KOCHI: She did not learn swimming until the age of 68. Now, after swimming across the Periyar on Saturday, a year later, Arifa VK of Aluva feels that she has attained a happiness which she has never felt in all these years.
It was during a casual visit, along with her grandchildren, to a free swimming coaching provided by Saji Valassery in Aluva Shiva temple on the banks of the Periyar that triggered an interest in swimming in her.
"After seeing how my grandchildren were learning to swim, I asked Saji whether I could also swim. He asked me to give it a try. Above all, after the 2018 floods, I understood the importance of learning to swim," Arifa told The New Indian Express.
"Age should never be a hindrance to achieving your dream. All must learn to swim. My family extended all support to me. After swimming across the Periyar, I am now very excited. People are appreciating me for accomplishing a dream that I have been carrying in my mind from the age of nine," she said.
For 70-year-old Vishwambharan N of Annamanada in Thrissur, who swam along with Arifa, it was a dream come true. He had learned swimming recently after conquering his fear of drowning.
"I am lucky to be alive because I almost died at the age of 15 while I was trying to wade through a flooded field near my home. I got frightened and at that moment decided to not venture into the water. After all these years, I decided to learn swimming when I came to know about the coaching provided by Saji. Now I feel I have conquered my fear," he said.
Over the past 12 years, 5,000 people have learned to swim under the guidance of Saji.