Pursuing a sport seriously , say in Mumbai, or for that matter , traveling out of town for it, is , to say the least, NOT an easy thing.
For her, daily training was the simpler part. A great pool with a great coach within 10 minutes jogging distance, a two wheeler mother who daily took her for her workouts of several kilometres in the water, a very very strict coach, great fellow swimmers, and they would rush back at 9 pm, dripping hair,windbreakers and huge bags held precariously on the two wheeler, revving up the incline.
Going for competitions was another thing. Traveling in the Mumbai suburban trains, and one always carried sufficient water, fluids, and assorted fresh cooked carb foods, boiled eggs, bananas, not to mention an old bedsheet to spread on the ground around the pool. Insisting on warmups, inside and outside the water, avoiding wilful hunger pangs, keeping one ear attuned to announcements of her events, while she met her long lost friends from other pools; mobilizing by the other end of the pool to cheer oneself hoarse beseeching the child to "Pull ! Pull !", and sometimes, both being delighted with the result. Travel in Mumbai was short but unpredictably crowded, not meant for lugging big kit bags and food along with two little wilful girls, and you had to ensure they exited the train with you through the crowds, and didn't leave anything behind.
Out of town trips for meets, were even more unpredictable.
Some were very much within the cities, but some were very much on some terrible undulating outskirts in the middle of nowhere, where you lugged a tired child and heavy wet bags for huge distances in the evening trafficless gloom , till you spied a ricksha and prayed that he agreed to take you back to civilization. If he did not, you simply pushed on, luggage and tired child in tow. There were usually, simply no arrangements by the organizers to drop competitors at the nearest bus or train station. Most arrangments for food and lodging pertained to the officials.
Some were very much in the hinterland of the state, and the official government arrangements assumed you would be travelling with bedding, clothes and buckets and tumblers. Overrun by hundreds of swimmers wandering around with cycling shorts and tees (amidst the wandering local pigs trying to figure out what all the excitement was), something unheard of in that town, the pool gallery would be hugely packed daily, with folks rushing in to enjoy sights of folks in speedos, racing each other. Staying in whatever available hotel, giving pieces of one's mind to staff who knocked at odd times, and occasionally simply changing hotels in anger. The electricity going off at the station crowded with 200 swimmers waiting for two trains , and having to approximately board the right train.
And then there were the 5 km Sea Races. In Mumbai.
Held in the dirtiest area of the Sea, at The Gateway of India. Usually packed with catamarans and boats, diesel smells, and oil splotches in the water. A small shamiana enclosure(without a roof) , ideal for 10-15 girls , but used by 7-8 times as many, meant for changing. And the mother carrying two 5 litre huge bottles of water from home, 40 kilometres away , since showers at the Gateway were nonexistent . The daughter emerging 3rd, coming out of the water, studded with dissolved fuel, dirt and assorted black junk stuff , and the mother emptying the two lugged water containers over her head. And then in a sudden discovery, some of the girls rushing to the posh loo of the Taj Mahal Hotel nearby in desperation, after the race.
There have been sulks, arguments, questions, whoops, cribs, guffaws, tears and stampings of feet, over the years, and the mother has had to maintain somewhat of a earth anchor through it all.
Today, for the mother, for many years, evenings have not meant the pool, her daughter's practice , or managing the transportation. The daughter is on her own there. In a kind of zone. She still does workouts, but competitions are passé and old hat. The new buzzword is coaching. Encouraging older women and young children to swim, under her own coach's watchful eye.
Things like work and Facebook appear to be more attractive. Lots of friends and photos.
The mother, in her own old fashioned way, is also on Facebook.
And she got a notification yesterday. Asking for a confirmation of something on her daughter's Timeline.
Typically she didn't understand what was happening, and how she came into the scheme of things.
The daughter leaned over from her laptop, clicked on some link in the notification, turned to her and said, " You were so much and always a part of all this. You need to confirm this , so it appears on my Timeline....."
The mother looked confusedly at the screen, absorbing the words "Life event" , went back so many years in her mind , and clicked.
The young girl had tagged her.
It was a photograph of a very young girl, with her very first medal haul in November 1996........