Drowned Life! — — #LearnSwimming

After the first heavy rainfall in November 2015, before the #ChennaiFlood in December 1st week, I asked a medico friend “know swimming?” her response was, “No, I don’t” then I started asking number of friends in Facebook and WhatsApp contacts, the same “Know swimming?”

Most of the replies were negative, I would say 90 % from women and 70% from men were negative, mostly the urban brought up, in this Indian context.

I used to ask and insist anyone to learn swimming as a life skill, whenever it occurs in my mind. This is English version of my Facebook note published in Tamil on October 2012.

Explaining a scene from the Korean film, Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance (2002) could be a bit spoiler, but this post isn’t about the film.

The little girl runs on a poor wooden bridge, falls into the river and drowns.
Source: Devian Art | Note: For illustration purpose only

I thought of writing this piece a week before, when I watched Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance, but I didn’t, now when I remembered an incident, a little boy of 10–12 year old, drowned in a swimming pool, opposite to our locality, when we were living in Dharmapuri (Tamilnadu, India)

Dad was lying, half asleep with haunting memories, child was completely wet, appears in front of him, he walks towards her, lifts the child and hugs her, water dripping and fell on his legs.
Girl asks in her own (child) dialect, Papa (appa), why didn’t you get me a swimming lesson? The dad has no answer other than his tears.

In 2008 or 2009 summer vacation, a little boy of 10–12 year old, drowned at Rajaji Govt swimming pool, Dharmapuri (Tamilnadu) The pool starts with a depth of 3–4 feet until certain length, goes up to 12 feet in depth slantingly. People who don’t know swimming shall be in 3–4 feet range, is commonly known. I’d no idea, why that little boy wasn’t rescued! I heard, he was drowned with in the range of 3–4 feet depth, after that incident, swimming pool was altered to a maximum depth of 6 feet, added life jackets to the shelf.

It might be difficult to rescue a person in deeper place, unless the rescuer is trained person, the victim has to co-operate. I had one such hell of a experience.

At the time of my secondary schooling, in my locality, there was a water well, we a gang of that locality boys used to swim there. A neighbour boy Mohan, younger than me was a new learner, he was swimming between the wall faces of 10 feet. Almost all of them climbed up, only four of us were inside. Myself, Mohan and other two guys. Mohan asked, he wanted to try crossing for a longer distance around 20–30 feet, elder guys nodded and asked me to swim beside him for safety.

He was going good halfway, then he started shouting, suddenly he put his both hands on my neck interlocked with his fingers, both of our legs went down, soon he locked by legs twisted with his legs, we were quite sinking, weight pulls us inside, his head went inside water, my head follows it, only my hands were left for movement.

So, I put my palms under his chin and pushed his head upside, we both got the air to breathe, then I managed to catch a rock at the other end of the wall face, an another guy (idiot) who was holding near by, pushed us back in the water, who thought its better to return to the other side in the same force.

Again, Mohan locked his hands and legs and we started to go down the same way, after couple of minutes, I managed to push his chin up, the same way and we held the rock, Mohan climbed holding the rock and standing still. Guys who were watching us from top got relieved, soon I returned to other side as I was mentally disturbed, then two elder brothers jumped and carried Mohan holding this both hands on either side.

After that, for a long time, none of us went that side, neither we spoke about incident to our family, till now even my parents don’t know about this (unless any of my cousins / relatives going to narrate, after reading this post)

My hands were free, so I could pushed his chin up, otherwise, I’d no idea, what would have happened, may be I had to remove his hands and legs locking my neck legs under water and try to come up, I’d no idea.

We moved to another locality in the same town, I met Mohan after long time, he told me, “Brother, now I learned to swim good” my response was, “I’m glad, if you have learned” nothing more.

As time pass, we tend to forget that naturally, but at instances, those memories are triggered, I had an another, near death experience on Coimbatore — Avinashi road, when it was only 2 way road, after that when I traveled in a bus on the same route, I posted on my Facebook “This road has an unforgettable in(ac)cident in my memory” (I shall / may write a post on Near death — Mind, sometime later, I shall include that in my future book, “What is Life and Mind”[objectively])

The way I learned swimming was quite a bad way, I say! though I started at age of four, but I took the comfort of nature’s life jacket, and that is dried bottle gourd / calabash.

Bottle Gourd / Calabash - dried

With a dried bottle gourd tied around hip, it will float, (the only thing to keep it float is, there shouldn’t be any crack on the bottle gourd to let the air out and water inside, then it’ll sink) so I always wanted to have a bottle gourd on my hip, so I took three years to swim without that.

Guys in village, used to play catching others in water, they climb and dive, I’m not a expert swimmer / diver, I tried diving couple of times, it ended up badly, I can just save myself from drowning and do a decent swimming.

I always wanted to jump / dive from one of the high rocks on Hogenakkal falls, it’s 46km drive from Dharmapuri, it’s also famous for film shooting. Down there in the water, people is taken around in boats.

Photograph & copyright : oochappan (used for illustration purpose only)

Young boys high up standing top of those rocks would ask for money from the tourists on the boats, then they would jump for five / ten rupees. I took this photograph from flickr (for illustration purpose only) you can also check the title and caption of the photographer, Five rupee boys — Hogenakkal.

In my village, one of my relative neighbour, of my dad’s age drowned when he fell into a well, at that time, he was married and his son was a very young kid, it’s very rare to find someone (esp. boys) who doesn't know swimming in village of that time. At this moment, I remember the film UthiripPookal, one of the finest Tamil film by auteur Mahendran.

When people tries saves to someone from drowning, the used to pull them up, holding their head-hairs, and in Indian villages, guys use to have a small thread tied on hip, that is also used to catch and pull up, my dad used to say me, people drowning will try to catch our hands and legs in fear, that is what happened to me as well, so it’s also important for us to know the methods of rescuing.

I insist this to anyone, whenever it occurs in my mind, we aren’t going to be pro-swimmers / athletes, it’s an essential life skill to save ourselves from drowning, it’s a survival essential, the important thing to look up on here is, apart from evolved humans, swimming is an instinctual approach to other birds / animals.

In a french film “Amelie”, there is a video snippet, the babies tend to swim is instinctual, before they grow up

When there evolves sixth sense and the infant grows up, they acquire fear. My dad used to tell, if you need to learn swimming, you must keep your fear aside. In my school days, one friend (Clement) who doesn’t know swimming before, learned it in his very first steps, observing others, importantly he is mostly fearless for anything.

On a summer vacation during my college days, when I went to the Rajaji swimming pool, opposite to my locality, one of my high school teacher learned swimming, only at that time. So I believe, age / gender is no barrier, esp. stressing this for Indian urban people.

I request anyone to learn swimming with proper information and guidance, more importantly women learn swimming along with their kids.


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