Swimming Kalari for all
Nalini Devi, 60, has been running a swimming class in the pond near her house for just Rs 10. From two-year-olds to 75-year-olds, all are welcome at her pond
Every afternoon, Nalini Devi’s pond will be filled with laughter. The natural pond with kids learning diving and paddling is a common sight for nearby residents of Thottakarapadi in Malappuram.
Nalini Devi, 60, has been a swimming enthusiast ever since she could remember. She used to work as a nurse in a private hospital and delved into training people of all ages to swim from 2011. So far, around 12,500 students have learnt swimming under the guidance of Nalini.
What makes her special is that she charges just Rs 10 for all her students, Be it a two-year-old toddler or a 75-year-old retiree, all are welcome at school and need to pay only the same rate!
Nalini who took VRS from her nursing career is now running this ‘swimming kalari’ full time. “It all began when one person had to go through hydrotherapy as part of her treatment. I went to assist her. While she was swimming she lost balance from the protection tube, so I dived in to help her out. I accompanied her until she finished the therapy,” she says. The experience inspired Nalini to devote time to swimming classes.
A majority of the elderly crowd in her class are being trained under doctors’ recommendations. “Swimming is a great exercise. People who have backaches and other ailments come here to get the lessons,” says Nalini.
When the other swimming academies charge a hefty fee, Nalini gives professional training free of cost. She started charging a fee only in 2017. “The amount is to clean the surrounding of the pond. I used to take it from beginners for the first 10 days. I started charging only after I renovated the pond in which I grew up learning swimming,” says Nalini.
The instructor also travels to nearby places to give training. There also she charges only a meagre fee to meet her vehicle expenses. When asked about the benefit from levying a low fee, Nalini said, “So far I have been able to bear my expenses. At present, I am not going through any major financial crisis. This is not a way of generating income for me. I want people to learn swimming and let them swim freely.”
Nalini’s interesting procedure has proven to be effective. For beginners, she introduces them to water by making them cross the pond with the help of a tube. Once they are settled, they will be trained using the ‘bottle technique.’
“Bottles will be placed inside the student’s T-shirt which will be kept intact by closing the end using the shirt itself. Two bottles will be placed on the abdomen area also with their necks tied together. This is just for support,” she explains. The number of bottles is decided on how much a student can lift their legs.
Once the Covid restrictions were lifted, Nalini started taking classes in batches. “Adults who have taken two doses of vaccination will be permitted. For beginners, classes will be taken daily. Slots are prepared according to travelling distance,” adds Nalini. Though proper care is given to students during classes, Nalini makes it mandatory for parents to accompany beginners.
The 10th-grade students in Nalini’s ward are all certified swimmers. Councillor and Nalini together decided of making swimming classes mandatory especially for 10th-grade students. “It is important to learn swimming. If you know how to swim, chances are 90% better for you in drowning emergencies,” says Nalini.