It is inherent to say that each of us refers back to memories of our childhood to reminisce in the awkward, comical and daunting experiences and discover parallelisms to our present existence. Rohinton Mistry writes of the parallel fears of water and swimming from childhood to adulthood and of overcoming, slowly but surely, a seemingly trivial act. The imagery and memory of water, specifically, is a key theme throughout the story. Mistry writes of the symbolism and meaning of water for the character in a philosophical way through self-exploring questions and recollections.
The thought and discussion of taking swimming lessons as an adult gives an opening to memories of attempted swimming lessons and the importance of Chaupatty Beach. “It seemed that the dirtier it became, the more crowds it attracted… (Or was it the crowds that made it dirtier? )”(260) This distant and uninviting body of water is the starting place for swimming lessons, though quick to be unenthusiastic “because of the filth”(261) and the ‘guttersnipes’ that taunted and teased the young learner.
This causes the reader to remember some aspects of swimming and the experiences of struggling physically, fearing peer pressure, and the unknown of deep water. Mistry is increasingly descriptive of water imagery and moments of memory so these images move off the page and into imagination, allowing the reader to visualise the filth, the struggle and the fear. “The universal symbol of life and regeneration did nothing but frustrate me. (260) There are numerous symbolic terms and meanings for water where water is cleansing, type of renewal, or a connection between symbolic life and death. When the first adult swimming lesson is attempted, there is a feeling of hopelessness and terror.
The character is weighed with emotion and burdened with dispelled expectation. “The swimming pool, like Chaupatty beach, has produced a stillbirth. ”(263) The character is beyond disappointment when he realises his expectation of triumph emerges into a symbol of death. Failure to swim through filth must mean something other than failure to rebirth – failure of symbolic death? ”(264) This question is posed as much for the reader as they are for the character.
There is a need to answer for the character so he might come to the realisation that there is more to life than being imprisoned by the failed attempts, to press on, move forward and endeavour to reach your goal. The character eventually becomes in a way reborn through his seemingly ordinary experience in the bathtub and the human nature of anting to overcome a fear. We relate to the idea of feeling reborn when overcoming the anxiety of particular obstacles on our lives. Finally, at his own pace, he realises he must fight his panic and fear of water as he has seen “the world outside the water… it is now time to see what is inside. ”(270) He sees with a changed perspective, his eyes are opened to the opportunities that he is yet to face and eventually triumph.
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