As a child I always wished to swim like a fish; smoothly, swiftly and elegantly. The way the fishes maneuvered and propelled under the water, interested me immensely.
I was too afraid of water however. Every other visit to a local swimming pool with my dad, who took me there to teach swimming, would end up me watching others play in the pool and me sitting in one corner, scared. Every time my dad tried to hold me and get into the water, I ended up crying and pushing back. Tired of pursuing me, my dad would leave me on the side and go swimming in the pool alone.
It was not until I had grown a bit older; into my teenage, that I gathered a little courage to learn swimming. It took over ten years to finally shed the fear of water. The wish to swim like a fish kept the lamp of hope burning. It was always at the back of my mind. Thanks to a school friend of mine, an expert swimmer, who volunteered to teach me swimming.
My swimmer friend lived in the country side. He had big old house adjacent to a large garden of mango trees. A little distance from his house was a big well, rectangle in shape surrounded by a wall of stone and concrete. The water in the well was around thirty feet deep. The interior of the well was secured with construction of uneven stones and concrete. The uneven stones left gaps between them which lead to the growth of slippery creepers from the soil contained beneath them. The creepers had grown long and hung all over to decorate the walls of the well. One side of the well had stony steps descending from top of the well up to the level of water.
Besides serving as a source of irrigation to the farms, the well also served as a place for the kids to take a dive into it in the hot summer. During the summer vacations, school kids from the nearby area gathered at the well to swim. Kids as young as four years old dove from the top of the well.
One of those summer vacation days I planned to take my swimming lessons from my friend in that well, after he assured me that it was safe and as good as a swimming pool. I got myself a safety vest. The safety vest consisted of a throw away motor bike rubber tube blown with air that had to be worn around the waist.
Being the oldest boy at the well who didn’t know swimming, it embarrassed me a little. All other kids had not even reached their teens but swam proficiently. The small kids gave a strange look at me and giggled among themselves. I’m sure they thought it funny, that a boy this big didn’t know to swim. (more…)