Shame, Swimming & Learning

  • Admin
  • May 15, 2018

What connection would my learning swimming have with CAT preparation? How would a hirsute,  pot-bellied man in his 30s’ learning swimming  be connected with learning anything? There is a connection. Let me explain. There is a definite connection between preparing for the CAT or for that matter learning anything and my learning swimming.

As a borderline obese man in his early 30s the primary need I feel is the need to reduce my weight.  The first advice one hears is that one needs to hit the gym. I can safely say that I have hit the gym multiple times and that the gym also hit me back. With muscle pain and demotivation.

 Needless to say  none of those attempts were successful. What actually worked for me were yoga and swimming. Both these were done with friends and under an instructor and were immensely enjoyable  and are actually delivering results unlike Gymming.

Lesson 1: The person who asks you to read The Hindu's editorials when you haven’t even read a Chetan Bhagat doesn’t know what she is talking about. Reading should always be done for pleasure. Reading about the G20 meeting in Geneva takes will power. We have only limited will power. For learning anything you need to exercise will power but there are limits to tolerance. Unless you have spent years reading the newspaper, reading about the great financial crisis of 2008 will only put you to sleep.  ( Mind you I am not saying The Hindu is not useful for CAT. Reading The Hindu is very useful provided you have done adequate ground work and built interest in such topics which are likely to feature in CAT.)

Before I entered the pool, I saw a bevy of 12 year old boys lined up before me. They giggled seeing me ,”Uncle aap bhi swimming seekhoge?”. I wanted to whip those whippersnappers but I smiled and said ,”Yes”. 

It was immensely embarrassing to be the sole adult in a pool full of boys under an adult instructor but I wanted to learn this. And if I wanted to learn swimming I needed to accept that I did not know swimming.

Lesson 2: There is no shame in admitting ones ignorance. To learn anything first you have to accept your ignorance. Here I was admitting that I was at the same level as a 12 year old kid. I had to shed the adult pretence of being all knowing and superior. I was an equal to the kids or maybe even inferior. Either I could admit my ignorance and line up before all these kids or think I was superior and not learn swimming all my life.

For E.g. students don’t ask their doubts in class because it is embarrassing. Think about it. If you ask your doubts you only LOOK stupid.  But you gain in knowledge. However if you don’t ask your doubts you REMAIN stupid.

One of the exercises I had to do was floating like a dead man while holding my breath. I proved exceptional at it. After all I am good at any task which involves lying still and doing nothing. The instructor asked the kids to look at me and learn. “Dekho Uncle kaise kar rahe hain. Bahut achche se kar rahe hain”. The word  “unclepricked my balloon,  but I felt delighted. When I left I thanked all the instructors before leaving, even the ones who had not instructed me.

Lesson 3:  Don’t be an asshole. Thank people who help you on the way up. If they were  the instructors and I was the student there was a reason why they were in the superior position. Thanking them didn’t make me inferior. You never know when you might need someone’s assistance. Think about it . Even expert swimmers do drown in swimming pools. For all I know I might   be the one being saved tomorrow.


Thus to summarise. 

1) Start with what you enjoy. 

2) Secondly you need to admit your ignorance before you overcome it.  

3) And lastly be grateful for what you get.


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