Kolkata ; Google dedicated its doodle to swimmer Arati Saha on her 80th birth anniversary. Saha, who has many records to her name, was the first woman to be awarded the Padma Shri in 1960.Thursday’s doodle is a depiction of Saha swimming along with a compass and a view of the ocean, in reference to her journey across the English Channel. It was illustrated by Kolkata-based artist Lavanya Naidu.
Saha was born on September 24, 1940 in Calcutta. She learned to swim on the banks of the Hooghly river. She later trained under Sachin Nag, one of India’s best competitive swimmers. At the age of five, Saha had won her first gold medal. By 11, she had broken several swimming records.
At 12, Saha joined India’s first team to participate in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. She was one of the only four women to make the team.At 18, she attempted to cross the English Channel. After one failed attempt, she managed to complete the journey, becoming the first Asian woman to do so.Her first event was plagued with mishaps. Her pilot boat was almost an hour late, and she missed favorable conditions. Saha came within five miles of the English coast, but had to turn back for her own safety.
Lavanya Naidu was an avid stamp collector as a kid in the ‘90s, and remembers her excitement at seeing her hometown hero on a stamp
In an interview, Naidu said Saha was “a known household name growing up” in Kolkata. “I hope it adds to the celebration of female figures in our country’s history and of human resilience. I also hope it’s an inspiration to people everywhere to dream big, no matter where you come from,” she added.
After her historic victory, she married her longtime manager Dr. Arun Gupta in 1959. Arati Saha had one daughter, Archana, and worked for the railways through her adult life. She passed away on 4 August 1994.