Arati Saha, the famous Indian swimmer and the first Asian woman to have successfully crossed the English Channel, is an epitome of a womans strength, determination and power! Read any Arati Saha Biography out there that describes the great Indian swimmer that she is, and youll know how she faced failure but swam back up to victory. The never-give-up attitude that she lived by is what paved the way for her to move mountains and cross oceans - literally! Her journey is highlighted with waves of passion and courage that have a ripple effect of inspiration, determination, and aspiration on young women and men who need that little confidence boost. This big dream began with baby steps in Calcutta, West Bengal, during the British regime of India.Early LifeArati had a passion for swimming since a very young age and her love for it developed when her uncle took her to Champatala Ghat every day, where she learnt how to swim. During those days where women were not even educated properly, Aratis father didnt just notice her keen interest for swimming but he also gave her all his support and resources so she could train professionally and follow her dreams. He took a membership for his daughter in the Hatkhola swimming club. With a zeal to be a professional swimmer, Arati participated in many competitions. It all began in 1946 at the Shailendra Memorial Swimming Competition, where Arati won the gold medal in 110 yards freestyle swimming and she was just 5 years old. This was the first milestone for our great Indian swimmer.Family BackgroundArati was born on 24th September 1940 in a middle-class family. She was the second child out of three siblings, born to Panchugopal Saha, who was an employee in the armed forces. When Arati was about two and half years old, her mother expired. Her maternal uncle raised her elder brother and younger sister while her grandmother raised her in North Calcutta.State and National Level Swimming CareerArati was growing into a professional swimmer and for people to recognise her talents, she had to participate and win many competitions held at state level in order to compete with national champions. And so she did! Arati, the lionheart she is, won 22 state-level competitions held in West Bengal between 1945 and 1951 - thats 22 medals in 6 years for a kid between 5 to 11 years old! Incredible as it sounds, her main events were 100m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 300m breaststroke. She only came second to Bombays Dolly Nazir in 1948, when she participated in the national championship held in Mumbai. She won a silver medal in 100m freestyle and 200m breaststroke, and won a bronze medal in 200m freestyle, setting an all-India record in 1950.At the Bangalore state meet in 1951, in the 100m breaststroke she clocked 1minute 37.6seconds and broke Nazirs all-India record. In the same meet, in the 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle and 100m backstroke, she set a new state record, which made her a national level swimmer.Olympics CareerIn the 1952 Summer Olympics, she represented India along with compatriot Dolly Nazir. She was 12 years old and one of the four female Olympic participants, being the youngest member of the Indian contingent. At the Olympics, she participated in 200m breaststroke where she clocked 3 minutes 40.8seconds in the heats. She returned from the Olympics and continued with national level championships where she lost in the 100m freestyle to her sister Bharati Saha. It was after this loss that she decided to concentrate only on breaststroke.Crossing the English ChannelArati became Indias well-known swimmer during her Olympic career and she didnt stop at that. It motivated her to go beyond her boundaries and have bigger dreams and face bigger challenges. She used to participate in long distance swimming competitions held in the Ganges. She wanted to experiment with her swimming skills and challenge herself to break higher records. Thats how she heard of Brojen Das, the first person from the Indian subcontinent to cross the English Channel at the 1958s Butlin International Cross Channel Swimming Race. Greta Anderson, a Danish female swimmer from the United States, stood first among men and women in the English Channel Cross Race by clocking 11 hours and 1 minute. The year after that, she proposed Aratis name to the Butlin International Cross Channel Swimming Race organisers.Dr Arun Gupta was the assistant executive secretary of Hatkhola Swimming Club at that time and he volunteered in organising Aratis participation at the English Channel Cross Race. For the sake of fund-raising, he organised exhibits of Aratis prowess as a swimming champ. After some financial aid, Aratis trip to England for the race was assisted by Jamininath Das, Parimal Saha and Gour Mukherjee. At this point a few well-wishers of Arati took up the matter with West Bengals chief minister, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. He then arranged a grant fund of Rs 11,000 where even Jawahar Lal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, showed interest in Aratis endeavour and spirit to achieve something this big at a global level.While the trips logistics were being arranged, Arati began the hardest practice of her lifetime. On 13th April 1959, Arati swam at the pond in Deshbandhu park for eight hours continuously. Finally, the day arrived, on 24th July 1959, she left for England along with her manager Dr Gupta.She started her final practice in the English Channel on 13th August 1959. During this time. she was being monitored and checked by Dr Bimal Chandra, a participant at the 1959 Butlin International Cross Channel Swimming Race. The competition had 58 participants in total from 23 countries, among which 5 were women. The race was scheduled for 27th August 1959 at 1am local time from Cape Gris Nez, France, all the way to Sandgate, England. Unfortunately for Arati, the pilot boat did not arrive on time. By 11 am, she swam more than 40 miles and came within 5 miles of the England coast. Thats when a current hit from the opposite direction. As a result, she could only swim 2 more miles and then was forced to quit.Her never-say-die spirit and passion helped her as she prepared again for a second attempt at competing in the Cross Channel Race. Her manager Dr Gupta fell ill, yet Arati continued with her practice to perfect herself. On 29th September 1959, she began her second attempt at the race. Starting from France, she swam for 16 hours and 20minutes, cutting through tough waves and battling dangerous currents covering 42 miles to reach Sandgate in England. On reaching the England coast, overwhelmed with joy and pride, she hoisted the Indian flag with the hands of a victorious woman of power, courage and strength. Such a proud moment and achievement was nationally announced on the All India Radio. What an honour to even hear news like that in those days! She didnt just cross the channel but made history by becoming the first Asian Woman to Cross the English Channel.Honours and AwardsIn 1960, Arati was awarded the Padma Shri, still setting a record by becoming the first Indian woman sportsperson to receive this highest award. If that was huge, a bigger milestone was achieved when the Department of Posts introduced a postage stamp of Arati as a tribute to her success, which was Rs 3 in denomination. That wasnt it, in 1996, a bust statue of Arati was erected near her home where the 100m long lane in front of the statue was named after her. Even after Arati isnt with us on Earth, Google Doodle featured her on the day that would have been her 80th birthday in 2020.A Swimmers Passion and DeterminationJust like how swimming needs consistent and continuous lap movements to move forward and stay afloat, to achieve your end goal you need to have passion and determination with consistency, to achieve smaller milestones to reach your end goal. Aratis unshakable and unbreakable passion, courage, and warrior-like strength is what pushed her to constantly strive to be better and challenge ones abilities. Arati didnt just stay afloat but cut through waves and currents of hurdles in her success journey without giving up. From being a state level swimmer to receiving the Padma Shri for crossing oceans, Arati proved that you can achieve anything you set your eyes on if you believe in yourself and your abilities.What do we learn from Arati Saha? To never give up on your dreams, even if they may seem unachievable in the beginning. Have the courage to finish the race rather than just focussing on winning it!FAQsWhen did Arati Saha die?Arati Saha died on 23rd August 1994 in Kolkata due to jaundice and encephalitis.What was Arati Sahas swimming speed?Arati Saha clocked 1 minute 37.6 seconds in a 100m breaststroke race in 1951, breaking Dolly Nazirs all-India record.