Google Doodle honours Arati Saha — the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel
Google Doodleis celebrating Arati Saha’s 80th birthday today
- She was the youngest member of India’s first team to participate in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Finland. There were only four women in the team including her.
- She crossed the English Channel when she was 19 and became the first Asian woman to do so.
Saha was born on 24 September 1940 in Calcutta. At that time, India was still struggling to get independence from the British empire and women did not have an equal status in the society as men. However, this didn’t stop her.
Saha started learning swimming on the banks of Hooghly River at the tender age of four. She won her first gold medal for swimming when she was just 5 years old. And by the time she turned 11, she had won several medals and broken a number of swimming records. A year later, she became the youngest member of India’s first team to participate in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Finland. There were only four women in the group including Saha.
She attempted to cross the English Channel — the narrow arm of the Atlantic ocean that separates the southern coast of England from the northern coast of France — when she was 18. However, she failed. She attempted again and this time became the first Asian woman to do so in history.
A year after she crossed the English Channel, the Indian government awarded her the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth-highest civilian honour.
The illustration was drawn by Kolkata-based Lavanya Naidu who said, “Saha was a known household name growing up. My brother and I used to be avid stamp collectors as kids and I remember our excitement when her stamp was issued in the 90s.”
Naidu wants to inspire people to dream big with her Google Doodle. “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,” Lavanya Naidu said.
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