In the back lanes of our neighbourhood existed a small Marsh. There was a pond that ran through it. It was here when I tried to learn swimming. You see, we didn’t have a pool in the school. The only school that had a pool was Tyndale Biscoe-Mallinson. Within no time the pond became dirty as houses kept on building around it. From a fresh pond it became a sewage fit only for mosquitoes to live on. Some genius of a man had to put two electricity poles for passers-by and cyclists as this pond was also a shortcut to Soura.
This happened to many river channels, ponds and lakes around Srinagar, the city once famously called Venice of the East. Roads came up on the course of these snake-shaped like ponds that ran through the entire city; houses came up on the ponds and slowly the water bodies were choked to death.
There was no place to swim for the kids in my neighbourhood. These water bodies became legends for kids of my generation. “Bi osus tath manz aab chyavaan” (I used to drink water from it) used to be something my father said often about Baba Demb (which can cause diseases if it’s windy at night just by its smell.) Anchar Lake in Soura became a dumping ground for medical waste coming from the premier hospital in Srinagar.
These stories would serve as tombstones for these water bodies of the yore. In fact it gave prominence to many elders who turned into columnists by weaving nostalgia.
The only time I could swim when we were taken to Nehru Park where a public pool existed. Later it was closed down. Then it was Shalimar’s pools until somebody actually took crap in it. Swimming is an essential life-skill, and I was bereft of it. Drowning became a daily nightmare, it used to evoke such fear that I refused to look down the bridges in my city.
I was phobic.
Recently the great floods were endured by the people of Kashmir. It was a great catastrophe that has destroyed lives of millions. The rescue efforts were difficult due to the occupier’s sheer discrimination and little equipment to proceed with mass rescue. It was only for the youngsters who saved thousands of lives risking their own lives in this act.
It could’ve helped if most youngsters who are not trained or have no skill in swimming, would have had these skills. Maybe there would have been more participation of rescuers or those who could swim could’ve lessened the burden of the rescuers.
Anyway, being away from all of it, I took it upon myself to learn swimming in the university. Instead of going into a shell, I actually confronted my worst fears. Alhamdulilah, I can swim.
Most schools & universities don’t have luxury of swimming pools in Kashmir. Maybe their associations or the communities can create public pools for youngsters to train them from young age. It seems a small thing but it matters since Kashmir is flood prone.
The unplanned housing is like gangrene that has destroyed the city. It needs to be curbed, and the natives need to take stand.
Personally, I feel better now as I won’t be a burden when I am rescued, hopefully I can contribute a little in efforts if such a situation arrives (which I hope doesn’t).