The ocean’s little girl: 8-year-old Thaaragai on mission to save marine life

Bringing our attention to the cause of conserving marine life is eight-year-old Thaaragai Aarathana, who recently set a record after swimming an 18-km stretch
Thaaragai, who is also a scuba diver, swam from Covelong to Neelankarai
Thaaragai, who is also a scuba diver, swam from Covelong to Neelankarai

CHENNAI: Thaaragai Aarathana can go to any extent to call attention to the critical issue of endangered marine species and depleting aquatic life. One such ambitious attempt, made by the eight-year-old eco-crusader, to draw our attention towards her ongoing battle against water pollution, was on National Girl Child Day (January 24). She set a record in Assist World Records Attempt for swimming an 18-km stretch from Covelong to Neelankari under the theme ‘Save the Ocean’. “It was raining when I started swimming, I had cramps under water, it was extremely cold, but I enjoyed the seven-hour journey. Being in and around waterbodies excites me to do more for its future,” shares the class 2 student of Ellen Sharma Memorial Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Karapakkam.

Of passion and purpose

Water has been a constant companion of Thaaragai since she was three days old. Her father SB Aravind Tharunsri, a scuba diving instructor, ensured his daughter got an early exposure to the rich marine biodiversity around her. “While she started taking swimming classes only when she was two, we wanted her to get adapted to water when she was an infant. All children must get initiated into swimming. The coming generation must be equipped to work towards conservation and preservation of existing resources,” suggests Aravind.

True to her nature, Thaaragai diligently accompanies her father for scuba diving and beach clean-ups. The duo has gathered over 600 kg of plastic bottles from clean-ups at various locations. She wants to donate the money raised from selling the scrap to the Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu.

“The fund can be used towards abolishing plastic. Every time I went scuba diving, the accumulation of plastic and nets would haunt me. My father would reiterate that these are man-made errors. Industrial waste, global warming, overfishing… are problems that disrupt ocean life. This year, dad and I have decided to do beach clean-ups once a week and road clean-ups twice a week,” she says.

Making way for marine life

Besides her regular activities, Thaaragai has been raising awareness on Dugong — an endangered marine animal. “The world underwater is something all of us should explore. The colours, shapes and size of aquatic species are so diverse and impressively engrossing. Once you witness that beauty comes to life, you wouldn’t want to destroy it. We should be living in harmony with them. Instead, we’ve only been harming and polluting them in all possible ways,” she shares.

For his part, Aravind has also been creating awareness on keeping the ocean pollution-free. Since 2010, the scuba driver has been diving deep into the sea, and raising the Indian flag under water on the occasion of Independence Day. “The ocean is the special bond between my father and me. Time spent with him, in understanding life under water, has always been enriching and informative. It has prepared me for better and worse,” she says.

Thaaragai wishes for more kids to join the bandwagon. “Why wait for Ocean’s Day or Environment Day to do something impactful? Every day is crucial when we are fighting the massive battle against climate change. I’m determined towards doing my duty as a citizen, and I hope you too will join me in this endeavour,” she requests.

Clean-up collection

Thaaragai accompanies her father for scuba diving and beach clean-ups. The father-daughter duo has gathered over 600 kg of plastic water bottles from clean-ups.

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