Life & Style

A shelter for the sun-burnt

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Splash, swim and float your way around the Marina Swimming Pool to escape from the heat

“Gents only,” says the man at the entrance to the Marina Swimming Pool. It’s 4 pm on a hot June evening. The Marina beach wears a deserted look, except for a few early birds walking on the sands and a couple of stall owners setting up shop. But a little beyond the Labour Statue, behind the high walls that enclose the Marina Swimming Pool, the scene is a lot different. The pool is brimming with people and it looks like an entire township has just plunged into the greenish-blue waters. Scores of young men, in different shapes and sizes, bob about. Very few are actually swimming up and down; most are just soaking like hippos in a pond.

They laugh, high-five, sing, catch up on news. Some of them are class mates from the same school and college, others became friends playing cricket on the beach, and a few others got acquainted at the pool. “Ladies’ timing is from 8.30 am to 9.30 am. The awareness is very little, and as a result, we get only two to three women who come to swim here,” says D Ravi, manager of the pool. It’s rather large, with a length of 100 metres and a breadth of 34 metres. “On an average, we get 1,500 people in the pool. During the summer months of April and May, it goes up to 2,500 people,” he says.

A crowded hour

The charges here are nominal. It’s ₹15 per hour. Every hour, a shrill bell goes off, indicating the end of a session. Everybody leaves the pool, even those wanting to swim for longer. Some scramble to get under the showers ahead of the others, before heading for the changing rooms inside. Those finishing, plan where to grab a quick bite to satiate that post-swim hunger pang.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any snack bars or cafés inside the sprawling 1.5-acre compound. But they don’t have a reason to worry, because as soon as they step out of the premises there are the bajji, peanut and other stalls on the Marina that come to their rescue.

Meanwhile, amid loud splashes, the rest of the enthusiastic swimmers jump back into the pool for another hour in the chlorine-scented waters. There are no diving boards.

So, some of them in the pool haul themselves up, holding on to the edge, and then throw themselves back into the water. But earlier, way back in the 80s, this pool did have a diving board. It even played host to diving championships and aquatic meets. It is said that this pool was also the base for many serious competitive swimmers. Now, with the shallow end being only 3.5 ft, they’ve done away with the diving board.

A six-and-a-half-foot wall stands between the pool and a gorgeous view of the sea. Till 2004, there was only a low wall and the view from the pool was rather charming.

“The wall collapsed during the 2004 tsunami and we had to build this wall. It helps keep passersby and trouble makers out,” adds Ravi.

The pool may well be a shadow of what it used to be, but it still delights the thousands who seek refuge in its cool waters during sun-soaked days. “From six to 80 we get all age groups,” he says. And no matter the age, somehow they all have a childlike gleam in their eyes the moment they dip their toes in it.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 8:30:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/summer-relief-by-the-marina-poolside/article19114692.ece

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