Disabled team pulls off 108-km river rafting journey

Monday, November 22, 2010

KOLKATA - Proving grit and determination can overcome physical disability, a team of 13 disabled people rowed their bamboo rafts up the Hooghly river from Haldia in East Midnapore to Kolkata — a distance of more than 100 km.

The men set sail Nov 20 from Haldia on two bamboo rafts, specially designed by Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers, and reached Kolkata Monday. They rowed for three days on Hooghly river to make the expedition “Beyond Belief 4″ a success.

“I had arranged this programme in order to show that the word ‘handicap’ is only in the mind of the people who are not physically challenged, but not in the mind of those who are physically challenged. Nothing is impossible in this world if you have the will,” said Abhijit Dasgupta of Kolkata Sukriti Foundation, which arranged this programme.

“‘Beyond Belief’ is a programme meant to prove that people with physical deficiencies are capable and able — differently able. The objective is to try and give them the dignity of life and provide them with succour to integrate them into the mainstream society in general,” he said.

“It is very unfortunate that differently-abled persons are considered as disabled. Our attempt is to make the disabled accepted by the society through a series of adventure programmes,” Dasgupta added.

“It was a thrilling experience altogether. It was a different experience,” said Jaydev Mandal, a national swimmer, whose upper limb is impaired.

“I cant express my feelings in words. It was an amazing experience,” said Bholanath Dolui, a national swimmer, whose lower limb is impaired.

Sailing from Raichak in Haldia, the rafts faced high winds the second day and got delayed. They could row independently for 27 kms out of 42 kms. The current changed because of the delay and for the last few km, they needed assistance. The rafts sailed into Kolkata well within time.

The stretch from Haldia to Kolkata is rather tricky with cross currents. It would have been almost impossible for the participants to row through the right channel unless the “right path” was shown to them, said Dasgupta.

The Indian Navy towed the rafts to Haldia.

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