I recently discovered that my boss is not, in fact, a doctor. He’s a homeopath.

This makes several things that have happened make sense.

In particular, it sheds light on one of the dumbest things I’ve done in India: swimming in one of Kolkata’s numerous retention ponds during my first week here. Whether I did so willingly, however, is a matter of debate.

It was my first week in Kolkata, and my boss had invited me and two of my friends in his Sunday evening ritual, a 5 o’clock swim. We were so excited about the possibility of escaping Kolkata’s heat we didn’t take note of the fact that he described his favorite spot as a “natural pool.” Or perhaps because we thought he was a doctor we trusted him.

Whatever the case, we were all shocked when we showed up at a retention pond surrounded by houses on one side a soccer field on the other. On the edge of the field a troop of cows was muching on the grass. Several people along the edges were doing their laundry.

J said that because she was a girl she couldn’t go in. She’d attract to much attention, which was undoubtedly true. 

As I was about to get in, she advised me not to put my head below the water. She also told me a story about the dangers of elephantitis.

Side note: All readers, regardless of gender, in pressure situations never ever talk about elephantitis. It’s usually not funny. And even when it is, which it probably was in the case, it’s just down right cruel.

So, fearing elephantitis as well as ear infections, I slowly waded into the lukewarm water, taking care to keep my head above water. I mentally ticked off the different parasites and weird skin maladies I could pick up through this tryst with stupidity.

The doctor, who could detect my uneasiness: “You don’t like swimming?”

Me, gritted teeth: “No, I love swimming. Love it.”

To prove my love for swimming I did a couple strokes, hoping to placate him. All it did, however, was attract the attention of a group of preteen boys who quickly challenged me to a race. Jeered on by a veritable crowd of onlookers I had to accept.

So, in what must have been a seriously comedic scence, I attempted to freestyle while keeping my head completely above water.

The ten-year-old smoked me.

After that, I invented some excuse to get out and being furiously scrubbing, which I continued to do until we left even after I was dry.  

Upon getting home my host mother asked where I’d gone swimming. Immediately she stood up and started yelling at me:

“My sons once went swimming there and both got sick. Get in the shower now and don’t come out for half and hour!”

Thankfully, though, I think I dodged the bullet.