Kochi: When 14-year-old Arjun Santhosh hailing from Perumbalam, an island in Alappuzha district, took a leap of faith into the Vembanad lake, the famed backwaters in Kerala, last month, little did he know what was in store for him.
The boy was swimming for nearly 3 km every day to reach his school, KPM Higher Secondary School in Poothotta, in protest against the lack of a bridge in the area.
His 10-day campaign demanding bridges to his village that has a population of nearly 10,000, where people solely rely on boats and ferries to commute, grabbed the attention of authorities.
It has now turned a new page in the life of the boy, who derived a passion for long- distance swimming from his father.
The Sports Authority of India has now offered to adopt Arjun in their swimming scheme.
"The boy seems to have good endurance, he certainly has untapped potential and SAI would like to adopt him," G. Kishore, principal of SAI Laxmibai National College of Physical Education, Thiruvananthapuram, told this newspaper.
The unexpected offer has caused excitement at the ninth-grade student's home. "We never saw this coming," said P.G. Santhosh, father of Arjun.
"Our son decided to undertake the mission for the sake of his villagers. The issue concerning our island is massive. Without bridges, a tragedy was waiting to happen here as ferries are always overcrowded," says Mr Santhosh, who himself is not alien to campaign-swims.
He undertook an arduous 32 km swim in the same river from Murinjapuzha in Vaikom to Ernakulam High Court, in a campaign against River Pollution, in 2004.
"The opportunity to enroll into SAI is the best for the future of our son. But we need some time to think over it because Arjun has got deeply involved. With his involvement, the mission has gained momentum as thousands have joined in support. They look forward to him and how can he abandon them now without a visible change?"
His father added, "Arjun's presence is needed in his village at least until the first phase of the bridge construction begins." However, he is not sure if it is the right decision. Fortunately for the family, G. Kishore says: "We are ready to wait until he finishes his mission."...