What is the representation of India in Rohinton Mistry's "Swimming Lessons"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a sense in which this is a short story about a man who is struggling to find his place in the world. For the narrator, an Indian who is now in Canada, he finds that he is now writing about his life and looking back upon his childhood in India and his memories of this place. What is interesting about this story is the way that so many memories are associated with water. The narrator himself says that "Water imagery in my life is recurring" as he thinks of the Chaupatty beach in Bombay where as a child he learnt to swim and the pool where he has swimming lessons. 

The memories of learning to swim in Bombay do not present India at its best. In fact, there is a curious mix of filth and purity as he has distinct memories of street children swimming without any clothes on and with erections. They masturbate whilst his mother tries to show him how to swim. India is presented therefore as a place of memory and childhood, a place where water and filth mingle and flow together and a rich and fecund location for the author to revisit in order to weave his tales. 


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