This post will take us some 18 years back. The place is Umargaon, a sleepy village on the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The exact location is the Umargaon Club, where a small boy, not more than 5 years old, is eagerly listening to his nana (maternal grandpa) telling him about something called "swimming pool".
The boy is wearing a large panama hat, goggles, a full length sweatshirt and a pair of dark blue jeans. Oh and don't forget sports shoes and socks as well. The kid has not seen a swimming pool in his life and he is eagerly taking in all that his nana is telling him about it.
The boy gets very excited and wants to take a dip in this newfangled swimming pool as soon as he can. He is oblivious to the fact that he does not know how to swim and he does not have the proper clothing for it. He makes a run for the swimming pool and with his entire clothing on, panama hat, goggles and all, jumps into the high end (25-30 ft) of the swimming pool.
Pandemonium is a gentle British understatement for what follows. The boy, unable to swim, starts screaming hysterically, while secretly enjoying the excitement. The grandparents are aghast, temporarily unable to figure out what to do. The life guard immediately jumps in and gets the boy out. The father of the boy is half-exasperated, half-amused. The mother is livid.
This was my first tryst with the swimming pool. Yes, I was the boy. Actually, the boy with the panama hat still lives in a corner of my heart. He signifies for me boundless enthusiasm, contagious joy and an unlimited capacity to love.
The boy is going strong now, confronting everything in the world with those trademark qualities of his and learning to be happy every moment of his life. But the world was not so easy on the boy with the panama hat. The world tried to silence him in ways more than one. At times such as those, I had to shield him and nurture him. I had to make sure the intensity of his qualities never diminished. But now, the boy is powerful enough to take anything the world can throw at him. He converts every moment of his life into paradise almost effortlessly.
In other words, initially I was the boy's protector. In time, he has become mine.