Blind Kerala boy swims across river, eyes more challenges

Aluva (Kerala), June 23 (IANS) A 12-year-old blind Kerala boy who swam across the Periyar river now wants to scale greater heights.

The proud parents of M.S. Naveenath, who swam 400 metres from one bank to another across the river on Monday, said they would do their best to help their son.

“We have decided that we will do our best to help him take swimming to the next level,” his father Sunil Kumar told IANS.

“We will give our son all that we can so that he can train to take his swimming to the next level,” said Kumar, who is a pump operator with the state owned irrigation department.

Navaneeth became blind when he was four years old following retinal detachment. But this did not mean the end of the world for this spirited boy.

His parents, who live close by the Periyar river, often took him for a swim.

“I used to swim regularly and my son also got interested. But we were worried and wondered if this was possible. It took us a lot of effort to find a proper trainer and we located V. Saji whose passion was to teach young kids swimming,” added Kumar.

Saji told IANS that he decided to teach children how to swim after repeatedly seeing news of deaths by drowning.

“I started in 2010 and my first student was my daughter. I have never looked back after that. I give swimming lessons free of cost every summer vacation. I have now taught 550 students,” said Saji, who owns a steel furniture shop near here.

Saji said he began to teach Naveenath in the summer of 2014, but the lessons were discontinued as the boy fell ill. Naveenath is a Class 8 student at a school for the blind near here.

“This season he came to me and joined on June 1. He learnt how to swim in seven days. He practiced swimming across the Periyar river the whole of last week,” he said.

“He follows my voice in the water and he swims forward. Yesterday (Monday) was the big day and he did it in 13 minutes, thus becoming the 158th student among the 550 I have trained to cross the river,” said Saji.

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