Swimming to work (Abdul Malik)

45 year old Abdul Malik had spent the last 14 years swimming to work.

Malik says “Teaching is my life and these children depend on me so if swimming each day is the price I have to pay then so be it.”

A mental health doctor from England, named Dr Alam, heard of Malik’s remarkable story and has donated him a fibreglass boat.

“On learning about his plight, I decided that he should not be swimming any more to reach his school.”

Dr. Alam said that “I’m happy I could do something to alleviate the woes of a man in need.”

Malik lives in a poor area of India, the Padinjatumuri village of Mallapuram district. Cars are a luxury and something a teacher could never afford. Walking to work is not possible so therefore the only other feasible option for Malik was to take a bus. However, Malik felt that by taking a bus he ran the risk of being late. There’s no guarantee he’d be able to get on the bus, such is the congestion, and even if he was able to it’d take him a further two hours from leaving his house to arriving at work. So, unbelievably, Malik felt he had little option but to swim, as swimming was the only way he could guarantee to get to work on time – which for him, was all that matters.

“There are no bridges to cross this river and the only other route to the school is a two-hour long trek via the bus which is always running late. Therefore, swimming happens to be the only choice and for me to teach my students then this is what I have to do.” says Malik.

Every morning Malik put together a spare pair of clothes into a plastic bag that he then carried over his head. He wrapped a rubber tube around him and then jumps into the dirty Kadalundi river and navigates his way to work. He had been doing this for the past 14 years.

“He is very punctual. In fact much more than those who use other modes of transport. His dedication to his work is superb,” says Headmaster of AMLPS School, K M Mohammed Basheer.

“We love this teacher,” says a student at the school where he teaches.

Every day Malik risked his own health by wading through the Kadalundi river. When most people arrive to work the first thing they do is go and grab a coffee. The first thing Abdul Malik did was get himself dry and changed into a new set of clothes.

Unsurprisingly he’s the most popular teacher at school, and the most punctual. Even when monsoon season hit, and currents become even more dangerous, Malik was still the first person through the door.

People may ask why he did it?

“We wait for him to arrive each day, he’s such a great teacher. We depend on him to get a good education.” says one of his students.

And for Malik, the fact students depended on him was a reason to get up every morning and cross that river.

Malik wasn’t just teaching his students about maths and science, he, like so many of the best teachers, was inspiring them to be better than what they are.

Back in 2014 Malik’s story was shared widely on social media and Dr Alam, a mental health doctor from the UK felt compelled to help Malik.

“On learning about his plight, I decided that he should not be swimming any more to reach his school.”

The fibreglass boat was bought by Dr. Alam and delivered to Mr. Malik at Perumbalam in Anakkayam panchayat. Malik now operates the boat with the help of a pulley and rope tied to the anchorage on both shores of the river.

“This will give him advantage to operate the boat from both shores,” said Dr. Alam.

Initially the pulley and rope system proved problematic so Khajah Shihabuddin, lecturer at Government Polytechnic College, Tirurangadi, offered his class (and his own) technical support to fix the system.

Malik is still the first to arrive at school but he now does so needing only one set of clothes.