In the summer, many in Bengaluru look forward to taking up swimming lessons or cooling off in the pools for leisure or exercise. Many parents admit their children in swimming academies for training too. But this year, this has not been the case.
Apart from salons, pubs and hotels, swimming pools and swimming coaching academies in the city have also taken a hit due the pandemic, lockdown, and subsequent restrictions. Nisha Millet, an Olympic swimmer, who runs the Nisha Millet Swimming Academy with several swimming pools in the city, says that she and her peers are having a hard time coping.
â€śUnlike other sports, we cannot teach swimming online. For the past four months, we have had zero income, and yet we have to pay our staff of 28, and maintain the pools (filtration of water and chlorination). The situation has become so bad that we had to empty one out of the pools which we manage in Nalapad Academy in Domlur. We donâ€™t expect that things will get much better any time in the near future as the number of COVID-19 cases has only been rising,â€ť says Nisha.
Elvis, one of the swimming coaches with the Nishaâ€™s Academy, who has 14 years of experience as a swimming coach, says, â€śI am finding it very difficult to cope. We have been getting only part of our payment which is enough to buy our groceries. To pay my rent, I had to take out money from my Provident Fund. Things are looking bleak, and many of my other colleagues have left the city to go to their hometowns as they cannot afford their rented houses anymore.â€ť
Similarly, Pauravi Shah, an admin staff at Nisha Millet Academy says, â€śI have been taking art classes to make ends meet, but it is not enough. Luckily, I have been able to negotiate with my landlord for rent.â€ť Pauravi says that most of the staff who have gone back home took the Shramik trains when the government was offering them.
Other swimming academies are facing a similar financial crunch.
Ramesh, an admin and maintenance staff from Swimlife Swimming Academy in Bengaluru, says, â€śAll the 34 staff in Swimlife are struggling to make ends meet. I have been finding it hard to afford three meals a day. I skip a meal so that my parents and my 4 year daughter can eat well.â€ť
Finding another job has been hard as well. â€śWhen the lockdown officially lifted, I was able to go work at a pani puri shop. But when COVID-19 cases started increasing again, even that was not an option anymore. Now my wife has found a job and she is starting work next month. Letâ€™s hope things look up from then,â€ť says Ramesh adding, â€śSome of our coaches are even willing to sell things on the pavement, but there are no jobs.â€ť
Manjunath, Rameshâ€™s colleague, says, â€śI have 15 years of experience as a swimming coach. I donâ€™t know any other work. Without pay, I have been selling vegetables that I source from Kolar, to others around the locality,â€ť says Manjunath.
To support her staff, Nisha Millet has begun a crowdfunding campaign. â€śWe donâ€™t expect anything from the government. To the government, swimming is recreation and not a serious sport to support, but our old students have come forward to help, many in touching ways! Some of the children who won prize money at competitive events have given that money to us for support.â€ť
â€śWeâ€™re still running the campaign, and we were able to pay our staff for the month of June. We canâ€™t ask for donations all the time, and we are looking for other sources of income for our staff. We donâ€™t expect things to get better for us at least until next summer,â€ť Nisha says.
Those who want to donate to Nisha Milletâ€™s crowdfunding campaign may do so here.