Why Many South Asians Never Learn to Swim

South Asians account for a significant number of drowning deaths. So why aren’t more of us learning to swim?

Minreet Kaur teaching a class

Sadaf Ahsan


November 28, 2022

When Simran Rajarai was growing up in Mauritius, she often felt at odds with her environment. Although she lived on a beautiful island surrounded by crystal clear water, she couldn’t swim. 

A child born to older parents who could no longer drive, her first obstacle was simply getting to a beginner swimmer-friendly, local body of water in a city where transportation was minimal. A bus could take up to two hours and wasn’t always safe for a young girl. And besides, Rajarai’s parents needed to save up their money for her and her sister’s tuition and more promising extracurriculars. At the end of the day, swimming was not a priority.

She’s not alone. Many people in South Asia and the diaspora cannot swim, and South Asians account for a significant number of global drowning deaths. Knowing how to swim isn’t just a recreational hobby; it’s a lifesaving skill. So why do so many of us steer clear of the water, and how can we change it?

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