Wednesday, April 02, 2008

PM Swimming Center

Long time back I had wrote about Zhangjiang swimming pool where I used to practice swimming regularly during my days in China. Now it's the PM Swimming Center's turn to make an appearance in my blog. There are two PM swimming centers in Bangalore, one in Jayanagar III block, fondly called, Jaynagara swimming poolu and the other in RPC layout, Vijayanagar. The one under discussion here s the latter pool in Vijayanagar.

An extremely well maintained pool of international standards, crystal clear water, apt amount of chlorine (one could swim without goggles), nice ambiance, sufficient life guards...overall a 9/10 kinda pool. But what makes the pool rather interesting, as in the case of Zhangjiang swimming pool, is the people coming there rather than the pool itself. There is no age, caste or creed bar but definitely a sex bar exists. The people from Mars and Venus are never allowed to swim at the same time, there exists different batches only for women.

This is how the whole thing works. Loosely it's pretty much like a movie theatre - join the queue, buy the tickets, show it to the scrutinizer, undress, hit the shower (optional), dive into the pool, stop at the whistle, hit the shower again (optional) and exit. But each of these actions requires attention and explanation.

The queue is normally short, but if it's summer vacation time, then the queue may get annoyingly long and noisy. Rule breakers are umpteen in number, they are blind after some part of the queue and join somewhere in the middle without seeing anybody behind them. And there are few brave ones who enter the ticket counter in the direction exactly opposite to the queue (the queue is lateral to the counter) and are profusely subjected to verbal abuse of the highest order. The queue is composed of kids discussing about their homework, their strict miss in the school and certain teenagers talking about the figure they saw in the park or their friend's broken elbow.

The scrutinizer is a happy soul with the rare passion of shredding papers. He smiles at you, tears the tickets into two, hands over the bigger part (which forms the major part of litter around the pool, he can might as well keep both parts or trash them) and occasionally asks questions, "Why so late?"

Safe lockers are passé, leave your belongings under the open sky, be it sunny, be it rainy. A board reads "Enter pool with swimming costume only" which is as ineffective as "Smoking is injurious to health". You see people entering pools dressed with desi brands of undis - Ponni, Poomer, VIP, Rupa, Tantex - you name it you find it. There is yet another board as ineffective as the previous one, reads, "Take shower before entering the pool". Few of them disobey religiously and the others who respect the board, shower as though they're in a desert trying to save water. Not even an inch of their body would get wet, they just pass through the falling water and jump into the pool.

The deep (10 feet) and shallow (3 feet) ends are separated by 50m and a demarcation thread to indicate the start of depth at about 5 feet. The shallower side of the thread is a perfect visual example of population explosion. The crowd is so much and the space is so less that the purpose of your visit, swimming, could just not fulfilled. Wait a minute, I was not very precise in the previous statement when I mentioned that swimming was the purpose, but there are lots for whom it's a chance to bathe too. Good deal, isn't it: Pay for swimming and get shower for free!!! Also there is much of playing and less of swimming in the shallow end. Kids take run-up, leap high and enter into the water...if a video is shot excluding water surface, it looks pretty much like an athletic long jump. Pranksters are no less either, pulling undies and legs, splashing water are normal scenes. You maybe asked to lend your goggles by some inquisitive kids. I remember lending mine to one such kid, who wanted to know how it looks from inside the goggle, he swam without immersing is head down!!! There are also certain self-learners whose futile efforts (shallow end) to learn swimming would look as though they've been thrown in the middle of the lake crowded with hungry crocodiles. First of all they seldom immerse their head in the water, secondly there is no arms-legs-breathing co-ordination, thirdly they splash their arms and legs so rapidly that they're exhausted before swimming a few meters. Amidst all this chaos, there are lovely fathers teaching their lovely kids, some peaceful, tired souls sitting on the bank thinking weather to swim or not and few others flaunting their courage by crossing the safety thread once a while.

The deeper end is, thankfully, less crowded. Normally veterans keep wading the breadth (occasionally coming in the way of length swimmers) in this place and they're fewer in number. This place again is not completely devoid of entertainment. There are few swimmers who would want to exit from diving board, like those international guys...but invariably they fall into water like a pig dropped from a certain height, splashing a gigantic wave. Instead of forging ahead rapidly due to the dive, they drown down almost half the depth and then come up gasping for breath. Few of them seek entertainment by making others to compete. They would force you in the teeth of your decision to take part in the competition and have fun by cheering the winner and pulling the leg of loser.

The whole session is supposed to last for an hour - they start issuing tickets at 9, you end up in the pool by 9:10, the whistle is blown at 9:30, getting out of the pool, bathing and exiting would need another 25 minutes. So effectively, you swim for 20-25 minutes. Now that explains the herd of non-swimmers at the shallow end - no time, no space and no instructor.

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