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Bula set to conquer the seventh sea

Bula Chowdhury, champion swimmer, rebel with a cause and also the mother of a 10-year old, will be attempting to swim from Sri Lanka to India, writes Deepika Sharma.
PTI | By Deepika Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 09, 2004 08:17 PM IST

Exactly two weeks from now, an Indian woman will be attempting something no other woman has done before. Bula Chowdhury, champion swimmer, rebel with a cause, and now, also the mother of a 10-year old, will be attempting to swim from Sri Lanka to India.

If she succeeds in her attempt to tame the Palk Strait, it wouldn't just be a record crossing — she would be the first woman in the world to have crossed the seven seas — or the realisation of a childhood dream. It would also be the end of a journey made against all odds, battling everything from red tape (the Indian government believed it a security risk and took 15 months to approve the proposal), to petty politicking from the swimming federation and even the weather.

"I don't fear anything," she says stoutly. August is perfect to swim the stretch because the weather conditions are ideal. "When I swam across the Cook Strait on March 23 last year, the water was freezing," she smiles.

But all this came later.

Bula was the original water-baby. She was only two when she first started swimming in a small pond behind her house in Sreerampore in Bengal's Hoogly's district. Soon her passion for staying in water all day and a natural athletic ability was noticed by her father, who then sent her to Chatra Club at the tender age of four. By seven, with just three years intensive training under local coaches, she was swimming in the Nationals.

Bula, who is in town for meetings with Sports Minister Sunil Dutt (who she said was highly encouraging) and the Prime Minister, said her father's belief and ability made her what she is. "I was only four when my father decided that I was born to be a swimmer and nothing else," Bula said in an interview to the Hindustan Times on Thursday.

Bula's tryst with history takes place on August 20. She is extremely confident and hopes her hard work will pay off. "My confidence is at its peak and I can't wait to complete my journey of the seven seas. It's a dream come true for me," says the exuberant swimmer.

Bula's cup of joy was complete when Sahara India decided to sponsor her. "Finances are always a major issue in a venture like this. Once the sponsorship came through, I was at peace mentally," she says, adding that her training is now much more organised than it was under the Swimming Federation of India (SFI). "I'm much more prepared for this channel crossing than I ever have been."

Bula knows she is running out of time. She's in her mid-thirties now and age is taking its toll. But she believes her dream is finally within her reach. And that belief alone, can make all the difference.

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