i am from madras. you wouldn't need exceptional reasoning abilities or mathematical induction to then conclude that i probably dont know swimming. you can always test that conclusion by dropping me in a puddle on the road. my legs will cramp, hands will flail about to catch hold of the nearest passing vehicle and i'll probably drown in my own tears. if by chance the whole of india were to instantaneously turn into a desert, only two groups would survive - the very rich who would still be able to buy those water-packets and madrasis. my mom used to give me 2 tumblers a day - one to drink and the other to take care of the other necessities. i've often stayed back in school to sneak into our principal's office which had a water cooler and my neighbors had to give 108 water-laden lorries as dowry for their daugher. ok i'm exaggerating, but given the copious amounts that gush into our reservoirs courtesy of the excessively generous karnataka government, we could barely fill a bucket let alone swimming pools and our youth,never having grasped the concept of swimwear, have always assumed that the anorexic bikini-clad models on FTV are really extremely poor people from 4th world nations.
the first time i tried swimming, i also learnt the importance of angles. having stayed on the shallow side of a pool (if u r wondering where, it was in madras not chennai) for abt 5 minutes, i decided to put all of my 6ft height to test and ventured over to the deep side and slowly clung to the side while a friend (its unhygenix, if u should know, and he probably learnt swimming at his favorite raibareli) beckoned me over to the other side. you see, he was better at math and having worked out that the breadth of that deep side section was barely 8 feet, he put 2 and 2 together and said that i just had to kick my 6ft frame off with a little power and my head will be hitting the other side even before i could say "save me". turns out he misjudged my expertise at staying straight (thats directional orientation ppl..no smirking or giggling). so for a moment i was like a torpedo headed straight towards the heat source and the very next i'd deviated from the straight line by 90 degrees. it was as if the navigational circuit blew a fuse and, as unhygenix would relate later, i turned slowly like a temple chariot turning around mylapore tank and was churning the water like a blender. when unhygenix came over with the noble intention of saving me, i did the first thing my genes and newtonian physics told me to do. i put my hands on his head and pushed down. as per the third law, i came up for air and then someone else seeing our plight managed to pull us both out to the shallow side.
the next time was when i decided to put my tuition waiver to proper use and signed up for swimming 101. though i was/still am scarred for life by the first incident, i just couldn't resist the sight of a large square space filled with chemical-smelling, sparkling blue aqua. the brief time i'd been living in the US had turned me into a greedy sponge lusting for water of several kinds. nope it wasnt enough that i had the marvel of plumbing that was actually used to deliver water instead of air like in chennai. i just had to get my feet wet and how better to do it than in a class full of undergrads. with the help of 2 instructors, freestroke and backstroke were mastered quite easily. the butterfly was not that easy, but i didnt give up. with a lot of effort i was able to slice through the water with the grace of a caterpillar that had half-wrapped its cocoon around itself only to find it had to go in search of more leaves. then one day they decided to take us to the deep side (u didnt think i was mastering all those on the deep side, did u?). while the others slowly swam from the shallow side onto the deep, i cleverly beat them to it by walking on the side of the pool. by blackmailing me with a E grade, my instructors forced me into deep waters and insisted on teaching what they called 'treading'. while i was discussing the semantics of using a term associated with terra firma for describing activities associated with natation, i realised that i was slowly going down and that my exposition on english usage wasn't exactly contributing to keeping me afloat.when feet touched the pool's bottom at 15 feet, i stood there like i was waiting for the bus. an instructor realising i wasn't buoyant like other humans, came down and indicated that i should try coming up. that was stupid on his part, it wasn't like i wanted to become poseidon and play with mermaids. finally he came down grasped my hair and yanked me up and soon i was in a familiar position , sucking in air like a vaccum cleaner.
despite all this i did try my hand at diving a couple of times later. only because the whole class (including some beautiful undergrads) stood around exhorting me to jump and more importantly because the whole set of instructors were in the water ready to pull me out. i got out of the water without help to thunderous applause and right then i knew that i'd nailed the course. there you go,the story of a man from the water-deprived streets of chennai who grew up to be a less-than-average swimmer (only shallow side pls).
suggestion for producers: in the movie version , lets replace unhygenix by a new starlet and let there be a song right after she rescues me. for obvious reasons let the song be in a water theme park.