OT: Reuben Conquers the Mandovi

This is a personal blog post and is also one of the very few that I will cherish forever.

I live on the outskirts of Panaji, the capital city of the beautiful state of Goa on the west coast of India. Panaji lies on the banks of the river Mandovi which opens out into the Arabian Sea. Today my six year old son, Reuben, swam across the Mandovi river. He along with three other kids, had been training for this for some months now. Reuben started learning to swim less than a year ago in April 2009. Today he did something that has made me and my wife so proud, that words fail us.

Actually the kids did not swim across the river. There is a lot of traffic on the Mandovi as it is used by large boats and barges to transport ore from the mines in the interiors of Goa to the port of the coast. So the kids swam along the river, parallel to the boats and barges. They swam a total distance of about 2 kilometers (about 1.25 miles) which turns out to be more than double the width of the river. So it is as if they swam across the river and swam back. It took them about an hour to cover the distance. Their coaches swam with them and were supported by two small boats with life guards.

Kids in Goa have been conquering the Mandovi ever since I was a kid. The confidence that they get after a feat like this is second to none. We always dreamed that one day Reuben would conquer the Mandovi. Today that dream came true. However, it was important for us to know that Reuben wanted to do this as well, lest we commit the mistake that some parents make of forcing their dreams on their kids.

Reuben is absolutely crazy about water. Whenever we check into a hotel, the first thing on his mind is to jump into the pool. I have to literally drag him out of the pool after his daily swimming class. His favorite toys are all fishes. I just bought him another one today in celebration of his feat. If I need to threaten him, I simply need to tell him that I will not take him to the pool and he immediately falls in line. So we figured that conquering the Mandovi would be something of interest to him, which gladly turned out to be the case.

I always tell Reuben, “Never say ‘I cannot’ and there is nothing wrong in saying ‘I could not’“. “I cannot” means that you did not even try. But “I could not” means that you tried and did not succeed, which is perfectly fine. The important thing is to try. Failures are merely stepping stones to success.

But this river crossing was a first time success. A week ago Reuben’s coach had taken the kids for a short trial in the Mandovi to get them used to the waves and salty water of the Arabian Sea which flows into the Mandovi. The river by itself is quite calm. The problem is the waves caused by the movement of the boats and barges passing by. But everything went off as planned and the kids crossed the river without incident. But I must say that in spite of all the safety precautions and life guards we heaved a huge sigh of relief when the kids touched land.

Today is a day that my wife and I will remember for the rest of our lives. Here are some pictures. Click the images for larger views.

The crossing. We could barely see them from the distance.

Victory signs. The handsome guy on the right is my boy.

Posing with their coach after collecting their trophies and certificates
Check out Reuben’s exquisite toothless smile.

Interview with a local new channel