One of my blogger friends Evelyn wrote an interesting post a few days ago about swimming. She was musing whether one’s favourite swimming stoke has any correlation with the personality of that person. That reminded me of my muse about a driver’s traffic behaviour and his character.
Her post also brought back the memories of how we learnt swimming. The density of swimming pools in India is very low, and when I was younger, it was even lower. The nearest swimming pool that we had was Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Olympic Swimming Pool in Shivaji Park, approximately 7 km. from where we stayed in Bandra, a suburb of Mumbai.
The year was 1972, I had just given my 7th grade examination, when my father enrolled us, himself, me and my younger sister Mrudula, in the MGM pool. Once the word spread that we were going swimming, many other people, my classmates as well as Mrudula’s classmates enrolled. As far as I remember, Shrikant, a close friend, had enrolled before us and was a good swimmer.
So every morning, my father, with a lot of us would go swimming. It used to be great fun since we knew each other very well. It used to be a 20 minute bus ride and then a 10 minute walk to reach the pool.
Initially, when we were learning swimming, we would get only 45 minutes in the pool, because the number of learners far exceeded the capacity of the shallow learning area. However, as we became better swimmers, we could go to the deeper waters and could swim as long as we wanted.
Shrikant and Nitin Sadhale used to be terrors for the learners from our group. They would sneak underwater between someone’s legs and would stand up. This would throw the person off balance and into the water. I would never forget the facial expressions of the guys as they were being lifted.
We had many other cousins, Vijay, Saroj & Dhannajay Paradkar and their father Balmama who would also come swimming. Sundays would virtually turn into family reunions. We had some of our most memorable and fun time during those sessions at the swimming pool.
One of the most unforgettable incidents was when my father saved Prasanna from drowning. I think this happened during summer of 1973. By then, I was swimming pretty well. Prasanna had just started learning. He could cross the width of the pool in the shallow water.
We coerced him into swimming the width on the deep end of the pool. He came very reluctantly. We started swimming with Prasanna in the middle and me and Shrikant on each side. Things were going pretty fine and we were very happy, when suddenly someone jumped from the jumping bar very near us disturbing the water. Some of the splashed water went in Prasanna’s nose. He was frightened and put his hands around my and Shrikant’s neck. All of us went under water and surfaced. Now I panicked. I clasped Shrikant and Prasnna. All of us were now going down and resurfacing. Shrikant didn’t panic. He shouted at me, and then we freed ourselves from Prasanna. We were now helplessly watching him when my father jumped in and caught him by the swimming trunk from behind. Then he slowly pushed him to the bank.
I and Shrikant received an earful from our parents for our misadventures.
We are best friends even now. In 1979, I did a cycle trip to Goa with Prasanna and in 1985, Prasanna married my sister Mrudula.