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Every summers I resolve to learn swimming. That I haven’t even ventured near a pool since so many years, shows the strength of my resolve! This time however I did make some progress in that direction as I went checking out the Speedo swimming costumes. But that’s about it. I saw no point in spending about Rs.6000 on something that will just sit prettily in my dress. That, was the beginning and end of my summer resolution- learning how to swim.

Why I haven’t been able to learn swimming? Well I’m as comfortable in the pool as a fish would be out of it. The only time, some 10 years ago or so, when I did enter a pool I flayed my arms and feet around wildly, screamed like a banshee and convinced the instructor within 2 days that not only would I drown and die a horrible death but would take him down as well. The argument that no one can drown and die in 3feet of water had, and still has no merit in my eyes. After all one doesn’t need 3 ft or 6ft to drown in but just a mug full of water in the lungs! That I haven’t drowned and died while taking a shower is nothing short of a miracle. One of the few things that I thank God about( I mostly curse Him) is keeping me alive despite a daily, at times twice a day, shower. But why tempt fate? So I’m better off alive and non swimming than swimming ( or trying to) and sinking.

Had I tried to learn swimming way back in my teens or college years I may have fared better. Or so I’ve been told. Just like I’ve been given similar gyaan about cycling. Not that I didn’t try cycling. I did but, to juxtapose two random images, I was as comfortable as a fish would be on a cycle. The only cycle I can today ride, without just toppling over, are the spinning cycles in the gym. So it goes for swimming. The reason I didn’t try in the ages gone by was fear of a different kind- donning a swimming costume. In the teens and thereabout, the pressure, real or imaginary, to “look” good is just amazing- somehow you expect yourself to have the perfect body, perfect skin, perfect hair and so on and so forth. All the teenagers and college students have my full sympathy. What with media flashing “perfect” looking women everywhere, it’s a tough life. It wasn’t so bad in during our college days but was bad enough to deter me from wearing a swimming costume, even the silly ones that come with an attached skirt. Rest, as they say, is history.

Today I often take my 7 year old sonny swimming, who, despite my fears, has learnt to swim beautifully. As I sit safely tucked away in the sides, I cannot help but be amused by the motley crowd that comes- all shapes and sizes and, what amuses me the most, wearing all kinds of ridiculous looking prints in the name of swimming gear. There are those who look like a rundown zebra, an old tablecloth or bed spread. I mean really now! What is it with these manufacturers? Why can’t they just KISS- Keep It Simple Silly with a black? I mean if you have a colour blind stylist, just go with something that you can’t go wrong with?

I sit there, day after day, looking at these people and what I gradually realised is the vast difference in the body language of men and women. Women, regardless of their shape and size, are impeccably waxed and clean and yet strangely conscious. They have bothered to maintain not only standards of hygiene but also attractiveness and yet seem oddly uncomfortable. Just a few with something like a Prime Body are comfortable, but still seeking approval. The rest, lesser mortals, are visibly conscious and uncomfortable. The men folk on the other hand have no such qualms. Most of them even defy basic standards of hygiene and grooming with ogre like feet and body odour, stomachs hanging over and out of the swimming trunks. Yet they walk around like they were God’s gift to mankind.

As I witness this sight every day, I’m not only reminded of myself in my teens but more importantly of the recent Dove Real Beauty Sketches Ad that shows the tremendous difference between how women perceive themselves and their beauty and how others see them. Why are women so harsh on themselves? And not merely about their physical appearances but about every role they play- a wife, a mother, a daughter, a daughter in law? I’m yet to come across a woman who considers herself a “good” wife or mother and not simply in the traditional sense. We are always beating ourselves up over a cake that we didn’t bake for our children or a birthday gift that was late for our husband or something else in a similar vein. Men, however, have no such qualms. I’m yet to come across a man who considers himself a “bad” husband, father or son. In one of the rare moments ,even if they do admit to falling short on some account, not only is there a jolly good explanation for it, but they’ll also fall right back into the habit. Why can’t we women be as smug and complacent? I know I’m on slippery territory here but really ladies, let’s just be easy on ourselves. Children will not be scarred for life if you just don’t feel like cooking one day(not because you are too tired; just that you don’t feel like it) and order a pizza instead. Quite to the contrary they’ll thank you for the unexpected bonanza. And neither will your husband be charred if you don’t whip up a king’s meal whenever his family comes visiting. They’ll all survive. More importantly we need to learn to live and not merely survive. Or else one day it may be too late to overcome your fear of water even if you have overcome the fear of wearing a swimming costume.