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Jakarta, known as the sinking megacity, is a low-lying area subject to monthly high tides, heavy rainfall and rising sea-levels, which results in severe flooding round the year, causing the city to sink at a rate of 5 to 20cm annually.
Two young brothers, Gyaan and Vigyaan, aged 12 and 9, lived with their parents in the slum area along the Ciliwung river, on the north west coast of Java island in Jakarta city. They belonged to the fishing folk, who worked along the coastline of the Java Sea.
"Being able to swim and staying aware of the looming weather conditions is very important for us, as flooding claims several lives each year" said the volunteer teacher at the survival tips training camp, organised for slum dwellers. "In fact, during the monsoon season, the water level in the river could rise by 10–12 metres overnight, overflowing river banks and flooding the nearby areas. You need to be prepared for any such emergency". The teacher prepared the slum children to attend swimming classes for survival during floods.
"Vigyaan, my little brother, We are safe outside the water, not inside it! Let us promise each other that we will never step into the water, no matter what the teacher says! " quietly whispered Gyaan in his brothers ears. Vigyaan hugged him tight and said "I promise saudara (Brother in Indonesian)". The boys shared a thick bond and had much in common including their fear of water since they were witness to the loss of several lives and homes in the recurrent floods in the area.
In Dec 2012, a special swimming camp was organised for the slum children by Rukraplut Ratchprasong, a local swimming hero who had several state level records to his name. Gyaan & Vigyaan had escaped the swimming camp and came home that evening, to find their parents furious. "Bodoh!! (Stupid in Indonesian) How can you two be so foolish to skip the swimming session? Do you know how many of our neighbours were washed away in the water last year?" said the Father, in rage, hiding his fear of losing his boys. . "If you do not go for the training, I may have to see your dead bodies in the water. When the floods come, roads turn into rivers and the water is neck-high. You must both learn how to swim . Do not upset us any further." said their angry mother. The boys agreed to attend the following session to be conducted by Rukraplut.
Rukraplut imparted the slum boys with additional classroom training at International Sports Club of Indonesia, located in the main city. He taught them swimming-breathing-floating techniques via simulations; the slum boys were taught the benefits in the variation of strokes that could be used in different water conditions; they were shown images and videos to highlight the nuances of under-water breathing. The boys were then taken to the Ciliwung river to practice their learnings. The slum boys squealed in excitement the entire time they were in the water. Despite the excitement shown by the slum boys and the honour of the being trained under Rukraplut, Gyaan and Vigyaan were nervous.
"What if we really need to swim at the time of floods? Should we go for practice?" asked a worried Vigyaan. "Of course not! We do not need to practice. We have attended the classroom sessions. All the theory is enough in case of any emergency! Have you not understood how to stay afloat? You have to simply keep still like a dead body, Remember? And slowly wade through the water and hold your breath till you find some support. It is not difficult, Kanan? (Right in Indonesian) stated Gyaan, pretending to know-it-all. Vigyaan nodded in agreement and did not argue with his elder brother. The brothers stayed away from the water and made a secret pact amongst themselves i.e. to attend the classroom training at the fancy club but to skip the swimming practice, hoping their parents would never find out.
However, over time, Vigyaan was often tempted to enter the water, when his friends shared their joy experienced during swimming. "Maybe I should just try it once" - he often caught himself thinking. One fine day, he took the decision to go ahead and practice swimming all by himself. Since he had promised his elder brother Gyaan that he would not swim, Vigyaan ventured out into the Ciliwung river late at night, when Gyaan was asleep. Having the theoretical knowledge in place, Vigyaan practiced hard to stay afloat taking support of a wooden ledge in the water. It seemed difficult at first but after directly experiencing the joy of being able to float, he persisted and became a good swimmer through self-training. He practised during the nights when the weather was favourable and championed the different strokes and breathing techniques, unknown to Gyaan.
On 17 January 2013, torrential rains began late at night, and within hours a dike collapsed causing heavy flooding in the city. By dawn, water had began entering the boy's home in the slum. The family was horrified to find this sudden overnight development and were unable to reach safer highlands or building terraces, having got trapped in the their home. Both boys had climbed atop a storage cupboard and waited for instructions from their parents, who were already waist-deep in the rising water.
"Thankfully our important possessions and savings were kept on higher shelves on the wall. We are tying them up and placing them in this tumbler, to carry on our heads while we swim out. Both you boys follow us." said their father, worried about losing their valuables in the flood, assuming the boys knew how to swim. "I must follow father and help him with the tumbler. The water is in strong force and too deep. Swim with caution using the tyre as a float." said their mother, who felt helpless and incapable of helping the boys. "Do not worry about us Mother. We have been training for a month. We will follow you shortly." said Gyaan in a reassuring tone. As their parents moved out, Gyaan stopped Vigyaan from attempting to swim. "Do not enter the water. We will be safe and sound. The water will subside as it usually does. Parents will return with in a raft or on a log to take us as they always did previously. Just cover yourself with a sheet and stay dry" said Gyaan as he downplayed the situation.
More than half hour had passed, the water level had continued to rise with much force. Most objects of the house were floating around them including odd plastic dinner plates, kitchen utensils, their clothes and an old blue toothbrush. The boys realised if the parents took longer to return, the slum would be fully destroyed and they could be carried away with the force of water and maybe even drown.
Gyaan was getting extremely anxious yet he masked his growing fear. "It is dangerous to stay inside, we should swim our way out now. We have learned how to float and swim, let's follow the instructions given by Sir Rukraplut. Are you Ready?" screamed Gyaan, to make himself heard against the powerful disruptive sounds of heavy rains. Vigyaan nodded.
Gyaan took lead and jumped into the water but flapped his hands and feet too much while trying to float. He seemed to lose control and began to sink. He started gasping for his breath desperately and screamed for help, unable to stay afloat for more than few seconds at a time.
"Little brother, I am unable to float. Vigyaaa---aan---nnnnn...Membantu! (Help in Indonesian)" he screamed amidst sound of gushing water, as he kept bobbing in and out of the water, sinking further below.
On seeing this, Vigyaan entered the water and swiftly swam toward his elder brother; he caught Gyaan's shirt from the collar and pulled him up with all his might; he asked Gyaan to take his support. Despite the weight of his brother slowing down his speed, Vigyaan swam his way outside the house, to a nearby floating plank of wood, which looked like a door of one of their neighbours home. Vigyaan helped Gyaan to climb onto the door. Meanwhile Vigyaan heard some his friends, stuck in the other slum houses, screaming for help. He quickly swam back, and brought them out to the floating door one at a time. Vigyaan, all of 9 years, alone rescued Gyaan and 5 other boys thereafter.
Gyaan was watching all this in disbelief. He was starring at Vigyaan with mouth wide open. Gyaan was frozen in action, unable to apply any of his accumulated learnings as he was too scared to fail, for he had never practiced. He could not understand how Vigyaan was managing with relative ease. Shortly, after, the boys parents were brought to the slum area in an official Navy raft to take the children to the rescue halls in the city. After few months Vigyaan was awarded a medal for his bravery displayed at the time of crisis.
At their young age, Gyaan and Vigyaan were no different. They had similar traits, likes and dislikes but what set them apart was one key virtue, the virtue of applying Knowledge into Living Practice.
The term “Gyaan” derived from the Sanskrit root “gna” is equivalent to the English word “Knowledge”. In common speech, Gyaan is taken to mean thinking at the intellectual level, which includes, all the knowledge noted within oneself, derived from books and records - ancient or modern, spiritual or secular.
"Vigyaan" refers to the feeling of fulfilment of understanding that Knowledge through Practice - it is the 'Ohh' / 'Aha' moments one experiences, for understanding what the Knowledge means.
Thus, Knowledge (Gyaan) of any of the world sciences or spiritual sciences, has zero value unless it is actually experienced through Living Practice (Vigyaan) as the situation that requires its application will not always be known. The meaning of the popular quote "Knowledge is Power" underscores the same basis i.e. 'Living Practice', wherein Power is experienced when Knowledge is actually put to use. The more you use Knowledge - the more you grow internally and externally in experience; Living Practice is the hidden force behind the Knowledge in each cell of this Universe that propels evolution and transformation of Life.