While driving along Sidhwan Canal passing through the southern part of Ludhiana, whenever I see teens bathing in the canal, it often sends shivers down my spine reminding me of an incident that took place way back in 1967.
We, a group of students staying in the fan-less hostel rooms of the university in Ludhiana, decided to cool off during one hot May day by bathing in the canal. Picking up our bicycles we pedalled to the canal bank alongside the then sparsely populated area of Sarabha Nagar.
Soon after taking off the clothes the experienced swimmers among us jumped into the canal and started crisscrossing it. While novices like me and my friend, Mota Gill, sat on the bank with legs suspended in water and splashing water occasionally on to our bodies. Sidhwan Canal is known for its fast-flowing water and a deep unstable sandy bed. Its bed is surreptitiously shallow near the banks and tapers down suddenly deep catching the bather unawares.
We were enjoying ourselves. As I sat with my legs in water, a friend of mine positioned himself behind me and we both slipped into the water. I was instantly swept away by the fast current. Luckily, my friends Hari and Kuldeep were sitting near the bank and they immediately jumped into the water. Both were tall, sturdy and ace swimmers.
One caught me by the hair while the other started pushing me towards the bank. The two also saved my other friend. We were stunned by the turn of events and headed for our hostel swearing never to go near the canal again.
On reaching the hostel, Jaswant, my co-survivor, jokingly said that had we not been saved, the university authorities would not have to send separate vehicles transporting our bodies as we lived nearby in Abohar!
The incident left an indelible mark on me. Looking back, I shudder at the very thought of it and remain always indebted to my saviour friends. Since then I have longed to see both sides of the canal developed into scenic highways or lanes on the lines of what I saw along the two banks of Lahore Canal passing through that city.
Though the link between Doraha and Ferozepur Road on the southern side of Sidhwan Canal is being given a facelift with a four-lane highway, the stretch beyond this lacks fencing on the banks and serious accidents take place here every year.
The northern side of the canal remains an open invitation to mushrooming of slums and dumping of garbage, construction and demolition materials, transforming the canal into another sore on the face of Ludhiana after the polluted Buddha Nallah.