“When I’m in the water with my child, I feel joy. It’s definitely a bonding moment.”
After a bad experience with school swimming lessons, Niran Vinod wasn’t exactly in a rush to get back in the water. And coming from an Indian family, that was compounded by the emphasis on studying to improve his future career prospects. Becoming a father changed all that. Niran is determined to enjoy swimming with his daughters.
“My relationship with swimming is turbulent,” Niran explains. “I did the standard lessons back in school, didn’t really enjoy it, had a bad experience and never really went back to swimming or had the opportunity to, because my parents didn’t swim.”
“I guess there’s multiple reasons for that. I think there’s almost a saying, like, Brown people don’t swim. In the Indian community, sport was never really encouraged. You have to study, and get a secure job. And sport almost seemed a distraction to that.”
“It’s definitely a generational privilege that I have now, that I can take my kid swimming.”
“Maybe it’s also down to being the son of immigrants. My parents were surviving and we were trying to make ends meet. So maybe swimming was just a luxury they couldn’t spend money on at that point.”
As he got older, holidays with friends would prompt Niran to reevaluate his relationship with the water. “I was the only one that didn’t know how to swim or I’d still get in the water, but just didn’t swim across it,” he laughs. But it was only when his first daughter was born that he decided he should do something about it.
“It’s definitely a generational privilege that I have now that I can take her swimming. That was the first activity we did, I think she was like two and a half months. I’m sure she had no clue what she was doing. But I want to make sure that she’s able to swim from a young age,” Niran continues. “When I’m in the water with my kid, I feel joy. It’s definitely a bonding moment.”
Understandably then, Niran is now looking to improve his swimming skills, both as a means of continuing that emotional connection and of providing care and safety for his family.
“I definitely wanna learn how to swim in the next few years,” he says. “Especially as both kids learn how to swim, I wanna be able to jump in the water like Aquaman and save them. And it’s a valuable life skill that they can gain. Taking them isn’t a big chore. I think the harder part is probably packing the bag and making sure you haven’t left anything at home.”
“Even now, where we take our daughter, it definitely feels like a privileged place, because its classes aren’t accessible.”
From Niran’s perspective, change will come not just from more representation at the elite level, but more inclusion and access at the local level too.
“We barely even see any Black or Brown athletes coming through in swimming. We’ve started to see that slowly coming to the Olympics. But then, you look at local leisure centres and swimming pools, the instructors are usually white. So, I think just switching that up a bit will encourage more parents to take their kids,” he explains.
“She just loves splashing about, and over time, I’ve seen her just get more confident and daring.”
“And even now, where we take our daughter, it definitely feels like a privileged place, because classes aren’t that accessible. Um, so if there’s government funding into swimming pools, and subsidised classes, that’d probably help.”
For now, Niran’s is focusing on ensuring his daughter continues to grow in her love of swimming — or perhaps is trying to keep up with her desire to be in the water.
“She’s always asking, ‘Daddy, can we go swimming?’ And even this morning, she woke up saying, ‘Are we going swimming today?’” he laughs.
“She just loves splashing about, and over time, I’ve seen her just get more confident and daring. Before she would, like, step down into the water, now she jumps into the water. And it’s definitely a skill that you just have to keep doing. Just like anything in life, the more you do it, the better you get.”