Manoj Achieves a Rare Feat with a Vision to Swim
One fine morning on 18th February 2020, a 11-year old visually impaired boy R Manoj did something which many would consider to be out of the ordinary. The 7th grader from School for Blind, Aluva swam across the Periyar river in a legendary feat. Manoj was trained by Saji Valasseril, who has trained over 3,000 people to swim in Periyar, that too for free. In 2015, he had trained Navaneeth, another visually-impaired person, to swim across the river. Saji also accompanied Manoj while he swam.
The young boy started from the banks of the river near Advaita Ashram and swam across to Manappuram in Aluva, completing the feat in 20 minutes. What makes this feat extraordinary is that it took Manoj just 30 days to be trained for the task, even though he had just learned swimming from scratch. Manoj had his instructor Saji, guiding him throughout the swim. Saji had prepared verbal cues for Manoj, which they used to navigate through the waters. Manoj believes that everyone should learn how to swim, it is not a luxury, but a life-saving necessity. What motivated him to learn was the urge to spread awareness about the increasing cases of drowning across the state. Saji insists that swimming should be a compulsory subject across schools.
Manoj was inspired by his senior, Navneeth, who had accomplished a similar feat before him. Saji and his student Manoj, share a special bond. Saji was of the view that it was easy to teach swimming to Manoj despite the fact that he was completely blind. Manoj on the other hand, felt his swim lasted only 10 minutes, even though it was a 20-minute swim. He loved the experience and did not experience any fatigue, as he enjoyed his instructors' anecdotes and jokes that the latter shared while swimming.