Of Flailing Limbs

by Ashish

Suddenly, there is only water all around you. Water with a greenish tinge, and sunlight filtering through.

You panic. You flounder around, wriggling in desperation to get away from the hand that is holding you under water. The hand doesn’t relent though. It’s got a firm grip on your head, and it isn’t about to let go so easily.

Eventually it does though. You raise your head up, splutter, and draw in a deep gasp of blessed air. And as the water drips away from your face, and you peer around through water filled eyes, a voice rings in your ears.

“I’ve told you seventeen hundred and sixty times… KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT!”

Prabhat Road is a quiet leafy old road, right in the heart of the city. It links Law College Road to Karve Road, and is interspersed with huge trees, old homes and a bewildering array of lanes. No fewer than sixteen, if memory serves me correctly.

For the purposes of our essay today, it will suffice to note that at one end of Prabhat road lies the venerable Tilak Tank.

Eons ago (as I remember it), the land where Tilak Tank now stands was a rapidly depleting quarry. Instead of using the site for any other purposes, it was decided by the authorities in question to build a swimming pool for the local populace.

They didn’t go in much for aesthetics, the architects of the time. When it was decided that a swimming pool had to be built, they went ahead and did only and just that. One huge, overarching reach of a pool – all of 100 feet in length. It was five feet at one end, twenty (!) feet in the middle, and five once again at the other end. There were two smaller pools by the side, one measuring three feet in depth, and the other a more adventurous four. These were for the tiny tots to make their bones, before they ventured into waters deep. It had greenish water, water snakes in the monsoon, and algae clung to it’s mossy walls throughout the year.

But it was glorious. Back in the 1980’s, it really was. It used to be full of people – kids learning the art under the expert tutelage of local coaches, children playing a vigorous game of water polo, athletes skimming away in intense concentration, and the really lucky ones like me – learning swimming and frolicking at the same time. That too with my grandpa. Heaven, I tell you.

Tilak Tank had a bit of everything for everybody. Shallow pools for the toddlers, a separate section for the water polo dudes, another one for the heavy duty trainer types, and yet another for the amateur regulars. One special section, the very deepest of the lot, was reserved for diving. You could climb to the very top, all of two storeys, take a deep breath, and jump. Down you went, like a sack of coals, and you could touch bottom at twenty feet below. Watching the bravehearts do that was an experience in itself.

But most fun of all were two black pipes. One was at the far end of the hundred feet pool, and one was between the two smaller ones. These pipes, upright and about three feet in height, would spout water all evening long. Frolicking under that shower was unimaginable glee.

All year long, and especially in the summer, Tilak Tank was the place to be. For many a Punekar, for many a year.

One of my fondest memories of childhood, as is the case with many a Punekar.

It’s all changed today, of course. The hundred feet pool is no more, split today into a smaller pool and an Olympic size version. It’s got cleaner water, better facilities, and the whole thing looks very spiffy.

Don’t get me wrong, this one’s better.

But personally, whenever I pass the place, I still see greenish water. I still see the old pool and the little kid. And most of all, I still see that little kid’s grandad.