27 June 2018

Swimming and Kerala

I cannot pinpoint the exact year when we visited Kerala. It was surely 1971 to 1973. It was most likely 1972. One of my father's friends was getting married in his village in Kerala. Alas, I don't remember the name of the village either. It was close to Cochin as far as I remember.

I remember taking a train through Kerala. I have not ever seen such a verdant landscape. It was lush and green. More treats were coming our way.  We walked at the edge of a valley which was again, so full of foliage that all I saw was a carpet of green. If I had slipped and fallen into the deep valley, I doubt if I would have hit the ground. I would have landed on a leafy tree.

At night the fireflies came out. I was amazed at the numbers and the size of them. They seemed more numerous and more brilliant than the stars. It was an unforgettable image that has stayed with me. Whenever I think of Kerala, I think of Lush greenery and the brilliant fireflies.

There is another image that has remained with me, the sea. No, the valley had no sea close by. While returning, we stayed one night in Cochin, maybe waiting for a connecting train back to Bangalore. The hotel was Bolgatty Palace. I realize now it was a heritage hotel. In those days it seemed simpler. Just a hotel slap on the seashore. We reached there late and went to bed immediately.

Next day morning, I went around the grounds and was mesmerised by the sight of the sea. I stood at the edge of the lawn staring into the deep green water. I declared I wanted to learn swimming. My mother promised to teach me as soon as I returned to Bangalore.

We lived close to High Grounds in Bangalore and my mother chose the swimming pool of Hotel Ashok (then plain old Ashok, now the swanky Lalit Ashok) which was 10 minutes walk away. They had a nominal fee for a day use of the pool and had nice changing rooms. To begin with, my mother taught me how to swim in the kiddie pool. Once I learned, I graduated to the big pool.  It was a clean pool with water filters and well scrubbed tiles. I fell absolutely in love with swimming and went quite often to the pool. Sometimes, I even took my friends along to show off my swimming skills. I wasn't very skilled, all I can do is the breast stroke, but I showed off nevertheless.

Till date, swimming remains my favorite activity. I have just abandoned my aerobics class as I was too hot and took up swimming for the season. I was full of prickly heat because of the soaring temperatures. After a couple of days of being immersed in water for 50 minutes, I am cured and cool once more. The sight of the pool always brings back the memory (by association) of the deep green water of the Arabian Sea which inspired me to take up swimming.

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