Swimming and the seven-year-old

Saunved21 Aug, 2016 3 min read


I was a bit of a fraidy-cat when it came to swimming. To be honest, that wouldn’t have mattered much if my family had shifted to a landlocked nation. But instead, here I was on an island on a stormy Wednesday evening in my swimsuit. I stood at the edge of the ocean and prepared for the “Physical Education” class to follow.

The ocean might’ve been Indian, but I feared it wouldn’t waste much time deciding whether I was to die or just be “imprisoned”. So, as the thirty-odd seven-year-old boys and girls waded into the rough waves, I avoided the teacher’s glance and tried hiding behind a bunch of rocks.

The teacher spotted me and called me over to stand in line (in the water) and swim from one rock to the other. Teeth chattering and stomach rumbling, I realized a few seconds later that my feet weren’t touching the ocean floor, and quick as a cat, I scampered out of the water. That was probably the one time I prayed with utmost reverence to whatever superpower was watching over me.

Swimming trajectory comic

When everyone started laughing at me, I sheepishly told the teacher that I couldn’t swim (let alone go across freestyle from one rock to the other). The Seychellois were born islanders who probably learned to swim before they could walk. It was no wonder then, that I was made fun of for the next few days over my “skinny legs” and “inability to swim”.

When my sister found out about it, she decided to teach me how to swim. ‘Do you know some swimming pool?’ I asked innocently. ‘Yeah,’ she said. The next day we were at the beach, and I was half-crying, half dragging my ass out of the water for all it was worth. Eventually, my sister and I adapted to each other’s methods of teaching and learning.

When I still didn’t get the hang of it after an hour, my mom called out from the shore, ‘Just let yourself float!’ Livid, with saltwater in my eyes, I shouted out in frustration, ‘Well, if it’s so easy, why don’t you try it?’

That sent both of them into fits of laughter. I waded out of the knee-deep water, angry at being so slow. It took a few days of decent practice and I eventually went from “Hey, I am floating,” to “Look at me, swimming on my back!” And not just me, my mom learned too.

A few weeks later during a Physical Education lecture, I waded into the water to the surprise of my classmates and “butterflied” around them. When the strongest swimmer in class joined me to swim around and talk, I realized I wasn’t just a “skinny Indian boy” anymore.

I was one of them.