iconimg Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Ritesh Mishra, Hindustan Times
Indore/Hoshangabad, March 06, 2014
They grew up in the laps of the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh. What started as a childhood game in the river taught them the invaluable lesson of focusing on their goals in subsequent years. In the early '70s, 10 boys born and brought up in Hoshangabad city's Sarafa area would gather and dive in the Narmada, which flows 100 metres away from their homes, every day to fish out coins and coconuts which pilgrims offered to the sacred river.

They competed with each other in their quest to gather the maximum number of coins and coconuts. This not only made them excellent swimmers but selling the coconuts provided money to some of them to get proper education.

Swimming and diving made them physically fit and helped them get into the police service. At present, all of them are thana inspectors (TIs).

Three of them - Rajendra Soni (TI MIG police station), Sanjay Verma (TI Pandrinath) and Sanjay Dube (TI Bandgonda) - are posted in Indore district.

These police officers believe it is because of the Narmada that they became great swimmers and it helped them realise their childhood dream of joining the police.

"Our family's financial condition was very weak. Hence, I used to dive for coins and sold the coconuts which I used to fish out to deposit my fees and buy books. I owe Ma Narmada a lot.

Whatever I have achieved today is because of swimming," said Ajay Verma, who is posted as TI Kotwali in Khargone.

"We started swimming at the age of six-seven years and would swim for five hours every day. We were first tied by an air-packed Dalda dabba and were left in the river. In a few weeks, we learnt swimming. It was the most adventurous game at that time. The coins which I used to fish out helped me a lot," said a nostalgic Sanjay Verma, who is Ajay's younger brother and is posted as TI at Pandrinath.

"I also participated in national-level swimming contests and that played a very important role in my selection in MP police," he further said.

Sanjay also helped people during floods in Ujjain when he was posted there.

The other TIs who are posted in different parts of Madhya Pradesh are Virendra Jha (posted in Narsinghpur), Rajendra Tiwari (posted in Betul), Anil Singh (Betul), Brijesh Mishra

(Hoshangabad), Akhilesh Tiwari (posted in Sagar and recently promoted as DSP), Ajay Verma (posted in Khargone) and Indra Mohan Tiwari (Burhanpur).

"We owe our fitness to the Narmada," said Akhilesh Tiwari.

Despite the rigours of job, swimming continues to be a passion for the TIs.

"Whenever and wherever I get a chance, I dive in the water to swim. It is my passion. Now I am posted in Bandgonda and I enjoy swimming in Choral area," said Dube.

"The Narmada ghat in Hoshangabad has played a very important role in my career and we are in this profession because of Ma Narmada," said Dube.

Dube believes that Rajendra Soni was the best swimmer during that time.

"We are glad that we were born in that area as it made us what we are today," said Soni.