Monday, April 14, 2014

How i Learnt Cycling and Swimming

The quality of a good writer is while the readers enjoy the contents, they also get inspired by the writer to attempt to write themselves. That's how i started writing as early as in my tenth standard, by first reading good writers and then attempting writing myself.  I am tempted to write this piece after reading one such writeup by Manpreet on her facebook page. Although she has written about her learning experience in swimming, i am reminded of my own days how i learnt both swimming and cycling. While i learnt cycling when i had entered college, my swimming bouts started much later ie., only after joining Indian Army, because Shimla, where i was born and brought up, neither had many swimming pools during those days nor cycles. I had learnt cycling  over a period of approximately one month when i visited my 'naankey' (maternal grandmother's village) in Punjab during winter holidays of our college at Shimla. I used to sit behind on the carrier whenever my cousins would go around on their cycles for various daily chores. It was only when one day i picked up my cousin's cycle, pulled it up to  a lonely stretch of the village road, sat on the carrier, spreading both my legs on either side of the cycle and tried to pedal. To my great delight i could ride for small stretches without loosing balance. And if i lost balance I would not fall because i would immediately rest one of my feet on the ground since i sat on the carrier from where the ground was easily accessible as compared to 'Kathi' (the main seat) and would resume peddling again. In the bargain i had also banged the front wheel of my cycle into the ankles of an old lady who was walking in front of me with small load on her head. When i apologized and told her that i was learning, she retorted "kaka ajey hor wadhna" ("Oh boy, do you have to grow any more") She was right in expressing her surprise because no boy of my age would be seen learning cycling in a Punjab village. I continued my self -learning sessions in cycling and graduated from carrier to the 'Kaathi' and by the time i left for Shimla after a month of winter holidays, i could cycle fairly well. At Shimla i would flaunt my cycling skill to my non cyclist friends by hiring a cycle and riding it from Lakkar Bazar to Sanjauli and back, which is the only stretch of road in Shimla where one could cycle those days.

This much about cycling. Read on further about swimming:

A non swimmer can enter the Indian Army but the Army won't allow one to remain so for long. Once again owing to having been born and brought up at Shimla, I did not know swimming when i got commission and also was not imparted training in swimming in the OTA because the swimming pool had just been inaugurated as we were passing out from the Officers' Training Academy in 1978. I tried a little bit of swimming at our regimental centre where i stayed for about fifteen days before reporting to my unit. During the swimming bouts in the regimental centre swimming pool i would swim the full length but only by holding my breath as i could not establish coordination between my strokes and my breathing. While the instructors would admonish me for not making the right moves they would also express surprise over my capacity to hold my breath for so long under water.

Luckily i was deputed to undergo a course in Physical Training at ASPT Pune within just three months of my reporting to my Unit in Nagaland. There it was that i learnt full fledged swimming. I along with some other officers was declared weak swimmer and would have to go for swimming practice in addition to attending the regular traning schedule. It was quite an embarrassing  experience, not because we were singled out as weak swimmers but because three daughters of the Commandant of the ASPT also used to come for swimming at the same time.  While their presence in the swimming pool offered a pleasant company to us young bachelor officers in our early twenties, it also threw a challenge to us and accelerated us towards our goal of becoming good swimmers fast.

Although i could swim for the full length of the pool of International dimensions but i could do it only by holding my breath as mentioned earlier. The swimming instructor suggested that i should wear the safety tube and learn coordinating my strokes with my breathing. I did that and found to my delight that by wearing the tube i was breathing perfectly well while swimming across the full length of the pool. One day to my greatest delight and surprise i learnt that while i was swimming very well making perfect coordination between my strokes and the my breath, the tube that i was wearing had actually deflated and it was acting only as a placebo. I removed the tube and threw it towards the instructor who smiled at me approvingly. Eureka!! i had learnt swimming. While i was happy in being taken off the list of weak swimmers, i also felt sad in loosing sight of the pleasant company of the swimming pool.