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Shilpa Sasi aims to make history by crossing Palk Strait

Published Dec 22, 2013, 6:47 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 1:57 am IST
She was born into a poor family but her family members have been a rallying.
practice makes perfect:  Shilpa Sasi with her uncle Asok Kumar (left) and father  Sasi and (right) the trio practising in the sea off Valiya Azheekal  in Alappuzha.
 practice makes perfect: Shilpa Sasi with her uncle Asok Kumar (left) and father Sasi and (right) the trio practising in the sea off Valiya Azheekal in Alappuzha.

Alappuzha: She  was  born  into  a  poor  family  but  her  family  members have  been  a  rallying  force  behind  her  and  a  source  of  inspiration  to  achieve something  in life.  The  story  of  this  young  swimmer  and  her  family’s  tale  of extraordinary struggle is inspirational.

Twenty-year-old  Shilpa  Sasi,  her  father  Sasi,  43,  and  kin Ashok Kumar,  35,  hail from Chennithala  near Mavelikara. The three  of them  are   preparing to   conquer Palk  Strait,  known  to  be  hostile  to  swimmers  because  of  sea  snakes  and  other dangerous marine creatures, in March.


Shilpa,  a  product  of  Sports  Authority  of  India  (SAI),  Thrissur,  gave  up  her ambition  in  academics  after  completing  Teacher’s  Training  Course  (TTC)  to   nurture a  dream to  set a world  record in  swimming across Palk Strait along with her father and uncle.

Ask her how she had the courage to even consider  such an adventure at such  a  young age and she replies, “If you  know within yourself,  and have a urge to do something you’ve cherished for a long time, you want to be proactive,  and not  be scared.” The obsession  for swimming she  inherited  from her father Sasi, a part-time  swimming  coach.   “I  am  determined to  be the  first  girl to  cross  Palk  Strait from Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Arichamunai (Eroding Point) at Danushkodi in India. That is the only goal now,” she says.


All  her  family  members  are  highly  passionate  about  swimming  though  it  has brought  them  no  comforts  in  life    yet.  Shilpa’s  family  has  no  permanent  shelter or  land  of  their  own.  They  live  in  a  joint  family  in  a  small  hut  constructed  in Puramboklu  in  Chennithala.   “I  don’t  want  to  be  distracted  by  disadvantages.  I want to be confident.  I can see now that the desire to create history pops up like an  annoying  child!  For  that,  I  need  support  from  the  people  who  love  us,  need financial support and of course moral support,” says Shilpa.


Shilpa says she was deeply impressed by the tale of Abhilash Tomy, the first Indian to successfully complete a solo circumnavigation. Meeting Abhilash was a morale booster for the young girl. “I met him recently during a TV show. I want to be like him and  create  history like him. He gave me lots of information regarding the sea and helpful tips to keep in mind while swimming in the sea,” she adds.  

Shilpa,  who  started  swimming    at    the  age  of  one,  says  crossing  the  Palk  Strait is  her  father  Sasi’s  dream.  She  won  several  accolades,  both local  and  state level competitions,  during  school  time.  She  learnt  swimming    techniques  from  her father and uncle and candidly admits that despite being a good swimmer, she still experiences  fear and  nervousness, “but  slightly lesser  now,”   she  says,   revealing  she  spends at least 10 hrs a day  training. 


Sasi, who  has  now  given  up  his job as  swimming trainer at a luxury  hotel in Haripad  to concentrate on practising, says he  taught Shilpa to draw inspiration from legendary  swimmers  like  Mihir  Sen  and Bula  Chowdhary. “We have already started training   off  the  Valiyaazheekal  coast,”  he  says  admitting  that  he  is  battling  a financial crunch.

Ashok  Kumar,  her  uncle,  a  farmer,  says  the  Achankovil  River  has  been  a source of inspiration to his family members to become swimmers. “We still believe that we   have  been  blessed   by  this  river which   provides water to thousands  of people  who  reside  on  its    banks,” he said.


Location: Kerala