ADVENTURES IN AQUATICS


ADVENTURES IN AQUATICS

Analyzing my ‘aqua mania’, it is obvious that I must have been a fish in my previous birth. Oh! I just love to revel in water, go floating underwater, let go of my body allowing the water to support my weight. But, judging from my paranoia of the deep side of the pool (irrespective of the size of the pool) it looks likely that my Piscean legacy is rather limited. So, I conclude that I must have been a shallow water fish.

Earlier my shenanigans in water were restricted to frolicking in the shallow waters of innocuous rivers and the beachside. But one incident (or accident?) motivated me to learn swimming.

It was our ritual trip to the temple of our family deity on the banks of river Cauvery. Though my body had been weakened due to a bout of ‘flu in the preceding 3-4 days, I was eager to get into the water before any elder could stop me. I held my 5 year old daughter by hand, got into the water and ?…… just sank in! My legs just floated away. I could feel myself swallowing water. I thought it was a very pleasant way to die. Fortunately I had not let go of the little one’s hand. She was under the impression that I was teaching her swimming, a long cherished wish of hers! But, luckily for her, she had seen her younger brother relieving himself in the river. So, in sheer disgust she had not opened her mouth. My aunt–in law who was just then approaching the river saw me going down and alarmed, she shouted, “Vimala is going down. Someone save her”. My husband who was carrying our youngest son was just watching stunned. (‘Good riddance’ he must have thought—At least that’s what I tease him). But, my three brothers-in-law, all good swimmers, dived into the water and buoyed me up. I came up once but sank in again. The second time I was buoyed up, a villager sitting on one of the rocks pulled me by the hand and I came up, still clutching my daughter in the other hand! The whole episode could not have lasted more than 1 or 2 minutes. But it looked like a lifetime to me under the water.

After this incident, I had made up my mind to learn swimming. But, the opportunity came only when my children grew up and became good swimmers. We happened to be staying in
Sadashivnagar ,Bangalore at that time and an Olympic size pool was just at the end of our road. But, I did not venture into the big pool right away. I took my children to the smaller pool in the Defence Services club and had my lessons from them there. By the time I learnt to survive in water (that is, on the shallow side), my daughter’s abdomen had developed many scratches due to my frantic clutching. I also discovered that my forte was the froglike ‘breast stroke’ and not the glamorous ‘free style’ or the graceful ‘butterfly’. But, I never mastered the ‘back stroke’ because somehow it made me feel insecure.

Later I exercised my swimming skills at quite a few pools apart from the one at Sadashivnagar. The best one was the pool in my son’s backyard in California, where I did not waste a single day of our 4-month stay. Of course, there was also the occasion during our pilgrimage, when my floating under 2 feet of water at Sangam in Prayag had made a nervous wreck of my companion!

In spite of all this I never graduated to the deep side. How could I, when I could still drown in 5ft of water in one of the pools ? It happened this way: While staying in Jayanagar in Bangalore, I used to walk 20 mins to the swimming pool for my daily swim. It was an All-ladies batch. I had to attend the rehearsal of a play later in the afternoon, for which I had planned to go after my swim. At the end of the paid-for one hour of swimming, I went suddenly numb. I found that I could not move my limbs to come up. Somehow, floundering, I managed to catch hold of the hand of one of the ladies and come up. It set me thinking. Nobody either at home or in the theatre knew about my day’s schedule. If I had drowned that day, nobody would have known where to find me! A scary thought indeed!! Later, when I narrated this at home, my daughter jeered, “Oh mom, surely you must be the only swimmer who could drown in 5 ft of water”.

But still, I thought I made a good swimming teacher, if not a life saver, fully aware as I was of the pitfalls a learner would encounter. I had even undertaken to teach the girls in the combined batch of my school before the project folded up and sure enough ALL ON THE SHALLOW SIDE ONLY!

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SCOOTEROBATICS


My husband takes me on the pillion sometimes during short scooter trips. Being a sari-wearer, I do not sit astride, but sit sidewise on the pillion with both my legs hanging down on one side. But for long trips he always takes the car out.

That particular day we had to go to a mutt in Malleswaram, at the other end of Bangalore to observe my father –in-law’s ‘shraddh’. The non-availability of parking place being a big deterrent, we decided to take the two wheeler instead of the car.

To his credit, I must admit that Ramu has always been a good rider/driver with quick reflexes. So we reached our destination in minimum time with no mishaps. But our arrival on the scooter evoked mixed responses from his extended family who had gathered there. While a few marveled at his enterprise, others tut-tutted with disapproval and condemned the sheer folly of two oldies zipping about on scooter like teenagers.

Moreover, to our great chagrin we discovered that the yard around the Mutt had been leveled into a spacious car park!

After the rituals and the special lunch we headed back home. Thankfully Ramu had hung the heavy plastic basket of goodies from the hook under the rider’s seat, thus leaving me free, with only my handbag hanging from my shoulder.

Being a Saturday, the road was chock-a-block with traffic. As the sun hit me sharply on the face, I remembered that I had not applied sun screen before starting (Doctor’s instructions). By chance, the bottle of sun screen was in my handbag. Even as the scooter was moving, I took the plastic bottle out and gave a squeeze. But what landed on my palm was not a drop. A trapped air bubble had burst spattering the white gooey stuff in a big dollop, with some even splashing on my sari. I applied the stuff generously on my face not caring what the people around me would take me for and tried to use the rest on my arms. But I found that the net lining of my sari pallu had got entangled with my gecko pendant (Gecko is a lucky mascot for Hawaiians. I had been gifted a gold gecko pendant by my son’s in-laws in Hawaii. It had many ‘entanglable’ points). I did not succeed in freeing my pallu completely. Even as I managed somehow to dab the sun screen on my arms, I found my two pairs of glasses slipping down. Yes, two pairs. As my outsized goggles were not prescription ones, I used to wear my bifocals first for clear vision and reading, and then wear the big goggles on top of it , on the rare occasions when I had to venture out in the sun. (Thanks to my grand daughter, I am now a proud owner of prescription goggles). I somehow managed to put both pairs on, with the frames and the lenses generously smeared with the white stuff. And then I looked up triumphantly at the blazing sun like Katrina Kaif in the ad. Thank God, all this I managed without my husband’s knowledge. He was busy concentrating on negotiating the scooter in the thick traffic.

On the narrow Cottonpet road the traffic is so thick that a side-saddle rider like me wouldn’t know whether my legs are hanging across our own scooter or the next fellow’s. Facing the left as I was, I sensed a Good Samaritan behind me in a nearby car gesticulating in the space trying to tell me something. Imagining that he could be warning me about my long pallu hanging on the wheel, I checked up. But I was well contained with no loose flaps flying. A little later, a scooter- borne couple paused to kindly tell me a little more clearly that our scooter was spewing thick black smoke. By the time I could convey this to my helmet clad husband’s ears in the midst of ear shattering noise of the traffic and he could comprehend the situation, we were already nearing Jayanagar.
Thus, without me falling off the pillion in spite of all my calisthenics and without the two of us going up in smoke on a heated two wheeler, we managed to reach home.

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