Since the blog needed to pick up pace, I asked a friend of mine to write something. Its a little long but a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is so good to read something that a friend writes. Its like a page from their life, which you never knew about before. You get to know so much more which you might not have come across in your daily conversations. This piece reminded me of something from my childhood as well which is a clear example of how you can use lessons in life in a constuctive manner, and how it all depends on you how you use it. More about that in the end.
I was 8 when I took my first plunge. I had been to the pool many times before, where my parents used to swim in the serene blue waters, while I would watch them enviously. This was the first time I was allowed to enter the waters. I ran to the changing rooms and hurriedly put on my costume. Then, I came to stand by the pool side, while waiting for my mother. Nearby I saw my classmates jumping into the water. They saw me, and called me over. I got all excited, and without a second thought, I jumped into the water.
Now, the shallow end in a typical pool is about 3 feet. My height then was much lesser than that. The immediate events after that are a blur. I remember feeling an intense apprehension. This feeling of water all around me was quite alien. I had no idea where the top was. I don’t even think it registered that I have to go the top. All I remember is there was water everywhere. I had opened my mouth (probably to scream), so I swallowed lots of water. I didn’t know breathing techniques, so I had inhaled a lot of water too. I had probably accepted that my end would be in this watery grave. Then, someone pulled me out. I couldn’t stop screaming and crying. I was coughing up water continuously. Some time, and a soft drink later, I had finally calmed down. I just knew one thing for sure: I never wanted to be near water again. That night, I had lots of drowning nightmares, and I kept my parents up the whole night.
One week later, I was back at the pool. I was over my ordeal, and once again desperately wanted to jump into the water. This time however, I waited for my mother to change and come out. I was given a tube, and at long last, followed my mother into the pool. The next one hour was a pure bliss. I don’t remember enjoying anything else so much. I would manage to paddle somehow in the tube, and swim from one place to another. I thoroughly enjoyed myself that day. After one week passed in this manner, I was ready to learn swimming. My father taught me swimming. First paddling, then the breathing techniques, and finally the arm strokes. It was not long before I was swimming whole breadths all on my own. While my friends would all be enjoying by throwing water at each other, or showing each other tricks, etc, I would only be content while swimming. One breadth after the next, then the next. After around a month(and after we shifted to Lucknow), I started following my father’s routine.
He would start with 12 laps in free style. Then he would do 6 laps in back stroke, and finally finish with 2 laps in free style. So this was 20 laps*50m each = 1km of swimming in the one hour. I joined him in this routine, and thus would start a very deep and lasting bond between me and my father. Of course, there was one problem. I didn’t know backstroke. So, my father taught me backstroke in between the laps. First, the basic iteration, then the more complicated 2 hands together version. Now, I was loving new styles of swimming, since they came easy to me. Soon, I learnt breast stroke, and doggy paddle too. I didn’t know about butterfly then. Then we refined our routine. 12 laps freestyle + 3 laps breast stroke, 3 backstroke(alternately) + 2 freestyle. Those were the good days.
After 3 years of this bliss, we moved to Chennai. The pool there was only 25m big, so it was not as much fun, so we weren’t as regular. After some time, we stopped going. After moving to Roorkee, we got a 50m pool again, and started going again for one year. Even though I was extremely busy with my studies and tutions (I had started with the horrible IITJEE tuition period), we always found time for the pool everyday. But after 1 year, my father became unwell, and soon, passed away. I had stopped swimming for a long time after that.
There were a number of reasons why swimming appealed to me. The moment my body came in contact with the water, I would get the sense of an immense liberation. It would feel like all limits have suddenly faded, and my body is capable of doing anything. Of course, there is way more flexibility in water. For instance, in the pool I could do forward flips and back flips, which I’m most certainly not capable of doing on land. And of course, diving. There is nothing like the thrill of jumping from the 5th board (10 m) into the deep end. The first time I dived, I landed flat on my stomach. It hurt like hell, but I knew I just have to do it again. Diving from the second board(3m) was a real challenge. Invariably, my feet would curve forwards, resulting in me almost landing on my back every time. It took me almost a month to perfect it. Also, there are so many things to achieve in a pool. Touching the bottom of the deep end for example. The pool in lucknow was 10 feet deep. So, by the time I would reach the bottom, there was immense pressure on my eardrums, and it would feel like they’re about to explode. Underwater swimming is also amazing. When your breath starts to run out, and you’re still halfway from your goal, the adrenaline rush at that time feels amazing. The first time I got goggles was amazing. I could see everything crystal clear below the water! Even simply splashing water on my brother or friends had its own charms.
After my father passed away, I didn’t think I would enjoy swimming any more. Swimming was our thing, and I couldn’t imagine doing it wothout him. My mother would continously urge me to go swimming again, but I just couldn’t do it. I missed it a lot though. After 4 years, in college I went to a local pool with my friends(in 4th year). I was slightly apprehensive at first. It reminded me of my first plunge. I was wondering if I still remembered all those things I’d learnt. Once I jumped in the water, the familiar feeling of liberation engulfed me. I had forgotten just how much I loved this feeling. Soon, I was doing my favourite strokes, back flips and everything. Even though the deepest part of the pool was only 7 feet, I couldn’t resist diving, and sure enough in my third dive, I forgot how shallow it is and got lost in the feeling, which resulted in my nose colliding hard with the pool floor, and it started bleeding. But I didn’t care, I was enjoying every minute of it. It was mixed emotions, though. I was missing my father so much, it was painful. I didn’t do any laps that day, I was simply teaching my friends how to swim.
Swimming has taught me a lot of stuff. Determination to take on new challenges and mental strength to finish challenges and not give up in the middle, among others. It has made my body flexible and increased my stamina, which helps me in other sports. Whenever I go to a beach(or river), I can’t resist jumping into the water, and since I know the breathing techniques, water doesn’t go into my nose or mouth, resulting in a more enjoyable experience. So, basically, it extends possibilities. The entire sea becomes my oyster. And finally the silence that engulfs you when you’re underwater is deafening. My whole body feels at peace, and it refreshes me to the core.
Once I started my job, I had decided that I would resume swimming. So, I found an okayish pool(25m). I do 40 laps now, and keep up the same routine: 24 freestyle, 6 breast-stroke, 6 back-stroke(alternate), and finally 4 freestyle. I try to do it at least 3 times a week(sometimes I fail miserably). Even now, swimming is a way to connect with my father. Whenever I’m finishing a lap, or dodging a person swimming blindly towards me, or running out of breath halfway in an underwater breadth, I remember the good times we had swimming together. I’m so glad I got over my fear of water caused by my fateful jump. Swimming is now so much more to me now than just a physical activity. It’s a portal which transports me to the past. It’s an instrument to lift my mood whenever I’m down. It’s a device that gives me emotional strength when I need it. It’s paradise!
Tell me you don’t want to swim after this? I genuinely can’t resist. I love the water but I am scared of it at the same time. I was about 9 years old when I went swimming with my father. I was just playing at the shallow end when suddenly he picked me up and pushed me to the deep end. I flipped over backwards and water rushed into my nose. I couldn’t breathe and my father told me to keep trying. I somehow found the edge and climbed up. I left the pool before anyone could even tell me about what had happened. I never went swimming again. But maybe now I will give it a try again. 🙂