Being an ace sportsperson and also an academician, Meenakshi Pahuja is a rare achiever. She is an open water swimmer who has completed several marathon swims around the world and she teaches Physical Education in Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Excerpts:
Q. How do you manage both swimming and academic profession?
A. I have been teaching for eighteen years now. As an assistant professor, I give my time to my students, and I find enough time to go for open water swimming as well.
Q. Tell us about the five lakes that you swam in just five days?
A. I became the first Indian who swam five lakes just in five days. The name of the challenge was ‘Tex Robertson High Land Lakes Challenge’. I swam across Buchanan, Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls, and Travis.
Q. What challenges do you face during open water swimming?
A. You should ‘acclimatise’ yourself with the water conditions. ‘Marine life’ is another scary factor while you are swimming in the home of aquatic animals. You need a lot of endurance. You need to build your mental strength, it is really vital.
Q. Being a native of Delhi, how do you prepare yourself for the Oceans?
A. I believe I prepared myself through my experience. Your body needs to understand the temperature of the water, surroundings, climate, and other factors. In a swimming pool, you have the luxury as the water is fit for your body temperature. However, sometimes in open water swimming, you have to face cold waters; you have to be cautious about a lot of things. Hypothermia is a threat amid those conditions.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. My biggest dream is to see this whole world through water. I wish to explore more and more open water bodies. Owing to the pandemic, my California swim was called off. Now on a fresh note, I want to do my research and then I will go somewhere for more adventure.
Q. Did you ever consider participating in the Olympics?
A. I was a champion in the pool national games three consecutive times. I was at the peak of my career during those days. However, my father had scarce sources. He rather wanted me to have a secure future. In the end, we all need bread and butter at the end of the day.
Q. When were you introduced to open water swimming’?
A. I was six months old when my parents introduced me to this adventurous sport. Since then, I won many medals and prizes. The whole credit goes to my parents.
Q. What do you think about the scene of swimming in India?
A. Swimming as a sport has not developed in India much. However, to talk about the individual level, there are numerous brilliant swimmers. Nevertheless, as a culture, Swimming in India is like ‘Work in Progress.’
Q. If you were not a swimmer, what would you be?
A. I never think of this. But yes if I was not a swimmer, I would do a lot of philanthropic work, especially for the ones in need.