(A Short Story)
The tension in the changing room was palpable. Six contestants were waiting for the first call of the 100m Under 14 Breaststroke for girls. The event was the U.P. District Inter- Schools Swimming Championships for Girls and Boys, being held at La Martinere Girls School, Lucknow. Each of us was suited up in swimming costumes and caps; outwardly calm, but our minds were in turmoil.
I was reminding myself of all the tips given by Coach Awasthi “Devyani, remember to keep the dive smooth, stay focused. The quick tumble turn at the deep end will help you gain precious seconds”
This event was what I had trained rigorously for six months, by sacrificing precious study time. I had ignored Mum and Dad`s anxious expressions at my `wasting` precious study time in swimming practice. They gave up seeing the stubborn expression on my face.
Right now, I was caught up in the moment. Very few girls competed in such events, so it was a matter of personal pride too. Little did I know that this day was going to be a momentous day for reasons other than just coming first. It was going to have a far- reaching effect on my life.
After the first call for the Under 14 Girls Breaststroke, I went out and took my position at the starting block, along with the others. Many teams from various schools and clubs were in their appointed places. Silence fell after the last announcement. I was oblivious to everything happening around me. At the starting shot, I dived in, accomplished the first long glide and then concentrated on the movement of arms and legs to get the maximum speed. I reached the other end, touched the bar, a quick tumble and was off again. Staying in my lane, I made a quick check to see how I was placed for a win in the event. I was determined and strained at my last reserves of stamina, put in that extra effort and swam to a win! I was hugged and congratulated by friends and competitors. I was on top of the world, as my hard work had paid off.
With my event over, I had changed into my favourite red check dress and sat with the other competitors from my club. The dress, that my husband would say when we were reminiscing over the past, that had caught his attention. Not my swimming, just the dress!!!
Among the boys, there was one particular competitor who caught everyone’s attention. He had an athletic build, with a very fuzzy mop of black hair which refused to get flattened in the water. He just shook his head like a puppy, and it was all back in place again. Confidence oozed out of him. Of course, that could have been a façade. Maybe it wasn`t, as he won all his events with ease, be it freestyle, butterfly or backstroke.
I noticed him too. Vague thoughts going through my teenage mind, that besides being an excellent swimmer, he was also very handsome….and I thought, that was the end of that. However, that was just the beginning. One thing leading to another, till we ultimately met, we were pen pals. Our letters would go to best friends’ homes to avoid detection. It was the start of a long and fulfilling relationship.