The triumph of Saturday morning turned into tragedy within a few hours.
Pushan Sadhukhan and Souradeep Chatterjee had taken South Point High School into the final of the inter-school regatta defeating Jodhpur Park Boys School in a 500-metre race on Saturday.
In the afternoon, they were practicing for the upcoming final of the sub-junior boys (U-15) category that was scheduled for Sunday evening.
A friend of the two young rowers regretted his friends’ victory on Saturday evening. Pushan and Souradeep would not have been in Rabindra Sarobar during the squall if they did not win the semi-final race in the morning, he said.
South Point would have been racing against La Martiniere for Boys on Sunday evening. The final for all categories have been postponed by the organisers — the Bengal Rowing Club.
“We are shocked and numbed by the unthinkable news of losing Pushan (Class IX) and Souryadeep (Class X) who were excellent swimmers and were training well for the School rowing team. They had been part of the winning team who had qualified to row in the finals in an ongoing inter-school regatta to be held tomorrow” said R.S. Bhattacharjee, the principal of South Point High School.
The two rowers were inducted into the South Point team recently.
A teacher of South Point said that because of the pandemic, there had been no competitive races in the last two years. Old rowers from the school had either passed out or breached the age limit to participate in the race.
“We were creating new rowing teams of various age groups,” said a teacher.
One of the factors that clinched Pushan and Souradeep their places in the school team was their ability to swim. They were both good swimmers, said the teacher.
A former student of South Point who is also a rower and knew the two boys said Pushan had even taken part in competitive swimming events.
“He had participated in inter-district swimming competition,” he said.
“It was their swimming prowess that played a part in their selection in the rowing team. Only those who know swimming are selected for rowing teams,” said the teacher of South Point.
But on Saturday, they could not negotiate the choppy lake waters.
Calcutta’s mayor Firhad Hakim who visited the club after the incident said: “It is a very unfortunate incident. I was told that these two boys went missing and could not swim back to the banks.”
The principal of South Point appealed for a review of the safety standards of the rowers.
“There has been an outpouring of grief amongst their schoolmates and teachers on getting this news. Our thoughts are with their families at this moment that no parents should have to witness. We appeal to the authorities to consider reviewing the safety standards for rowers,” said Bhattacharjee.