Mums and stories is privileged to feature this incredible story of mum-daughter duo who have always set out to make the impossible possible. This is a story to be read, liked and shared.
Leena Sharma is a mum who perhaps always envisioned something huge for her daughter. Having been a swimmer herself, she put Bhakti into the waters when she was just over two and half years.
Bhakti, all of 25 years of age now is an open water swimmer and has to her credit of being an achiever to have swam in all the five oceans of the world, Indian ocean, Artic, Atlantic, Pacific ocean and Antarctic and the seven seas. Leena is the swimming coach to Bhakti apart from pursuing her profession of being a Kathak dancer.
In the year 2008, Leena and Bhakti became the first ever mother-daughter duo in the world to have swam the English Channel.
Early this year, Bhakti swam across 1.4miles in 52 minutes at a one-degree temperature in Antarctic ocean to break the world record set by British open water swimmer Lewis Pugh and American swimmer Lynne Cox. Recognizing the rising and unstoppable talent, even the PM of the country, Mr. Narendra Modi tweeted to congratulate her.
Based in the city of lakes, Udaipur, Leena Sharma talks with pride on the journey, “I have been a swimmer myself since I was young. I didn’t even have a personal coach. I learnt the skill by looking at other good swimmers. I used to admire Anita Sood a lot. I used to wim with her in the college team too.
Regarding Bhakti, she has been a sincere student and was a fast learner. We have always faced and overcome the challenges to achieve what we wanted.
I remember, for our English Channel swim, we practiced so much at a stretch for over 20 hours. The outside temperature was just 4 degrees and we had decided not to warm ourselves to get used to the climate. It was tough training.”
Talking about swimming advice to children, Leena says, “The best age to put a child in the waters is around one year of age as they don’t have any fear of water. But this should be done only with the presence of an adult, ideally the father or mother being in the waters with the baby.”
Bhakti first ventured in open waters when she was fourteen years old. Her mum told her about a long distance sea swim which takes place between Uran port to Gateway of India. It was a good change for her from the pools. She started training by doing long hours in pools. So began her first swim in Mumbai for the open waters. At the age of 14, she swam a distance of 36 Kms from Dharamtal to Gateway of India, Indian Ocean in 9 hours and 30 minutes.
On her journey, Bhakti shares, “My mother is my inspiration. She is the reason why I am able to stand today on a global platform. I was participating in many competitions and won many state level medals too. But moving from pools to deep waters, into the oceans, seas have changed the direction in my life.
Open water swimming is quite difficult because you are at the mercy of mother nature. Unlike pool swimming it’s not just your stamina that you need to train for but also understand waves, currents, marine life the saltiness of the sea etc. And this requires a lot of serious training. Open water swimming is a lifestyle.”
The Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award winner shares her most amazing and scary moments in the waters. “One of the scariest moments was during a swim in the Mediterranean sea. I saw a huge fin on my right and was taken aback. But then I told myself that, I am probably imagining it. When I finished the swim, my mom told me that a huge fin whale was actually swimming past me. And then a moment that I will cherish was recently during my swim in Antarctica when a penguin swam with me for almost half the duration of my swim. It made me smile throughout.”
Leena also has a son, Shlok who wants to pursue to make a mark in performing arts.
Wishing Bhakti many more occasions to set records and make every Indian proud of her achievements. As a line on to her video goes, she is truly challenging the conventional.
Perhaps the same holds true of Leena Sharma as a mum.