Sometimes the Soul that has been so deeply touched and transformed can’t go ‘back to normal’…and I wouldn’t want that anyway. A comment from someone on a blog best described what I hadn’t been able to so far.
Diving wasn’t part of the plan in life. It happened so randomly yet it fits like a piece of puzzle neatly into the plan.
Watching a lion fish swim, a scorpion fish crawl, an eagle ray glide, puffer fish laze, barracuda’s dart…..and so on it goes. A world full of mystic that lures you into going in again and again and again. And this is just the beginning, barely a millionth of a drop in the ocean.
If it wasn’t for a good friend who convinced me to join a diving course, I would have been one of many doing an assisted dive for a sense of adventure, rather than experience diving for what it really is. As I set myself up for the course, I reached the dive center in Goa, tired, sleepless but equally excited.
The course started with watching a video for half a day. An hour into it, I could barely keep my eyes open. Fortunately the rest of them struggled to focus too. I guess it’s something to do with human nature. If everyone finds it hard, you don’t feel too bad for yourself.
Post lunch the four of us were wide awake for the pool session. Donning a wetsuit and gearing up with a weight belt, BCD (Buoyancy control device), tank, fins, mask…feeling more like a robot than human, I entered the pool. The instructor demonstrates each skill and we repeat. The first time I was supposed to demonstrate recovering and clearing the regulator, I ran out of breathe, couldn’t blow water out from the regulator, inhaled it all, chocked and bolted to surface. I wondered what if that happens in the sea…God help me! An hour into the pool, I started shivering. Apparently, I didn’t have enough body fat. For someone who saw a beach for the first time in mid twenties and learnt swimming much later, everything about water was going to be new. With chattering teeth, I completed the remaining skills.
Day two, we find ourselves sitting in a small boat heading to the dive site. That was my moment of realization that sea sickness is real. Kitting up in a rocking boat, wobbling with the heavy tank was all part of fun.
Despite the dramas, the first time I back rolled into that open sea is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I expected to be nervous. I’ve never been in open water and my swimming skills were restricted to a pool, but surprisingly, it felt quite natural. I guess once I saw the instructor go in, I knew it wasn’t going to kill me.
The first thing we were required to do in water was a buoyancy check, and I felt slightly nervous. I had to deflate the BCD and hold my breath. At the thought of deflating fully, I saw myself cruising like a missile towards seabed. The instructor who I guess figured my hesitation says ‘go on, I am here’, and it was strangely comforting to hear those words. That was the end of any hesitation.
Day four of the course, diving again in open water sealed the deal for me. Visibility was so awesome that the ship wreck was visible even from surface. The two most beautiful dives that day made me fall in love with this world that I’ve never known existed.An advanced diver course made me more comfortable and confident about diving. I returned to main land, but left myself at sea. When the dive center offered work in return for dives, I couldn’t pack my bags soon enough!
Waking up at 6 am no longer seemed like a task, which it was only a couple of weeks ago. Heading to the dive center by 7 am, sorting equipment, checking requirements of divers, paperwork, loading the boat/s, all the mundane yet loaded with excitement. Most exciting part of it was meeting those who came to dive. New people every day, but excitement, nervousness, fear all the same. For some it was part of a bucket list, for others it was a thrill; and for those old timers who had done it all, it was another day to chill and have fun.
Riding to the dive site, each lost in their own thoughts or conversations, I chose to lie on a plank, close my eyes and focus on the music plugged into my ears. There are times I felt so sea sick that I would have preferred taking my chances swimming to the dive site than stay on the boat. But once under water, everything seemed to fall in place, as if none of the inconveniences were real.
The real thrill in diving for me was not in any sense of adventure, but those small accomplishments that I mostly thought were beyond me. Feeling completely in control of my dive, being able to assist others, convincing a very nervous diver to take the plunge, rescuing a fatigued diver to boat, trying a cool way to wear the BCD and succeeding, managing to lift a tank and carry it. And then, settling into the quite solitude where all you hear is your own breath. Everything so quiet and comfortable that I wondered if life on land was like this before our species invaded it with noise.
Mostly on land, you know what to expect. Under water, not quite so. Each dive has a story to tell, something unique to disclose. Like the time we witnessed oysters spawning; watching a flounder swim away, when a few seconds ago it wasn’t even there, so perfectly disguised in sand and such beauty; swimming hard against the current in less than 5 mts visibility to come across a panoramic view of 15 mts or more visibility with all the variety of fish suddenly coming into view; being in the middle and surrounded by spools of fusiliers and rabbit fish; feeling the surge and sudden changes in temperature; and I could go on about this world that spells magic in every moment. Every first under water seems to be in bold and underlined.
As if underwater beauty wasn’t enough to have me hooked onto diving, the lifestyle itself was more alluring. It felt like how life was meant to be lived – in the moment.
The regular activities, like eating, making your bed, cleaning, exercising, etc. that bind us to time each day became so insignificant. Eating when hungry, cleaning when it got messy. There were no comforts, yet there was no discomfort.There were no pretensions, no ranks to climb, nobody to show how rich, beautiful, powerful or famous you are. There was no need worry if you are over or under dressed. For once, I dressed for the weather and the job I did as opposed to people’s opinions. I didn’t’ have to impress anyone with anything.
Living each moment as at that moment, that most of us seemed to have forgotten. Being able to talk to people and connect on a personal level, and to soak in natures’ beauty without any distractions. It was the one time I could be truly myself and it was liberating!
*Pictures in this post are courtesy Dive Goa (Goa and Murudeshwar) and Mario June (Sri Lanka)