Save-Your-Breast Stroke & Other Tips to Navigate a Public Swimming Pool


Save-Your-Breast Stroke & Other Tips to Navigate a Public Swimming Pool

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

’Twas a vibrant summer – the laburnums were in full bloom, the mangoes hung low, and many a maiden was seen frolicking in the stream as their admirers flexed muscles nearby.

When a scene that belongs in a novel set in 18th century England, is replicated in 21st century New Delhi, it automatically feels like an icky ’80s Hindi film, in which some unfortunate lady will invite Gulshan Grover’s sleazy advances. Yet as a maiden frolicking for the first time in a public pool in South Delhi, I somehow imagined that I would simply waltz into those tepid waters in my modest swimsuit, and get some casual exercise. Instead I got good old ’80s sleaze, served up by men who looked vaguely like Shakti Kapoor.  

In that pool, under the gaze of my sleazy admirers, I had two choices. Either I’d have to swiftly move to a villa with a private pool, or I could persevere in my middle-class endeavour to get my money’s worth. Well okay, I only had one option. So today, I share my wisdom and present a handy starter pack for women to who wish to take their unsullied selves to a public pool and come out the same way they went in.

Beat the Early Riser

The display of dedication by some of the friendly gentlemen at the pool is admirable. To show up at the pool as early as 6 am to strike “frandships” with unsuspecting women, shows real commitment to the cause. Sometimes, if they’re feeling especially virile, they will even perform an unskilled dive into shallow waters for your benefit.

While I have deep respect for their art, something must be done so that women can swim without being disarmed by the charm and hairy torsos of gentlemen. The trick is to outwit the Early Riser. If Early Riser swims at 6 am, go two hours prior to avoid running into him and then simply sleep through the whole day. Work and life be damned.

Lewis Hamilton This Bish Up

If you’re sharing a pool with strange men, it’s not simply about wanting to swim. There are some other prerequisite skills that have nothing to do with holding your breath underwater. For instance, one day I exited the pool complex and found a Chivalrous Gent waiting for me at the parking lot, only wanting to know my name for information’s sake. I ducked to the safety of my car after showering him with the choicest of abuses. But Chivalrous Gent had a car too, and his ability to chase women in traffic jams had come in handy before, and came in handy again.

Here is where I deploy my Formula 1 racing skills (which you must acquire before signing up for swimming), and Midtown Madness it to the nearest police station for a hot cuppa on the side of a spicy FIR.

Congratulations, you’re now stuck with a dead investment on a synthetic one-piece, and a pool full of testosterone.

Accept Death by Drowning as a Possibility…

When an enthusiastic male of your species doggy-paddles to you just to mumble a creepy “hullo”, or a middle-aged uncle smiles slimily and says, “Pretty young girl enjoying a swim, eh?”, you will be presented with the urge to throw up and remove yourself from the situation. Irrespective of your aquatic prowess, turn around and swim/paddle toward freedom (or certain death by drowning). Both are welcome alternatives. The other option is to launch a manic attack like the bear from The Revenant (just to clarify, creepy uncle is not Leonardo DiCaprio), and hold the enthusiastic male in a stranglehold underwater.

Invest in a Burkini

You silly woman who imagined that a modest swimsuit would allow you to swim in peace, stop whatever you’re doing and first go buy yourself a burkini.  On French beaches, they might be looked down upon, but in Indian pools they are important so that your admirers can’t look down – at your chest. The burkini will put you in a spandex stronghold that will give you a sense of false security. You can try it for a couple of days… only to realise that it makes not a jot of difference what you wear. Uncles will still come paddling eagerly. Congratulations, you’re now stuck with a dead investment on a synthetic one-piece, and a pool full of testosterone. Lie back and enjoy this nauseating cocktail.

Grow a Pair… of Gills

When you have tried all the above (and failed, obviously) score some Gillyweed from your wizard drug dealer, and grow magical gills like Harry Potter did in The Goblet of Fire. This way you can simply stay underwater the whole time, and out of the radar of predators strolling in their speedos, scoping for a target. It’s the same as women keeping their heads down and pretending they don’t exist, but in water instead of on land.

So there you have it, a handy list of things to help assuage the perils of swimming alongside men who can’t keep it in their swimming trunks. Just remember though – none of this would be needed if we hadn’t demanded to occupy a public space like it’s our right or something. Maybe the MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists) are right – too much femi-nazism has led us to think we can swim with men.