Friday, 4 January 2013

A Dive Divine

I back rolled off my boat and fell into the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea at The Wall, a famous dive site off Havelock. I entered head first. I don’t think any adjective would do justice to describe the beauty I saw there! My jaw would have dropped, but the only reason I kept my mouth shut was to ensure my oxygen regulator doesn't fall off. Amidst all the marine frenzy, Kailash and I knew we had found a hobby for life. The 14 kg tank that weighed on me all this while suddenly felt weightless… Aah! The joys of being in water!

This was my first dive as a part of my PADI certification. After having gone through theory lessons, clearing an exam, clearing life skill tests in confined water, here I was – my first certification dive. I was excited….

It is a cardinal rule of scuba diving to swim against the current when you start a dive; that’s when you have most energy. And then, you can lazily let the current do all the work when you get back after the dive. I was busy scanning the water, hoping to get luck with some manta ray spotting.

Just as we started to descend, the waters became a little cloudy. No, not with sand from the seabed… But with… wait for it…. JELLYFISH! I found a few beautiful jelly fish bobbing in the water and deftly swam away from them. Then, one look ahead and the colour drained off my face. There were atleast 200 of them, swimming with the current, right towards us!

Our dive instructors took one look at the jellyfish and announced that it was not poisonous. But, as in life, everything comes with a caveat. They had tentacles that ran upto a metre in length! That much venom could kill a dinosaur, maybe! “Remain calm!” was the clarion call… You know this is like someone telling you – “Oh there is a tiger charging at you. But don’t you worry, it doesn't have sharp teeth!”

With a heavy scuba suit and in the midst of a current, it would be ages before we got to the boat and hauled ourselves up to safety. We grimly looked at the entire school of them swim towards us and started our futile swim towards the boat. It was only a matter of physics before they caught up with us. Cursing relative velocity under my breath, I realized what pathetic swimmers we humans are.

When the first sting landed on my leg, there was piercing pain and I screamed out loud… The more you struggle, the more the tentacle embeds itself in your body. It is so poignant that a creature so beautiful can be that dangerous! Evil, pure evil. Kailash got one on his face, and that is something that I don’t even want to think about! And when the rest of them came, the profanities just kept getting worse. After the ordeal, one of my co divers said, “When the lady went from saying s**t to f***, we knew it was really bad!”

At the moment that I saw them coming, suddenly, the aches and the pains vanished, the cribs seemed so trivial, the number of zeros in the salary became a non-entity, and everything else seemed so small. In the silence of the ocean, the only thing I heard was the sound of my own heart, pounding. I remember feeling a little guilty that I hadn't yet found my calling in life and prayed ever so hard before being engulfed. Talk about perspective; this incident cleared my head like nothing else ever has, it was almost divine.  

We got onto the safety of the boat after what seemed like eternity. As our co-divers rushed to help us take off tentacles hanging from our arms and legs, we both knew we were bloody lucky to walk away from this with just some scars and painful pricks. You know, they say some experiences in life change you. And more so, when such experiences happen at the hands of nature. 

We knew we had changed – forever.