 26.05.22, 06:16 AM
The Lake Club gate on Wednesday.

The Lake Club gate on Wednesday.

Bishwarup Dutta

The death of two students while rowing has cast a shadow on a popular summer time sport among school children, who are keen to wield the oars again but are held back by their fears or concerns of their parents.

Every year, over 150 children enrol for rowing sessions at the three clubs around the Rabindra Sarobar — Bengal Rowing Club (BRC), Calcutta Rowing Club (CRC) and Lake Club.

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CRC organises a summer camp with about 100 students. The other two clubs have many junior members as well.

Several parents who thought that their children were rowing in a “safe environment” in the Sarobar feel they need some time to decide when they can send their children back to the lake.

The mother of a young rower, who was a national-level rower herself, said that for one “who knows the water”, the fears get compounded.

“Even a good swimmer can get entangled in weeds and cannot stay afloat unless lifeguards come to the rescue,” said Saba Ali Firoz.

Students who were part of an inter-school regatta were practising in the Sarobar on Saturday afternoon when a storm that clocked 90kmph toppled several boats.

Two students of South Point High School — Pushan Sadhukhan (Class IX) and Souryadeep Chatterjee (Class X) — drowned. Both could swim but failed to make it to the shore through the turbulent waters.

Alan Jacob, a student of Class XII at St James’ School and a participant in the regatta, said: “Though a rower, I cannot place myself in their (Pushan and Souryadeep’s) shoes because the conditions that evening were so different... it was windy, dark, the water was no longer still... the thought does scare me.” 

While many are trying to overcome their fears, the thought of “it could have been one of us”, is something they cannot easily shed.

“The thought does cross your mind,” said Arijit Nandi, a student of South Point. “I was supposed to replace one of them in the next championship.”

Shivali Dalmia had taken a break for a couple of months for her board exams and intended to return to rowing this week. “I intend to go but not now,” she said. “Even if one rower is not in sync there is a chance of the boat toppling over,” she said.

Father Manish is clear that he is not sending her till he knows that a safety protocol is in place. “I was under the impression that it (the lake) was a safe environment, but this episode shows it is not. Unless I am reassured of the safety, I am not sending her back,” he said.

Students across schools win laurels for their institutions, which in turn bask in the glory of their success.

After Saturday’s tragedy, schools are keen to distance themselves from “a sport held outside the campus”, that is “out of our control”.

“As an institution we have to take responsibility if our boys are participating in any event and representing the school. It is high time we had control over the sport,” said Terence Ireland, principal of St James’ School. 

Last updated on 26.05.22, 07:07 AM
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