The Drowning Lesson

September 15, 2012 Off By Vinayak Gole

They say the best teacher in life is Experience. And there is learning in everything that we face and everything that we encounter in our entire lifespan. Some are memories- fond and joyous while some are bitter and dangerous. But all the same, teachings from the greatest guru- life!
One such incident, I have been unable to etch out of memory. Every time I despair, every time I decide to give up, this particular incident reminds me that there is always a victory at the end of the struggle.

At the age of 14, teenage hormones raging and the fire in the belly foraging, I decided to learn swimming. Why? Partly because that’s what they did in the action movies and partly because they said, swimming was the best exercise. Day one was fun, hobbling in the water, learning to float. The feeling was fantastic. It was like floating in air….well, almost. And so the week breezed past. I could now swim pretty well. The safety float around my waist seemed more like a prop than a necessity. Confidence at its peak, I was happy doing the rounds on the shallow side of the pool.

By the next day, I was a pro. I went to the trainer; the floats were already given out. And my friend was insistent we should go deeper now. It was time to get some real swimming done. The first round was fun; it was like flying, nothing below and just the open sky above. I was being egged on for a second round. Success was definitely potent. And so began the longest and perhaps the last swim of my life. Midway, I felt a cramp in my calf. The other end of the pool seemed far away and panic set in. I thought if I just cry for help, I will be saved. I did not even attempt to reach the other end and just laid back my arms.

Soon, I did see a figure floating above me. Relieved, I grabbed wildly, not realising that in my panic, I was grabbing at the legs of the rescuer. The figure above, floated away, just as it had appeared. And in those few moments, I saw the world around me. It was empty. It seemed like I was the only being around, alone, struggling to survive but losing hope. The end seemed near. I could feel the darkness creeping in, the faint irritating smell of chlorine, the greenish blue water, the distant image of the sun; they all seemed to converge in a dark ball of peace. Yes, peace. It was the most peaceful moment of my entire life. It was when nothing else mattered, not success, not wealth, not even the desperate struggle to survive. All that mattered was giving in to this peaceful darkness.

I don’t remember anything that happened after when I could see the darkness giving way to light and a lot of ambient noise around. I was coughing water and someone was shouting to allow me to breathe. And soon, I realised that I had been brought back to life. That was the end of my swimming. I never even ventured close to the water. But that one incident had left me with lessons for a lifetime.
The first lesson I learnt was to never give up. If I had fought my cramp and determined to reach the other end, I would never have had a near death experience. I left my fight to the others and gave up thinking I would be saved. Our struggles in life are our own and no one would ever take the responsibility to fight out battles for us. It was the most important lesson of my life.

The second lesson was it is never a shame to try again. I never got back to my swimming just because I was afraid I would end up drowning. We have let the spirit of winning triumph over the fear of losing. It is this fear that lets us give up easily and never try again.
And last but not the least; I learnt not to care about the world. People made fun of me for quite some time because I had drowned. If I had not cared as much about the world, I would have gotten back easily to finish something I was so passionate about. The fear of the taunts pushed me further away from the water.

Many years hence, now that I am older and wiser, I have understood that every incident in our life is a lesson. Some of the most drastic incidents tend to have the best lessons. And that was the learning I had from the Drowning Lesson.

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