Sunday, October 30, 2011

...(and that's how I) DIVE!

Written this back in August, 2009. Some of you may have read it already. Cheers!

"Dad... I can't", she said wiping her tears as her mother hugged her. "One day you will honey..." and hummed a lullaby to her little girl who wept and finally slept. Like many other ten year olds, her dad is her Hero. Just a little difference that being a 7-time gold medalist in olympics, he was an inspiration for many.

The blues of the pool, the smell of chlorine in air, sitting in her mom's lap playing with her little 'duckey' while he swam are things still fresh in her mind. "She's a born swimmer" is what her dad said when she travesed the room doing the baby-breaststroke and not the usual crawl.

And now, up in the middle of the night, she looks at her new pink swim-set that her dad gifted her. Tears rolled down her eyes. "What's wrong with me?" and she cried herself back to sleep again.

She got up next day. It was the day of trials for THE RACERS, her school swimming team. She so wanted to be a part of it. She's been trying to swim but never got her basics right. Her dad did everything he could. He helped her himself, he enrolled her with the best trainers but no improvement. Sometimes she couldn't hold her breath for long, other times she just panicked and what hurt her the most was the booing and commenting by others..."Her dad is a champ. She's a loser." And they chanted "L-O-S-E-R" in chorus as she ran away to the changing rooms.

Today was a 'do-or-die' chance for her. She had decided that if she couldn't make it today, she'll accept that she can't swim and won't ever enter the pool again. Sporting her costume, she adjusted her swim goggles and ear plugs. On the first whistle she calmed herself, on the second she repeated,"I will do it" deep down her mind and heart. And on the third, she stepped forward to jump but she slipped and fell back. For a few seconds everything faded... Then someone said "LOSERRRR...."

She stood up and walked away from the pool.. Forever.

It has been ten years since that day. She gave it up, crushed her dreams to be a swimmer and started playing soccer. She is the captain of SHOOTING STARS- her college soccer team since three years now. But off and on in the back of her mind she still wanted to swim. It was the ONE thing she wanted to defeat one day.

"Kiki, you coming with me?" called her dad. "Yeah dad! I can't miss this for the world". Her dad was being awarded for the outstanding swimmer he had been over the years. Having won 15 gold and 4 silver medals, he was a LEGEND.

After the ceremony, she headed to the afterparty at the pool with her mom and dad. Someone dared her dad, "Hey Rob, aint got anything left in 'yeh muscles huh? What's with the silvers?" He was an old competitor who too represented the country but never really won anything for years. With this, Rob stripped off his shirt and jumped in the freezing pool...

He didn't resurface.

"Dad, enough... come out now", Kiki shouted. People stood glued to the spot. For them it was just another 'DARE-ME' stuff. Deep underwater, Rob struggled. He hadn't been fit for previous years' olympics. He was advised rest. The freezing water did something to him. He felt a sudden STOP. His heart wasn't beating. And he was slowly going dizzy. He thought he heard Kiki's faint voice... Fading!

Something inside Kiki snapped. Rob was nowhere.

"Call the lifeguard GOD DAMMIT!!!", she screamed and then not waiting for the consequences, did what she never did in ten years. She took a deep breath and jumped. She heard her mom shout "Noooooo..." but she didn't care. Her HERO, her POP was in there...

The water was freezing... She held on. All she wanted was her dad. She swam her way through the 33 ft deep pool... searching for a sign him... And then she saw his hand and her movements sped up."I'm here dad... I'm here", her heart whispered and she held on to him and began her way up... Within a minute or so she brought him back to the pool side. The lifeguards arrived the minute she was up and took charge along with the doctors.

Sitting outside the ICU with her mom by her side, she with a broken voice, prayed...

"Been with you ... through the years
It's better everyday, you've kissed my tears away
Daddy I love you... never go away...please”

"He'll be fine.." was the last she heard before dashing in and holding his hand again. He winked and smiled her favourite smile and slowly said,"I told your mum... My Kiki is a born swimmer".. and she hugged him!

© 2011 Neha Choudhry


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