BENGALURU: I love swimming and visit the pool regularly and yet, I am terrified of water. I have drowned thrice, and a part of me died a little on all the three occasions. I had only seen swimming pools in movies – where villains chilled around with molls and cocktails. The first swimming pool I saw was at a hotel - sadly, there were no villains – just hotel employees shooing me away lest I vomit in the pool.
The first time I drowned was as a teenager. I was visiting my native village, and we happened to have a pond in the backyard. My father – in true Indian father style – decided to teach me swimming ‘the hard way’. He took me to the middle of the pool and let go of my arm. I went straight down.
The second time was at a cousin’s house. Bathing was a community activity in the village, and boys went to bathe together. I think there was a volleyball involved too, but pardon me if the details are fuzzy. My cousin invited me to join him and his friends, as did a large incoming wave of water.
The third time was at Puri beach. I was there with my friends and decided to grab the attention of a pretty girl who was at the beach. My friends all knew how to swim, and so they took long run-ups and plunged into the water with a loud shout. I did it too, but my routine was different. I took my run-up, jumped into the water, and sank right in. In a few seconds, I was waving my arms frantically, before I lost consciousness. I was saved by a boatman who gave me CPR.
As you might have guessed, I had a morbid fear of getting into water. Finally, at the age of 26, I decided to get rid of my fears. I enrolled at a government swimming pool and brought myself to wake up at 6 am everyday. I watched YouTube videos and read articles on how to perfect my technique. I brushed past breaststroke and backstroke - I was looking for the Survivor Eel Stroke. After two months of testing my resolve, I finally learnt to swim... only to drown in Hampi a few months later.
A few of us had hired Lunas and ventured into the waterfalls. I am not great with trekking; I am glad I was born in an urban place and didn’t have to climb hills and walk through forests to go to school. Two of my friends accompanied me, and finally decided to take a bath in the Tungabhadra river’s waterfalls.
My friends jumped into the water, and took their seats on a rock. By now, you must know how this would go down! I plunged into the water, but my fear of drowning overcame my knowledge of swimming. I was rescued by a group of college students, who reprimanded me for my smoking habit.
Today, I approach swimming very cautiously. I swim near the children, since they are almost always supervised by their parents or trainers. I do not race anybody in the pool and ensure I’m cordial and polite to everybody else. It is strange for me to love swimming, and yet be terrified of water to such an extent. There are other side effects too! I watched Aquaman recently in a movie theatre. It is an epic adventure that mostly occurs underwater. While Aquaman was a superhero film for everybody else, to me it was a dystopian horror film!
(The author is a writer and comedian)