Das, Brojen (1927-1998) first South Asian to swim across the English Channel. Born on 9 December 1927 in Kuchiamora village of Bikrampur, Munshiganj Brojen Das had his primary education in his native village. He passed matriculation in 1946 from the KL Jubilee High School, Dhaka and Intermediate and Bachelor of Arts from Vidyasagar College, Kolkata.
An adept swimmer from boyhood and making the river buriganga his media for his swimming exercise, Brojen motivated the East Pakistan Sports Federation to introduce annual swimming competition in Dhaka. The first such competition took place in 1953. In most local and national swimming competitions and tournaments Brojen proved himself to be an outstanding swimmer of the country.
Brojen Das received an invitation to take part in the English Channel Swimming Competition scheduled to be held in 1958, which he accepted. He then made the shitalakshya and most turbulent part of the lower meghna his field training and exercise. Finally, he swam from narayanganj to chandpur, a distance that a steam ship took about 2 and a half hour at that time.
Immediately before joining the English Channel competition, Brojen successfully joined the Mediterranean swimming competition from Capri to Naples. The competition gave him added confidence and an opportunity to acclimatize himself with the Oceanic waters. Brojen Das arrived in England in June 1958 to take part in the English Channel competition. Swimmers from 23 countries joined the contest and Brojen Das was the only contestant from the South Asian countries. The swimming began at midnight of 18 August 1958 and it came to a close in the afternoon of the next day. Fatigue led many to withdraw from the competition on the way, but undaunted Brojen continued with the strongest determination and joined the ranks of the history of the heroes crossing the Channel.
Brojen Das swam across the English Channel six times from 1958 to 1961. He made a new record in 1961 by crossing across the channel in ten hours 30 minutes, the former records being 10 hours and 35 minutes.
Brojen Das was honoured with the National Sports Award in 1976 and the Independence Award (posthumously) in 1999. He died on 1 June 1998. [S M Mahfuzur Rahman]