Once upon a time there was a little girl called Mina. She could swim very well. She swam so well that people who saw her in the water marveled and said, "She seems to have been born in the water!" In a way she almost was. Her mother liked to swim, and soon after Mina was born, she would take Mina with her whenever she went into the swimming pool. The baby seemed to love it. It would throw its arms and feet gleefully, and make as big a splash as a baby can. Her mother loved it too, and said, "Mina will be a great swimmer one day."
When Mina grew a little more, she seemed set to prove her mother right. For she quickly learnt to stay afloat and then to move in the water. The more she grew, the better she swam. She swam effortlessly and gracefully; after a while she swam fast too. She was really a wonderful swimmer.
As she swam each day she noticed that swimming was getting easier all the time. It took her less effort to do whatever she had done earlier. She could now cross the pool forty times without stopping. She could do so much more comfortably than she did before. Her arms and legs would not tire, and she would not get out of breath. It was all so easy. The water seemed to help her.
She noticed it the more she crossed the pool many times every day. Fifty, sixty, sixtyfive. She could just go on and on. Sometimes people watched her. That made her conscious, and she seemed to have to swim a little harder, exert a little more effort. Other times, when nobody was around, she swam without thinking, and things seemed to go better. Thinking back, she could not even remember if she moved her arms and legs at all, but she certainly moved. She moved actually better and faster. It almost appeared the water was helping her to float and go forward. She loved it.
The pool gave her a wonderful sense of freedom. At school teachers were always telling her what to do and also what not to do. She could seldom follow her interests. Even at home she could not always do what she wanted to do. It was a relief to be in the pool. She could do just what she liked. She could go slow or fast, she could forward or backward. She could follow her own inclination. The water was her friend.
Now the friend helped her every day. All she had to do was get into the water and stretch her body, and the water did the rest. It carried her happily from one end to the other. All she had to do was to let her legs pedal, move her arms in a steady rhythm, and the water would do the rest. It would support her and move her forward to the other end of the pool. After she had done several laps and was a little tired, she would lie on her back, and the water would simply carry her along and not let her sink. When she would start again, it would part more easily and let her go ahead faster. The water was really very thoughtful.
One day an unusual thought occurred to her. Since the water was so thoughtful and friendly, wasn't it curious that she was swimming in it? On the land one never thinks of moving on one's chest, slithering like a snake? After one has grown up, it is ridiculous to consider crawling on all fours like a baby. Why should then one have to always swim in the water? Why can't one walk on it as one walks on the ground, in a park or on the street, Mina wondered.
The idea kept turning in her mind. She became convinced that there was nothing wrong with the idea of walking on water. The water was her friend, knew her for a long time, and would surely help her if she tried. Well, try it she would. She made up her mind.
The next day, when nobody was around, she went to the swimming pool. Unlike other days, she did not immediately dive into the pool. She stood on the edge and looked at the water. It was placid; there was hardly a ripple. The water looked quiet and inviting. She trusted her familiar friend. Her heart was beating faster than usual, but it was excitement rather than fear.
She raised her left leg, bent forward and slowly lowered her left foot on the surface of the water. The water felt cool and slippery, but firm. She rested her foot on the water! It held. Hesitating no more than a moment, she now lifted her right leg and planted her right foot on the water. It held too. She was standing on the water!
She could hardly believe it. There she stood on the water, its coolness giving a pleasant tingle to her feet. To balance herself she kept her legs slightly apart and her arms outstretched. She looked up from the water. A radiant sun was emerging from behind the clouds, and the sunlight felt warm and pleasant on her face. The house next to the pool sparkled in the bright light. Mina felt thrilled and confident.
The water moved only slightly, and Mina could easily keep her balance. She didn't even need to keep her arms spread out. The water felt a little slippery, like the street to her school on rainy days. But it was really quite all right. She stepped forward.
She was walking! She did not fall, she did not sink; she went ahead, as if she was walking on the ground. Her friend, the water, had stayed loyal. It had not let her sink, but made itself firm so that she could easily walk on it. It swayed slightly as she walked, like on a ship or inside a moving bus; still she could walk quite easily.
Mina walked from one end of the pool to the other, then turned and started walking back. She walked more easily now, faster, and looked comfortably around as she walked. She felt wonderful and proud.
All that afternoon Mina debated whether she should tell her mother about what happened at the pool. She wanted to tell her mother of her triumph. Yet Mina wondered how she would take it. Her mother too loved the pool and the water. Would she get upset if she knew how proud Mina felt that she had mastered the water and walked on it? Mina had her doubts, and though she felt uncomfortable about it, she eventually decided not to tell her mother anything.
She decided instead that she will share her triumph with her friends. They were not her friends really, they were her class mates in school. She did not find all of them very friendly. That did not matter, for now she was going to amaze and impress all of them. The following day at school she invited them to come to her home and said she would give them a big surprise.
The next day was a little cloudy. Mina wondered whether her classmates would actually come. She was excited and hoped they would. She was quite surprised when they all started coming in, one by one. They in fact brought some of their own friends, so curious they were to observe Mina's surprise. Mina felt thrilled, for she knew her surprise would leave them speechless.
She left them for a minute and changed into her best swimsuit. Her mother had often told her how pretty she looked in her purple swimsuit. When she returned to her friends, they were even more curious to know what she was about to show them. She led them all outside, next to the swimming pool. She said, "Now, just wait and watch. You are going to see something you have never seen."
Then she walked up to the pool. This was a familiar place, in fact her favorite place. She had been here so many times. Yet today it seemed all so different. Something unique was going to happen today. Something that would let her classmates see how different and special she was. Something that would set her apart, and let them see she was really better.
She stood on the edge of the pool. The water looked placid. It seemed decidedly tame, as if it knew who was its mistress. She felt perfectly confident. All she had to do was to place her feet on the still water and start her walk. The water would never dare to do anything different. She put her left foot forward to step on the water.
She felt the first touch of water on her heel, all around her feet, and then surprisingly at her ankle. Oh, no! Her foot was sinking in the water. It was so unexpected that she lost her balance and toppled headlong into the pool. As she sank into the shallow end, for a second she seemed to have lost control of her limbs. It was as if she couldn't swim. Her limbs hadn't broken in the fall, but her world had.
As her head came up again above the water, she didn't want to look at the world. Her friends stood there, somewhat confused by her awkward entry into the pool. They didn't know what to expect any more. Mina didn't know what to tell them now. The water had let her down. It had been treacherous. It had led her to believe she could depend on it; then it had made a fool of her, in public. She wished she could remain under the water and not have to face her classmates. She felt shamed and humiliated. The place where she had been most happy had become the place of her deepest disgrace.
Mina took a deep breath, stayed under water as long as she could, then brought her head out of the water as slowly as she could. She did not know what to say to her friends, waiting there for her. She did not have to.
As she came out of the water, she realized that her friends were not looking at her in the pool. They were all looking at her mother who had just come out on to the pool. They must have just told her what they had come to her house for. She smiled at them and said, "I have the most wonderful surprise for you all. Just come into the living room, while Mina gets ready and joins us."
Mina was relieved to be alone, even though temporarily. She didn't want to see those classmates again. She couldn't bear to think of the humiliation of facing them and hearing them laughing at her. She dried herself in the bathroom and came back into the living room. She saw her friends standing round in a circle and her mother slicing a very large and beautiful cake.
As she came into the room, surprisingly her friends greeted her with broad smiles. One of them said, "This is really a wonderful surprise!" Others told her what a delicious cake it was, and one even placed a plate in her hands. Mina looked up at her mother, and saw that she was looking very affectionately at her. It seemed she knew the pain Mina had gone through, and did not want her to feel bad any more. Nobody seemed to remember what had happened only a few minutes ago. Certainly nobody was laughing at Mina. All seemed busy eating and having a good time.
Later that evening, when all the friends had gone home, Mina went and sat on her mother's lap, something she hadn't done in a long while. Though her mother did not ask her anything, Mina wanted to tell her everything. Even that she had planned to keep it all a secret from her. As she said that part, she suddenly found tears were coming down her eyes. Her mother just kept saying, "It's all right, it's all right."
Mina knew that it was all right with her friends. They hadn't really found out how foolish she had been. They had gone home happy with what they thought was a surprise party.
She knew though it was not all right with the water. The water in the pool had known her intention all along. It knew how proud she had been. It had chosen to teach her a lesson. She could not bear to think that her friend, whom she had known and trusted for so long, had deliberately let her down in front of everyone. She would never trust the water again. She would never get into that pool again. Or in any pool, for that matter.
The cloud that had gathered during the day broke late that evening. It rained heavily through the night. Mina woke up once and listened to the patter on the roof with a heavy heart: she thought of the good friend she had liked so much in the pool, who was not a friend any longer.
She woke up to a bright and cheery day. Without a thought, she got out of her bed and walked over to the pool. The rain had filled the pool to the brim. Mina came to the edge of the pool and stood watching silently. The water that had appeared so still earlier seemed to surge a little, and a little wave urged by the breeze came and lapped the ground just next to Mina's little feet. Mina stood quietly.
Was the water trying to tell her something? She was not sure. Just that moment the breeze changed direction, and a slightly larger wave came and splashed Mina's feet. Mina looked down. She immediately knew what it meant. The water was telling her that it was sorry it had hurt her. It hadn't meant to. It only meant to let her know that it considered Mina a friend, and wanted her to swim in it and with it, not just walk on it. The water was still her friend. A very good and affectionate friend. It still wanted to be her friend.
Mina wasn't wearing her swimsuit. She still took a plunge.