Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pool cool

I was very enthusiastic about learning to swim, at least much more than my lazy bones sister. I recall clearly the eagerness with which I had bought my swimming trunks and the joyful thrill of entering a swimming pool on a hot summer's day for the first time. Then on the very same day, I managed to slip in the shallow end of the pool causing chlorinated water to surge through my nose and spent a few seconds lying prostate on the tiled floor of the pool looking at the glimmering sun through 3 feet of water. I convinced myself that this was a near death experience, a close parallel to how drowning must feel like and from that moment my urge to go swimming was nowhere to be found. However the Rotary Club's swimming coach cum lifeguard was dogged enough to teach me enough about swimming to help me keep comfortably afloat. I will be eternally grateful to him for his lack of patience, because one day exasperated by my reluctance beyond measure he simply chucked me into the deep end of the pool and I discovered that I could swim for the pool's edge like I was born in water.

Water is so not a human being's natural habitat and that is what makes swimming so much fun. It's the closest thing to flying that an ordinary man can come to even though he is gliding through a fluid of a different kind from air. The tiny bubbles of air leaking through the tiles at the bottom of the deep end of the pool were always such a tantalising attraction. Just to dive down into the deepest point of the pool (All of 15 feet) and place hands on the steady stream of bubbles trying to choke them out offered an incomparable thrill. When friends would get together, there were sessions of stunt diving with most of them ending in a disastrous, painful and comical manner. Amidst the anarchy caused by us kids, there'd be the serious types committed to doing their 50 laps for the day and often impeded by us the plastic ball chasing amphibian hooligans. Stern glances were dealt out to little effect because everyone knew that it was as much our pool as theirs. Then there were characters like the fat middle aged lady who'd start shouting from the other end of the pool, "Bacche log, hat jaoo! Auntyji aa rahi hai!" (Kids get out of the way, aunty is coming through) before wading her way through our pack like a wheezy whale leaving trails in her wake.

A summer evening spent in the pool letting the cool ripples of water wash over our bodies, packed as it was with screaming kids, consoling parents, irritated athletes and time killers like us was undoubtedly the best way to chill. Only when the sun went down below the horizon, the water started to turn a little chilly and the bottom of the pool reflected the floodlights in an eerie haphazard manner would we give up our 25m X 12.5m sea of comfort. Lumber out, limbs aching despite not having swum a single complete lap with serious intent, grab the tastiest plate of "bhel puri" ever made (at the moment, it felt so to our hungry souls) and trudge back into the boring and hot old world of soil & feet.

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