THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:If the iconoclastic philosopher-poet Allama Iqbal was still alive, he would have patted Maana Patel, showering her with choicest of nazms. It’s likely, given her age, that Iqbal is presently beyond her grasp, but his philosophy of ‘self’ knowingly or unknowingly finds deep resonance in the thought process of the 14-year-old swimmer from Ahmedabad.
The Iqbalian theme of ‘self’ exhorts man to elevate his thought process, so that even destiny can be moulded according to his intent. Likewise, Maana believes in her performance, giving 100 per cent while practicing and competing, and most importantly, erasing the fear of defeat from her mind. “I like Ryan Lochte and Melissa Franklin but they are not my idols. I idolise myself. I compete with myself and I know I can deliver,” says the 10th standard student.
An accidental entrant to the swimming world, it’s this nonchalant attitude that has helped Maana make rapid strides in the domestic circuit. Maana was inducted into aquatics by her mother in order to increase her appetite. And that worked wonders! Not only her appetite for food but that for medals also increased.
In 2010, after getting into Kamlesh Nanavati’s academy in Ahmedabad, she grew in stature. First it was the National School Championships in 2011 where she impressed and the latest achievement came in the Senior Nationals in Kolkata last November where she grabbed three gold and one bronze. Gold came in 50, 100 and 200m backstroke events with national records.
Talking to TNIE at the Pirappancode International Aquatic Complex after qualifying for the 200m backstroke finals with a new Games record, Maana seemed too poised. “Can you believe that she just erased Richa Mishra’s record. She won’t flaunt it. You literally have to unearth this fact from her,” says Nanavati, who is also the general secretary of the Swimming Federation of India (SFI).
“I feel she is different from other girls of her age,” observes Aanal, mother of Maana.
At 14, when girls cherish watching movies, Maana hates spending hours in front of big screen as she feels it’s not worth it. She keeps Facebook interactions to a bare minimum to avoid unwanted attention. “After a long time, she watched a movie and that was PK. She was really impressed by the message,” Aanal adds.
Named after Manna, the heavenly food provided for Israelites during their desert sojourn, the young girl has so far lived up to it, breathing new life into the hopes of a medal-starved country.