While walking along the banks of the Ganges at around 5pm on our second day we came across a group of adults and children milling around the Ghat’s steps with intention. At first we could not figure out what was going on then it started to click, the children were getting changed into their swimming gear, now this is not an essential item to go in the Ganges and most go in fully clothed or naked, but we quickly realized this was actually a swimming club.
Who would have thought it, not only the holiest (and probably the dirtiest) river in Indian it was also a swimming pool! I was fascinated, out of a little hut came big inflatable rings and piles of arm bands and over the next 10 minutes more youngsters arrived and quickly stripped off with excitement and hopped down the steps to the water edge.
Now in life nothing makes me happier than knowing that regardless of your social status and living conditions, that children get the opportunity to learn to swim, cycle and climb tree’s, its three things I enjoyed in my childhood freedom and it’s something I like seeing all children doing or having access to do.
On that Ghat an impromptu office had been set up and there were two gentlemen doing paperwork and taking forms from some of the youngsters turning up. So I started chatting to the man to ask all about what was going on, he said they had started the Swimming Club 3 months ago and it had been a great success with more and more children and even adults joining.
It was such an odd sight and very different to my days as a child learning to swim but at the same time completely normal. Down by the waters edge were the children lining up in the water ready to get the patient instructors directions and then further up the Ghat on the steps sat about 40 Sari clad proud mothers watching their young ones learning to swim.
We sat and watched the school for about an hour enjoying the scene, I would have loved to have jumped in and joined the school but I suspect these children are a little more hardened to the ‘contents’ of the Ganges that this man is!
It was a chance encounter but one of the most rewarding and warming sights we came across in India for me. I have since dubbed this the Holiest Swimming Club in the World! With the school’s permission I also photographed this days lesson so enjoy some of the photographs