Young girls and boys with partial or no vision spent an afternoon swimming and winning medals for a sport that many of them learnt only because they were forced by their circumstances.
From the interiors of Purulia to East Midnapore, 145 participants came to participate in a swimming competition that was held here on Saturday, after a gap of two years.
Sangita Metya, 22, with partial sight learnt to swim when she was barely 10 because it was an “everyday affair” for her to bathe in the pond. “I had to go to the pond every day and that is how I learnt swimming,” said Sangita, whose father juggles between farming and working as a daily wage labourer.
Sangita won the first position at the 15th All Bengal Swimming Competition for the Sightless jointly organised by the Indian Life Saving Society (ILSS) and Blind Persons Association. The completion was held at ILSS (Anderson Club).
Sangita learned to overcome her fear despite failed attempts.
“My father used to be scared. But I decided that I would not let fear come in my way,” she told The Telegraph, who could complete her masters in Bengali after her father sold off a portion of land they had.
Many of the girls and boys participating in three different categories — sub-junior (up to 12), junior (13 to 18) and senior (above 18) — come from financially marginalised homes.
Stories of their achievements are a source of inspiration to many, said Saikat Kumar Kar, the secretary of the Blind Persons Association.
“Many of them have pushed their boundaries to be able to pursue a sport that makes them stand out.”
In the last 15 years, the number of participants has grown almost three times.
“We have seen their enthusiasm to be able to participate and win medals,” said Swarup Kumar Paul, central executive member, ILSS.