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Hitting Rock Bottom

By Shruti Shyam

 Deep blue sea. Man eating sharks. Poisonous jellyfish. Seaweed that coils around your legs and drags you to the murky depths of the ocean. Those were the visions swimming in my head the day before our first meeting with the scuba diving instructors. To be completely honest, I was petrified. That I had to rely on an oxygen tank to breathe. That we were ,in all probability shark bait ( I’ll admit, watching JAWS a few days before the trip....NOT a good idea .). My cousin, Vijay, my brother, Ashwin and I, had just set camp in Goa.

On Day One of the great underwater adventure, we studied and wrote a theory exam. Extremely exciting( Don’t read too much into the last line..Sarcasm is really hard to pull off via text. We had to cheat to pass!). We followed it up with a heavy lunch( needless to say...more exciting than the exam)  and underwater lessons in a nine feet deep pool, with two of the most patient people I’ve met, Gary and David, our instructors. We learned  to assemble our scuba gear, tanks and signal each other underwater (again...we just copied one another). We wore wet suits, flippers, masks and snorkels - the whole ensemble, and waddled around the poolside pretending to be graceful ducks.
Day Two comprised a combination of painful ears, bloody noses and sharp rocks. With one hand on our masks and the other behind our head, we clumsily back-flipped off the boat into the ocean. Every two seconds, we were instructed to ‘equalize’ (pop our ears) as we descended to the depths of the ocean(did I mention...dark and murky) . There was absolutely no sound underwater, and because of very poor visibility, we were barely able to see more than two metres in any direction. We climbed down the anchor line and explored a ship wreck, the SS MARY which had sunk in 1948, causing the untimely death of it’s captain ( Ill give the guy points for sticking with his ship in its final hour..Dying,however....). We didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of his skull. We did however, notice one thing. Fish tend to swarm towards really old, moldy structures that have sunk to the ocean bed sixty years ago. Swimming in a group was quite difficult, as we struggled not to bang into each other. Swimming too far away from each other was also a problem because we kept losing each other, and only the flashes of colour of each other’s flippers kept us all (trying to sound dramatic) alive. As we swam with colorful fish, and held sea cucumbers, the pressure gauge in our oxygen tanks dropped from two hundred bars to half it’s capacity and we realized it was time to surface. All the while my nose bled like a leaking tap. Thanks a lot, weak sinuses. A Frooti, banana and many biscuits later, we jumped back into the sea without our equipment. Our tanks and scuba gear were thrown into the water, and we learned  how to put everything - weight belts et al, on underwater. We sank back into the depths of the ocean while Gary patiently taught us a variety of underwater skills - removing our masks and clearing the water from it while sitting 13 metres under the surface of the water, removing the regulator out of our mouths( still not sure why one would want to do that!), and ‘buddy breathing’ - offering the other diver your spare regulator in case he ever runs out of air. Forty Five minutes passed like a  breeze, and we got back onto Sweet Lips (apparently there’s no pun intended....its the name of a fish), our comfortable wooden boat, manned by Jockey, our boat man. A fifteen minute boat ride onto the mainland, anchoring the boat onto the beach and unloading our equipment, prepared us to hog like never before. Our afternoon siesta dragged into the evening and before we knew it, Day Three had arrived.
Day Three taught us how to navigate underwater using a magnetic compass, and swim against the sea’s stormy current. We encountered crabs, lionfish, angel fish, sweet lips and a lot of angry looking sea urchins, which threatened to poke us with their sharp spikes as we swam past narrow gullies in the sea. We learnt how to hover underwater, and make ourselves buoyant, using our lungs. The instructors took photographs of us trying to stay upright, underwater - the only proof we have that we ever went scuba diving. The day ended with us going back to the diving facility and filling up papers to receive our diving certificates. I am now the proud owner of a diving license, which holds a special place in my wallet. Next underwater mission: Swimming with the whales, Pigeon Island.
Shruti Shyam is a 2nd year student of fashion communication in NIFT, Delhi. Her hobbies include photography, swimming, painting, eating and sleeping(a lot).


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