One of the nicer things about summer in Gurgaon is swimming. Most pools open in April and offer a welcome respite from the heat. Many Gurgaonites have access to pools, whether it is at a club or a condominium or the HUDA gymkhana. On a good hot day, the community pool resembles any other public space in the country- It is packed with bodies of all shapes and sizes, no one follows the rules and everyone believes that the space has been created solely for his own enjoyment.

As a novice swimmer and mother of a learner, I have ventured out into our condominium pool. Even though my swimming is rudimentary, I have had the opportunity to observe at close quarters, the fascinating ecosystem that thrives in this waterhole.

The pool is visited by many creatures through the day. Outside the pool, flanking the edges, you will find the Pool Mothers. The Anxious Mother is focused on her young who is splashing around happily, ignoring cries of ‘ Don’t drown your little sister’ or ‘Don’t do kulla with that water.’ The Ambitious ones have hired coaches and scream“ Breathe properly ! Kick Harder! Faster, Faster” like dedicated midwives hoping that their brat will become the next Michael Phelps. The Social Mother is content to chat with other mothers about throwing pool parties while throwing an occasional glance at her progeny. Most of the mothers will never get into the pool- the chlorinated water is terrible for the hair, complexion, skin and stomach and the swimsuit is terrible for the muffin rolls, cellulite and granny arms. And no one, not even Miss Universe can look good under a rubber swim cap and goggles.

The Splasher is a creature that does everything but swim. The young Splasher loves being in the water and is immediately recognized by the wild thrashing and splattering that is created around it. The very young are spotted in colorful arm bands and Swim tubes which they shed as they grow older. The Splasher believes that the pool is a playground and delights in fooling around, distracting Serious Swimmers and scaring the Learners. The Splasher is found at the shallow areas and usually flocks in small groups. The older Splasher pretends to swim but has actually perfected the art of making heavy thrashing look like a swim stroke.

Another visitor to the pool is the Serious Swimmer. The Serious Swimmer frequents the pool when he knows that activity levels will be low and can focus on his laps and timing. He probably started off trying to maintain some pool etiquette but soon realized that lane swimming ,much like lane driving is a non- existent phenomenon here. If he is lucky, he can get to do a few uninterrupted laps. On a bad day, he could be dive bombed by a small Splasher , ambushed by a large rubber Dolphin or cut off by a Wall Hugger who has ventured into the fast lane.

The Wall Hugger is in love with the comforting solidity of tiles and bricks. He/She has only recently been initiated into the joys of being in a waterbody. The wall hugger cannot leave the side of the pool for long because of the nameless fear that clutches his heart even though his mind is telling him that it is impossible for a large adult to drown in four feet of water. Some of them are egged on by other swimmers or a coach who yell, “ Come one, Nothing will happen”. The wall hugger cannot let go. Some wall huggers love to hang out at the edge kicking aimlessly and enjoying a chat with the social mothers.

Nightfall attracts some other creatures to the pool. Some species of Serious Swimmers are nocturnal. They streak silently through the water like sharks, happy to have the pool free of kids and wannabe swimmers. One may spot Floating Aunty who has braved the pool in a flowery swimming costume that resembles a six year olds’ party frock. Occasionally Floating Uncle joins Floating Aunty and they float around happily. A very lucky wildlife enthusiast may be blessed with a rare sighting of a Bikini Bombshell. This species is usually from overseas and comes out at night to avoid the gawking locals. The one creature that I have never seen is the Baywatch Hunk. This tall well muscled specimen with rippling muscles and six pack abs has only been sighted in Hollywood serials and the odd Bollywood movie, sporting around in tiny swim trunks. Alas, it does not seem to visit the community pool leaving it to other creatures.

This is from a collection of articles published in my Village Voice column in Times of India from 2011 – 2013.