India's legendary swimmer and ‘Queen of Seven Seas’ Bula Chowdhury has been dreaming of her swimming school for the last 14 years even after being deceived with false promises.
She still cannot forget that rare moment after having crossed the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy, one of her most memorable feats. She had just come out of the sea, drenched and exhausted after having crossed the channel of 42 miles and people gathered at the beach were curiously looking at her.
One of the young girls, excited to have watched her, told, “Look at her, mermaid, the Queen of Oceans is coming up!”
Bula Chowdhury has been revered as the Queen of Oceans, and even today she is applauded with the same. Her achievement of crossing seven seas is yet to be broken. Before stepping into the long-distance swimming, Bula earned several achievements including six gold medals in the 1991 SAAF Games. She had made a place in the Indian contingent in the 1982 Asian Games only at the age of 12 years. She has been the only in the history of Indian swimming to have been laureled with four prestigious awards: Padma Shri, Arjuna, Tensing Norgay Lifetime Award, and the First Indian Women award, given by the central government.Bula Chowdhury receiving an award at the Rashtrapati Bhawan from ex-President APJ Abdul Kalam. (Photo: Anandabazar Patrika)
More importantly, the 49-year-old swimmer is probably one of the few who have succeeded both in short distance and long distance swimming.
Still, Bula Chowdhury cannot keep her agony away. She has been in search of a piece of land for the last 14 years. She had dreamed of setting a residential swimming school of international standard in Bengal. She has been nurturing the dream for the previous 14 years.Chowdhury started long-distance swimming in 1989 and crossed the English Channel that year. (Photo: Anadabazar Patrika)
After retiring from long distance swimming in 2005, Bula entered politics when she joined the Left Front, the then ruling party in West Bengal. In 2006, she won from Nandanpur Assembly seat and became an MLA. In her five-year tenure, Bula had repeatedly pleaded to her party high command, the ministers and other leaders. Though she was given a piece of land on lease adjacent to Eastern Bypass by the then minister Ashok Bhattacharya, also in charge of KMDA, a few months later Bula discovered, the land which she had almost decided to take and sign on papers, was owned by the state fisheries department.
Even after 14 years, the swimmer says, “Nobody has done justice. The Left Front did nothing for me. Rather I was deceived by them. Then Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress came in power in Bengal. Along with the other sports personalities of the state, I also have been inducted in a sports committee and I have made several requests to the Sports Minister. I have only been given promises. But nothing has materialized.”
So how does Bula finds some solace from swimming?
She has been one of the selection committee members in the Khelo India project set by Union Sports Ministry. She informed she had visited three national swimming championships, held under the Khelo India project. Bula said, “Initially when I was asked about the selection of these young swimmers who were being projected for Tokyo 2020 Olympics, I advised the bureaucrats that selection in swimming should start from an early age, not the under-17 boys and girls.”Bula Chowdhury with her family. (Photo: The Bridge)
Bula’s advice is likely to be accepted by the Ministry shortly as the Ministry is planning to make the selection of swimmers among early age like under-12 or under-13 years old.
Sitting at home and nurturing her family nowadays, Bula remembers the best moments she spent through swimming. She uttered, “Out of seven seas I had crossed, I feel today, three were the most difficult - English Channel (she had crossed it twice), Catalina channel in USA and Cook Strait in New Zealand.”However, Bula has not given up on her dream. She concluded, “I am waiting for any corporate who will honour my dream and come forward with a piece of land for my desired swimming school.”