I went rafting recently, and did something remarkably
stupid valiant: lulled by the innocently serene water between two rapids and encouraged by those around me, I jumped in and let go of the raft. As I slowly floated away – vesting my life in a bloated jacket slung around my neck – I started to gently propel my legs to control my orientation. Nothing happened. I propelled harder. Nothing happened. I used my hands to thrust the water in different directions. Na-huh, nothing. And then I did something a little more useful than all of these things put together: I laughed. For what good does panicking do to anyone?
Nope, I still can’t swim.
I realized (or, as the seven-year-old-kid-in-Saturday-morning-swimming-class version of me would put it, remembered) that I am as hopeless in water as a fish is outside it. It took about 5 minutes for my fellow rafters to come to the same conclusion, discerning that trying to teach me to swim from the raft was about as appropriate as reading out HTML code in a wedding toast. I’d strayed about a mile away from them (distances might appear a little warped when you’re in the water); and their rescue mission, while not mounted on a History Channel scale, probably made sure I wasn’t history.
That was the last time I was in water. The time before that was about two years ago, on a memorable trip down to MGM amusement park near Chennai.
Standing atop a delightfully lofty water slide, I observed my friend make a clumsy descent ahead of me, his arms bouncing off the side walls of the narrow chute. In a flash of inspiration, I asked the lifeguard beside me what the correct posture was. “Keep your hands behind your neck and your elbows jutted out in front of you,” said the cunning man, “like this.”
Unfortunately, keeping my hands ‘like this’ meant that I had to have the stability to balance a stationary unicycle perched atop a beach ball. During a hurricane. Needless to say, I bumbled my way down the slide, hit the water at a precarious angle, and fulfilled my 6 cups of water a day stipulation before the lifeguard stopped laughing for long enough to pull me out. Trying to salvage my pride, I thanked the man in a dignified tone, turned around and looked up at the sky, from where a couple of amateurs had begun their smooth descent into the calm waters, their hands positioned nothing ‘like this.’
Assured that all was well with the world despite the presence of lifeguards with a disturbingly morbid sense of humor, I took a step backwards. My foot missed the step, my hands lurched desperately for support, and together my friend and I descended into the waters. That was the last time I was in a swimming pool.