Yesterday the child invited me to come see him swim. Given that the father has been assiduously training him over the past week, and telling me that he has improved vastly and is now, to believe the proud pater, a couple of months away from competitive swimming, I decided to take my rather skeptical self down to the pool in the morning and watch the child swim in order to arrive at my own unbiased conclusion of the level of progress he had made in the sport. Given that I don’t swim myself and my only encounter with the pool has been to loll around in the shallow end in order to assuage the guilt I felt for spending a king’s ransom on swimwear that I had to squeeze my lard in inch by inch, I am not qualify to comment on the child’s improvement in technique and potential to participate at competitive level, all I could say was that he was no longer flailing around in a panicky dog paddle which has been his consistent style for the past year and was actually striking out boldly where no brat had gone before. Namely, into the deep end. And swimming length wise laps. I did the cheerleader mom routine and almost toppled into the pool meself, fully dressed. Nimble footwork saved me from a moment of complete panic given that I was doing my cheerleading number around the deep end edge. No, my life did not flash before my eyes, given there were two coaches and one erstwhile swimming champ, namely the spouse strategically positioned around the blue to keep folks from taking in lungfuls of water.
While the child was being put through his laps, I had ample time to lounge around on a deckchair strategically placed so as to avoid the clear intensity of the morning sun and observe the rest of the flora and fauna about the place.
I was horrified to see it swarming with people, so much that elbows were being grazed and kicks were landing on unwary faces within the pool. We had a healthy percentage of people wanting to learn swimming or just wanting to partake of the activity for excercise purposes. There were few swimming moms, who like me, had arrived to watch the apples of their eyes perfect their stroke and kick and to provide constant encouragement and inspiration from the background. Like for instance, “Stop crying like a girl, or I’m going to ground you for a week if you don’t swim the lap.” Yup. To paraphrase Wilde, there are hardboiled eggs in the soccer/swimming mom category but these were all twenty minutes. I shrank into the corner, given that I was doing nothing but the occasional thumbs up gesture and encouraging smile to the child whenever he caught my eye. Honestly speaking, mine eye was well distracted.
The swimming pool, along with kiddy pool places strategically next to it, catered to our entire complex of six 20 storey towers. Ergo, the fight for space to stretch one’s arms in the pool was indicative of the space crunch in the urban milieu. There were two separate swimming coaches, one barking orders at a bunch of under 10s who were kicking away furiously, another surrounded by a group of ladies, modestly clad in frilled swimming costumes who were in earnest discussion on inhale exhale techniques and probably thought they would get down to actually practicing said technique. And there were the assorted geriatrics adding colour and spirit to the proceedings with their individual idiosyncrasies.
Here, after ages, are some jottings from the swimming pool.
Dear Uncleji, pouring water from the lota into the swimming pool, chanting your prayers, its delightful to see tradition and ritual adapt itself to the constraints of modern living. But then, taking a plastic bucket and pouring bucketfuls of water from pool onto self while chanting, does make me edge away from you stealthily and put my child behind me. And then when you finally get into the pool and start swimming, loudly chanting the Gayatri Mantra, I notice everyone giving you wary glances and a wide berth.
Ladies, ladies, ladies, you are completely modest in those swimming costumes with frills, covering your lissome selves to your knees. Nobody is casting lustful looks at you. Please don’t skitter into the pool in such a flutter like you got caught smoking pot or something.
Sleepy boy, your sullen expression is so indicative of how much you enjoy the swimming class. And yes, the coach does it right when he insists you start dive into the pool at the deep end. Bet that woke you up quick.
Auntyji, how long will you discuss whether to inhale while going head into water or exhale while going into the water. It’s well on forty minutes since the conversation began. Ah, I get it, this is a strategy to actually avoid swimming isn’t it? Wonder how your coach hasn’t caught on yet.
Dear elderly gentleman, you must invest in a swimming cap. The lopsided lock of hair that otherwise serves you well by getting combed over your bald pate to camouflage the lack of foliage up there, can actually look very scary when it hangs low till your shoulders from above one ear when you climb out of the pool. I actually jumped out of my skin wondering whether you had your scalp unravelling or the pelt of a small rodent lodged behind your ear.
And the bachcha party hanging on for dear life onto the railings or your kickboards, I salute your courage. Wild elephants couldn’t drag me into the deep end with only them boards of Styrofoam between me and instant death by drowning. Ergo, respect.
Finally, dear Mrs A. Discussing reciptes while practicing your kicking is indeed a splendid example of your multitasking abilities. I am impressed. I couldn’t discuss anything coherent while submerged neck deep in the liquid stuff. The only sounds that would emerge from my larynx would be a terrified glugging and occasional piercing shrieks to get me out of there which would convince a random passing stranger that foul things were afoot involving knives and evil intent and rush in to save me.
The next time I go to the pool, am going to get there with swimwear within the outer layers and dare to step into the water. I hope I am not so appalling coy while stepping into the water. Despite the corpus collossus and the multiple stomachs. Maybe, just maybe, I might just gather the courage to finally learn to swim. This could be a life skill which would serve me well in the event I want to go for an Arctic cruise and we encounter errant icebergs enroute and I have no pianos to haul my carcass on. Though, I draw the line at having to endure Ms Dion singing in banshee manner in the background.