Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Swimming in the Rain

To keep in touch with multiple spectrums of political thought I have taken to reading the Daily Mail along with BBC online. A recent article on the completely impartial and balanced (if you're a fascist) Daily Mail website concerned the return of the Speedo, a rather revealing swimming garment.

What better time I thought than to recount my experience of swimming in India.

It is quite safe to say that India is a socially conservative country. Modern Western concepts such as casual dating or social drinking are experienced and embraced by only a small minority of the growing middle class. On the whole even a man wearing shorts is a fairly rare sight and a woman wearing a skirt that comes above the knees usually means that she's probably either a Westerner or a very, very liberal Indian.

So swimming was always going to be an interesting, and potentially hazardous, activity from a culturally sensitive point of view.

The first two occasions on which I went swimming were quite similar and the question of modesty was answered with a simple and obvious response: wear all your clothes.

Of course! It makes perfect sense does it not? Dressed in one's full regalia one can practically glide through the water, much like an agile otter or a fish.

For the women in particular this is the done thing. I was surrounded by women wearing full salwar kameezes to the water but I couldn't help but feel that it was just a little impractical. Not that it was a huge issue it turns out because most of them couldn't swim anyway. Having had lessons at school it had never really occurred to me but there's not an abundance of public pools around here. In fact the city has substantial issues of water shortage and pools seem to be the preserve of the wealthy or hotels.

One consequence of this that did prove a little frustrating was the insistence on wearing a life jacket. There was a chronic fear of what could happen and because a few people drowned in a lake some years ago we were all forced to don restrictive life jackets before entering the water, irrespective of an individuals swimming ability. Indeed in one pool that I visited the lifeguards reprimanded me for straying too deep, despite the fact that at its deepest the water didn't go above my chin.

I couldn't help but feel that their rebukes were a little absurd.

So having got into this swimming-fully-dressed lark, when some friends invited me to Water Kingdom in Gorai I naturally came armed with a full repertoire of clothing items with which to take a dip.

What a surprise I was in for.

Water Kingdom is rather strict on their dress codes. This is a place that is, after all, 'Not for swimming' (a sign claimed that there were no such facilities on site). Anything that had zips or was of a fabric other than nylon was simple not allowed. No worries though, you are able to hire a piece of swimwear.

Now, putting aside the uncomfortable thought of how many other men had worn the garment before me, I approached the hiring stand to assess the options. To say I was scandalised would be an understatement. For a country that has a strong aversion to nudity the three options available were quite surprising!

The first item was a Speedo type piece. I politely declined.

The second and third options were both quite similar. The choice was thus between the enticingly named, full- or half-tight (fortunately 'full' and 'half' corresponded to the length of the leg rather than closeness of the suit).

I opted for half-tight as shorts seemed a better option than wondering around in what looked like a goalkeeper's trousers from the 1920s, but oh my! I spent the rest of the day walking around feeling like I was creating scenes of gross indecency. For a conservative country it seemed very bizarre that we were forced into wearing shorts that left very little of the human anatomy to the imagination.

It transpired that I was in good company though. More or less everyone else turned out wearing uncomfortable little shorts that weren't exactly flattering. At least I could take away from the day the realisation that I am a socially active, gregarious, outgoing and open person, though alas not a student as that seems to be important and worthy of note.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant Andrew, entertaining as ever, oh and nice pic, loving the tan lines ;)