The other day in a resort in Kodugu where we had gone for a week long holiday, an elderly lady expressed a desire to get into the pool though she did not know swimming. Her daughter who owned a full body swimsuit lent it to her so that she could have some fun in water. The younger lady used to don the full swimsuit as she was allergic to sun and ultraviolet rays. Nobody had any objection to the suit as it was health based. Then I wondered why all the furor by associating such a suit with religion, calling it ‘Burkini’ and linking it to the highly religion-associated costume ‘ Burkha’ and to the fanaticism and asking for its ban in the pools of the developed world?
Men have an easy thing wearing the universal trunk. The problem arises when we women get into water. Our mothers would take religious baths in rivers and ponds in their 9 yard sarees. Half the saree would be tied around and the rest floating. Apart from standing in a shallow area their upper body would hardly be under water. They would just have a ritual dunking of their heads in the water, their fingers tightly pinching their noses to prevent water getting in. But, if they were to get into the swimming pools, would they have chosen to do so in ‘madisaar-kini’ or ‘mel kacche –kini’? Just a thought!
When I started going for swimming, my mother-in law asked me naively, ‘What do you wear while swimming?’ Probably she thought I would be modest enough to wear a saree or a petticoat with a dupatta for the upper body. She was quite taken aback when I told her that I wear a single piece swimsuit. She was polite enough though not to reveal her mental shock. People forget that one can look more sexy and ‘revealing’ in a wet saree than in a practical swim suit as proved by many of our film heroines.
Bathing in rivers is quite different to swimming in a pool. Apart from the fashion statements, a swimsuit is highly practical allowing free movement of limbs. Wearing a bikini like the world class swimmers though does not guarantee a world class standard of skill.
Of course, when one is not interested in the exercise resulting from serious, brisk swimming, one can just hang around the pool wearing attractive bikinis which I have noticed quite a few young girls indulge in.
Swimming is a unique experience. Water is a totally different element where one experiences wonderfully the gravity being countered by buoyancy. Aquatic exercises are particularly advised for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. One can start teaching swimming even to toddlers; earlier the better.
I feel the medical benefit and pleasure one derives from swimming is more important than what one wears to get it. One should be allowed to wear what one feels like. Nobody should make unnecessary religious associations and go to the extent of getting it banned. So long as one doesn’t get into the water in street soiled clothes, the pool authorities should not bother as to what one wears (or doesn’t wear as in some cases).
Let’s hope that with Burkini, there will be a revolution in the field of women’s swimwear- shalwar-kini, jeans-kini, leotard-kini, dhoti-kini !
Illustration courtesy illustrations of. com