…. and I don’t know how to fucking swim!
I am sure it’s quite normal to have nightmares of dying a gruesome death. I am not sure, though, if such nightmares should involve drowning in the sea while fighting monster cockroaches.
Monster cockroaches – we can park that thought away for now. Other than my dreams, I am unlikely to have to fight them anywhere. Not that the tiny ones don’t torment me enough in real life, but that’s something that looks silly if cribbed about. Let me concentrate on my other nemesis: water, lots and lots of water, all around me.
I never learnt how to swim. When all my friends were joining the swimming classes way back in school days, I felt shy at having to enter the pool in tiny swimming briefs. I had even enquired at the swimming training club if half pants were allowed to be worn in the pool, and the trainer had looked at me as if I had asked him to part with one of his kidneys. ‘Everyone is dressed like that in the pool,’ he admonished me, ‘how can a boy feel so shy? You can buy the swimming briefs from us at a very reasonable price; we don’t sell swimming half-pants. In fact, there is nothing like swimming half pants’. I imagined the very bony and lanky me entering the pool in tiny briefs to loud guffaws from shapely swimmers all around, and that was pretty much the end of the swimming aspiration in me. Add to that the fact that we didn’t have showers installed at home, and had to use the traditional bucket for taking bath. Thus, I never really got comfortable with the idea of my head going under water! Not that I never got drenched in rains, but rains and rains, and showers are showers, and getting into the shower and closing my eyes would immediately send a panic wave through my whole body. This happened for most of my life and it is only now that I have gotten used to taking showers instead of using buckets and mugs!
I am not really aquaphobic. I am just perfectly capable of drowning pretty easily. I first learnt this years back when visiting the newly-opened water theme park in Kolkata – Aquatica. Here they thankfully let you wear vests and half-trunks. So yeah. I liked the shallow wave pool a lot, and also some of the other rides, and then I saw my cousins effortlessly slide down a giant water-slide riding on a slippery mat. They slid down from great height into a shallow pool and remained afloat on the mat, gracefully got off it into the pool, laughed and splashed water at everyone, and came out laughing even more. I wanted to do it too. It looked so much fun. And perfectly safe. The pool is shallow. I will be on a mat that floats. What can really go wrong, right? The moment I started sliding down, my second greatest fear of steep heights kicked in and I closed my eyes. But I held on to the mat alright. Then I hit the water with a giant splash, and realized that I was drowning. The mat was nowhere! I could swear I was holding on to it till a second back, but it was nowhere. I was supposed to float, but I was drowning. Water was entering my nostrils, ears and mouth. I opened my eyes and could see nothing, and my head was spinning. Someone grabbed me and pulled me out, and made me stand. We were only in waist-deep water. ‘What happened?’ the person who had made me stand-up asked. I coughed out some water, and my head cleared. I looked all around me. People were watching me, some with shock, some giggling, and some laughing quite derisively. I just turned and fled from the pool. Even kids were doing it all right. And here I was a fifteen year old buffoon, drowning in a shallow pool!
You’d think that this incident would make sure I don’t go anywhere near water again, right? You are wrong.
During my MBA days, I took this fraud course where we could travel to Malaysia for two weeks. And while there, we went holidaying in Langkawi, that’s what that place is called I think. We did water-sports, played on the beaches, clicked some amazing pictures, and then decided that we should go snorkeling. The whole group saw some amazing sights under the surface of the sea, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t take my head under the water-surface, not even with the gogs and the breathing pipe thingy over my nose and mouth. I tried, but I couldn’t. The moment my head would go under the water, I would feel as if someone has sent bolts of electricity through my body. I gave up. I contemplated if I should join swimming classes to get over this problem. Then I looked at my lanky hairy self, and thought the better of it. Who wants to go into water regularly anyway?
But not one who learns lessons easily, I agreed when some of my batch mates asked me if I wanted to join them for a quick vacation in Goa. This has been the biggest masochistic decision of my life, as it has given many of my batch mates fodder to tease me for the rest of my life. This time I was very clear though, no going under the water business. I stuck to rides that were either on a boat / scooter etc. or remained simply on the beach. And then some asshole tricked me into going for something called a ‘banana ride’. I didn’t know that the whole point of the ride is to take you deep into the sea and then topple that silly balloon on which you are seated. It is supposed to be the high point of the ride. Oh so much fun, a bunch of us being thrown off a boat in the middle of the sea. Only if we had a few sharks around, it would complete the process of attaining nirvana. Anyway, so yeah, I was wearing life jackets all right. I was told that there are trained swimmers with us. But I wasn’t prepared for the water going over my head. I panicked the moment we hit the water, and I panicked like no one has ever panicked before. I have never really been afraid of death per se, but I started shouting for help assuming that I was drowning. In reality, I was just floating. I held onto the person who was nearest to me and warned him to not let go of me. It turns out he didn’t know how to swim either, but he maintained his calm, and held on to me. I only stopped my drama once someone pulled me back onto the banana boat again. I cursed at a lot of people for nothing, and then as we were approaching the shore, the boat was made to topple again! I mean, are you kidding me! It was Aquatica pool all over again. I would have drowned then and there had someone not pulled me up to show that we were only in knee-deep water! The humiliation on the spot aside, this story quickly made to others in my batch, and I had to endure shouts of ‘Help, I am drowning!’ from a bunch of losers for rest of my stay on campus. Dimwit morons I tell you.
All this made sure that I won’t go anywhere near a water-body for many many years to come. Even if I had to, I stayed content with dangling my feet into the pool while sitting on the edge. Until this weekend that is.
We were holidaying in a sea-beach resort over this weekend, and I was playing with my three-years old daughter (who loves water!) in the baby pool. Don’t laugh. I was in the baby pool only because I was with her, ok. We had spent quite a lot of time, and Ishu had started sneezing, so we decided to get back to the room and get dry. I got up, pulled her up, made her stand outside the pool, and was walking to our slippers while holding her hand (I was inside the baby pool, and she was outside it). Suddenly, the floor vanished under my feet, and I fell into the deeper part of the pool. I hadn’t seen that the baby pool, quite strangely, merged with a deeper pool at this point. Thankfully, I came out of the water immediately, and looked around. Others in the pool were laughing. But I had panicked. Not because of the water, but because I was holding Ishu’s hand. I could have pulled her towards me while going inside the water, and hurt her in the process. But she stood outside the pool, looking at me thoroughly concerned. I heaved a big sigh of relief, gathered her, and came running back to our room.
Pools, and seas, and beaches, and water-bodies, they aren’t meant for me I tell you. When I die and go to hell, the Devil can simply push me into a pond and let me drown, no need really to roast me in hellfire.