Swimming lessons – Chennai style
The Man from Madras Musings took to swimming rather late in life. But having learnt it, he took to it like a (not-so-athletic) fish and enjoys the water. Would he have been any faster (and less fatter) had he learnt it when his age was still in single digit? That may remain an eternal mystery. But what MMM is fairly sure of is that, no matter when he mastered the Piscean art, it would have been a matter of relative indifference to his parents. Not that they would not have felt a passing pride, but nothing beyond that. Those, as MMM is fond of saying, were days when skills of this kind were acquired with no competition in mind.
These days, MMM notices, things are different. The dog days of summer being here, MMM is frequently to be seen in the water, much to the Chief’s annoyance for several articles have remained pending for long. And while in the water, MMM has ample time to take in the scene around him. And rather like a whale that is passed by shoals of smaller fish, young children, learning to swim, frequently cross him. That is as far as the kids are concerned. The mothers (and the occasional father) who are on terra-firma, however, have a completely different idea. They are of the view that the children are in a battle to the finish and woe betide the child who lags even a wee bit behind.
To encourage their respective wards, these parents keep up a steady chant. Each one has his/her decibel level and the aim appears to be to shout the loudest. The sopranos of the moms, coupled with the deep bass or the reedy tenor of the pops, merge with the splashing sounds from the water and make for strange orchestra. But to MMM, most of the shouts sound more like threats and commands rather than encouragement. “Don’t bring your head up,” says one while another demands that his ward breathes a little less. A third shrieks out that the positioning of the left arm is all wrong and a fourth is upset that his child is rather deficient in footwork. Some demonstrate from the shore as to what the ward ought to be doing. In the process they adopt Pavlova-like poses. These parents march up and down the poolside, some of them armed with stop-watches and at the end of a lap (or a certain number of laps), they cluck their tongues disappointingly and announce the time duration taken by the panting child. “Not at all, what an Olympic champion would have done at your age,” appears to be the general verdict and then it is back to the grind for the kid.
There are unspoken but strong undercurrents of competition among the parents, of course. Thus if one child is ahead of the rest, the proud parent is looked at with daggers drawn. Dates of birth are compared and consolation is often sought in the fact that the child moving ahead is a few days older. “Age makes a big difference,” is a considered verdict. That is until a litigious parent, probably taking a leaf from the book of the Army Chief’s age controversy, suggests that the child is probably in reality much older and ought to be competing in an entirely different age group. That is accepted gratefully and snide remarks are made about how honesty is no longer a virtue.
These competitive manoeuvres reach a new peak every time there is a swimming competition round the corner. MMM and those of his ilk who sometimes swim into, and therefore, delay the advancing hordes are met with a blast of hostility by those on shore and suggestions are made rather loudly that timings for adults ought to be strictly regulated. Whatever happened to the concept of learning swimming for fun?
Pondering over all this, MMM has come to the conclusion that there is nothing more deadly than the competitive parent. However, MMM’s is an inquisitive mind and braving the nasty looks he conducted an informal survey to check how many of these paters and maters, all of them arm-chair experts, knew how to swim. Not one of them had ever set foot into the water.
The Chennai photos
Have you received it as yet? If not, be of good cheer. For, it will soon reach your mail box. The Man from Madras Musings is referring to a collection of photographs of old Madras that is doing the rounds on the email circuit. And MMM has received it many times over. The header in the email claims that these are never-seen-before photographs of the city and some of them also give the credit to an individual for having collected them. It is only when you open it that you realise that these are the same pictures that have done the rounds for over ten years now. Several are from the Vintage Vignettes collection and a few more are those that appeared in periodicals and newspapers. What is interesting is that none of these emails refers to any source or acknowledges copyright or ownership. But that is just the way we operate in this our land. It reminded MMM of the lament of an author who one day found his work being acted out as a play without any credit being given to his ownership. When he wrote a letter to the producer of the play he got a reply to the effect that sufficient copyright credits had been given by the simple expedient of purchasing a copy of the book! What more could an author ask for was what was implied.
To come back to the collection of photographs, MMM is fairly certain that similar collections are doing the rounds for other cities as well. And what amuses MMM even more is the number of phone calls he receives on the subject. Each caller begins by saying that he/she is going to send a mail to MMM (or the Chief) with the subject matter being just what MMM/Chief would enjoy. Enjoy they did but not when the email began re-appearing with unfailing regularity.
And so here is an appeal to those of you who have received such an email and intend to send it to MMM/Chief. Please desist. And to those who have not, who knows it may even now be wending its way to your inbox. The only problem is that having wended, it tends to re-wend, repeatedly.
Let sleeping domestics lie
The Man from Madras Musings has received the usual mails referring to his last fortnight’s write-up on the problem of domestics. Several have shared their own travails. But the cake must go to a lady who writes as to why she had to dispense with the services of a security guard. It transpired that out for an early morning stroll, she found the guard fast asleep on the porch. If that was bad enough, what was worse was that he had well and truly wrapped himself in a saree that belonged to her (the lady)! It had been put out to dry the previous evening and the watchman found it a convenient blanket. When asked as to why he did that, he replied, with perhaps the intent to flatter, that it was of the colour that repelled mosquitoes!