Ever since I can remember my father enrols me all sorts of classes. I started my Carnatic music classes along with kindergarten. It must have been a policy that I must socialise with other children or learn something. But I think that it really was to get me out of the house. I was very happy indoors, reading a book, or drawing, or just wrecking havoc being naughty. Outdoors was just dirty, hot and too much noise! It really is the same even today.
This morning, during breakfast I noticed a leaflet lying on the dining table. It had come along with the morning newspapers. And what do you know – It’s for one of my least favourite places.
I really don’t remember the year; I was definitely 7 years old at least when my father decided to enrol me in swimming classes. I say I was definitely 7 since I got my spectacles before my 7th birthday. Also, this was after my father came back from Bombay after a 6-month long assignment. Whenever he travels he brings back something for me and my sister. This time, he brought me a swimsuit –a brown one with two green-blue stripes diagonally across the torso. It had a matching cap as well. I really liked the cap!
Since we live in Gopalapuram, he took me to Savera which was the closest. Savera was a nice place in my mind. We had been to dinners and parties and it was all fun. But I had never been to the pool; I had only seen it from the upstairs dining in the dark. Have you seen this pool? It is really weird.
The pool is shaped like a pear, and it has weird mosaics on the bottom of it. Take a look. Now, it may seem normal to you, but being short-sighted, these things, especially at the deep end looked like Orcas to me. I had seen Free Willy by then and would definitely have not liked to come face to face with an orca – mosaic or not!
The classes that I was enroled in were first thing in the morning. I dressed in my swimsuit and put my frock on over it. The cap, a water bottle, a towel etc went in a bag that I would carry. My father would then drive us to Savera and come with me to the pool side. It all started innocently. Get in the water; hold to the rails and float; now hold onto the rails and float and start kicking your legs. That’s all fun. Then our instructor asked us to swim up to and fro in the shallow end. That too was ok, except I couldn’t see.
I used to come home with incomplete notes and when asked why I would always say I couldn’t see clearly. My parents thought this was an excuse and I was just being lazy. That was probably true before. Around Diwali that year I had conjunctivitis and when we went to the eye doctor he prescribed glasses and asked my parents why they were negligent thus far. Now if anything my parents are dutiful and sincere in their parenting. And so, I ended up being pampered a bit more than the usual. Oh, I started with prescription glasses for a -3.0 for both eyes.
So, getting back to the pool. With this sort of sight, it was an absolute terror to see those things at the bottom of the pool. Every day as I climbed out of the pool, my father would be lounging nearby drinking his coffee. It went well for two days. The next day, half way into our session, the instructor asks us to get out of the pool and line-up at the deep end. All the kids dutifully did. Then he says jump, everyone but me jumps. I was shot such a dirty look and asked to jump again, I didn’t. All of a sudden, I end up being shoved into the water! There are killer whales in the water; I am flapping around kicking out my hands and legs to no avail trying to get out there. I really felt one of the seals being hunted by those whales. While I was doing all this trying to remain alive, something gets hold of my shoulder scaring me even further. All the air in my lungs was probably gone with my underwater gasp. It was our instructor getting hold of my swim suit and pushing me in the direction of the shallow end. Then he asks to do it all over again. And again and again. With the taste of pool water in my mouth, and tears in eyes I complied.
The first few times I was shoved into the water. Then I thought if I have to die it might as well be by my choice and I jumped into the water the next few times. Now all this was truly scary to me as a kid. End of that class I got out of the water and looked at my father. He was there still lounging with his coffee.
After we got home, I declared there will not be any more swimming classes for me. When my mother asked why my father told her the whole encounter and said I would get over it. I really think he was getting used to lounging around. Next day, after being woken up, I locked myself up in the bathroom and refused to come out unless they stop my swimming classes. I had to make a whole lot of threats as well including bad grades before my parents agreed to it. That was the end of any talk of swimming for me.
My father still held hopes for my sister and they kept the brown swimsuit until she was old enough to go to classes. Fate had other plans though since my sister was often sick as a child and had acute tonsillitis. When the doctors had told my parents to not let her play around water for any length of time, swimming was out of the question. The brown swimsuit was eventually donated.
Chutney case’s similar experience can be read here.
The pool in question from the top