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!