While choosing a mode of transportation to school, we often contemplate whether to go by bus, a van, a two-wheeler or an autorickshaw. But meet Abdul Malik, a mathematics teacher in Malappuram, Kerala. He has been going to school everyday taking the river route. Now, that is not an easy route to take even on a boat, but this 45- year-old does it in the most unique way: He swims! He swims across the river every single day to teach his favourite students at the Muslim Lower Primary School at Padinjattumuri.
“The distance from my house to school is hardly 1.5 km. However, you need to cross a river. If you were to go by road, you have to travel 12 km. I was travelling by road for a year but it was tedious. It is my colleague who gave me the idea to swim across the river,” Malik explains. And that idea proved the biggest boon to this teacher who was eager to fulfil his duty. He joined the school in 1993 and from 1994, he has been swimming across the river to go to school.
DIFFICULTIES AND SOLUTIONS
He walks to the river bank, removes his shirt and wraps his lower body with a towel and takes the plunge with a car tyre tube around his waist. He carries his change of clothes and slippers in a plastic cover which he manages to keep above the water. Once he crosses the river, he changes to dry clothes and walks to school, like there was no other way to do it!
“I’ve never faced any problem with fish or snakes in the water. I’ve seen them in the water but they are harmless. During monsoons, sometimes, trees are uprooted and they come flowing down the river but I’ve been fortunate enough to stay safe. I’m a good swimmer and even the worst monsoons have not deterred me from swimming across the river,” Malik says proudly.
He finds this way of going to school much more time saving and efficient because this way he does not need to wait for public transport, change buses or travel a longer distance.
“It is also a good way to teach students a life skill. We teach our school children who are above grade 5 how to swim,” Malik says.
Seeing an online report on this teacher’s unique daily journey to school, a well-wisher from London came down to Malappuram to see what he could do to help Malik. He had gifted him a fiberglass boat which he could operate with the help of a pulley and rope tied to the anchorage on both shores of the river. “The boat did not prove very beneficial to me. It did not have oars and it was a huge fishing boat. So, it was not very practical for me. It was easier to swim. So I gave it to a friend who needed it,” Malik says laughing.
ALL FOR THE STUDENTS
“I don’t have big dreams. All I want to do is reach school on time and reach back home to my family without wasting too much time. I want to be a good role model for my students. Teachers are the first people who influence students, so I want to be there for them to teach them and guide them to do good. As far as I know, my students love me,” says Malik humbly.
Since the past two years, Malik has not been taking the rough river route to school. He says he has more responsibilities after the headmaster of the school retired from work. Now, he often needs to go to the treasury, office and attend teacher meetings for schoolrelated work. He has been taking the road route, changing buses and auto rickshaws. He does not own a vehicle. He is disappointed about the time he wastes when he takes this route but he does not have a choice. But his commitment to his students does not waver. His dedication to teaching remains intact whether he goes by road or by river.
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