A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is

“Growing up in Kannur, I started swimming when I was about five years old. Like most children growing up in villages, I learnt to swim in our temple pond — the Thrichambaram temple pond. I learnt the different strokes from senior Kerala State Sports Council coach Kesavan Nair. By then I was active in swimming competitions. I played at the university and State levels. After my BSc and BEd, I did a diploma from National Institute of Sports, Gandhi Nagar to become a swimming coach. It has only been four years since I became a permanent KSSC employee though I have been on contract for years. My husband Madhava Das is also a KSSC coach and a decorated swimmer.

Unlike what people think, age has nothing to do with learning swimming. It is a matter of confidence. I have been with the new swimming pool at Nadakkav since its inauguration; but before that I spent years teaching swimming in Thrissur. There I taught many who were over 60 years of age and also women in the police camp. Teaching swimming is not easy, but it is a necessary life skill. Most cases of drowning happen out of fear. Also, its health benefits are many. Quite a few doctors are coming to learn swimming now. Swimming, if learnt scientifically, can lessen a lot of health problems.

When we were growing up, almost all of us learnt swimming at the village pond. But with nuclear family and shower in wash rooms, this tradition has died. So people are dependent on swimming pools. But the good part is the scientific teaching that happens here. We first tackle the fear factor in learners. We make them walk in the pool and those who are not afraid will soon take the dip. We have more exercises for those who are still scared of water. We would drop coins or coloured stones into the pool and ask them to pick it up.

We gradually teach them floating, gliding, leg and arm action, breathing and finally co-ordination. The strokes come last. Free style is what they begin with and move onto back, breast and butterfly stroke. Butterfly is the toughest, but the most good-looking stroke, with the swimmer looking like a dolphin.

A month is enough to learn swimming, but the stress is on how you perfect it over time. At the Nadakkav pool, we take classes for women as well as professional swimmers.

Work though has scattered my family. I live with my younger daughter in Kannur and mostly commute between Kozhikode and Kannur. My husband is posted in Palakkad and my elder daughter is studying in Tamil Nadu. But the fact that I am teaching a life skill to my students gives me joy. An indoor pool will be the way forward especially in summer when we have camps for children.”