Hi you guys! I’ve decided to start writing my blog again. There are so many things I feel like I want to talk to you about and instagram captions don’t do enough justice. So HI! Welcome to my first post 🙂

I recently came back from a 7 day trip in the Andamans and yes, from the title you’re probably thinking that I’m going to talk to you about how meditative my dive experience was, how I fell in love with this underwater universe that I didn’t know existed and how I felt like I was flying. Well, NONE of that is true for me.

Our trip was planned over an impromptu dinner in November. My friend Pankil started showing us videos of humpback whales and stingrays and just listening to his experiences I felt like this was something I HAD to try. Tickets were booked, dives were planned and I was excited, nervous and a tiny bit scared.

A week before we left, we did a pool training in Mumbai. The pool training meant learning how to use dive equipment, mastering some basic skills we would need underwater and a little exam to test our knowledge (reading about decompression sickness freaked me out tbh). This is when I got a glimpse of how difficult diving was going to be for me. Breathing through the regulator was tough and made me queasy. I felt slightly claustrophobic and was panicking initially about not being able to breathe through my nose. Everyone I spoke to told me this was normal and once I reach open waters, things would change.

We arrived in Havelock with much excitement. I was super thrilled that the island had major network issues and I wouldn’t be able to use my phone. I have been trying VERY hard to stay away from the phone , especially when I’m around people. And the sun, sand and water was the perfect excuse to put the phone away.

After settling in on the first day, I was ready for this new challenge. We started with snorkelling with Jergen, our scuba instructor, who wanted to check our swimming skills. I was actually surprised by how much I liked snorkelling. Breathing through my mouth was not as challenging and I was very optimistic about diving. We put on our dive gear and walked into the water to revise our skills. And that’s where everything turned. Pablo was like a fish and a true natural in the water. He seemed like he was born to do this. Karishma was struggling a bit in the beginning but she managed to overcome it. My story, however, was a bit different.

The minute Jergen took us in the water, I was struggling to stay afloat in my BCD (dive jacket that basically makes sure you don’t die). I was so frustrated that I couldn’t balance and I looked at Jergen and said ‘I don’t understand why I’m doing this. Why do I have to do it, it’s so hard’ Jergen gave me a look. For the rest of the morning, another scuba instructor tried to help me go underwater. I would panic every time we descended. The first few times it was because I thought I couldn’t breathe right, I thought the water was going to enter my nose, and to be honest, it’s just such a strange alien feeling. Day one was a total fail. As my instructor took me out of the water Jergen told me – “look, if you don’t want to do this, there’s nothing anybody can do to make you do it. It’s up to you to decide, only then we can help you”.

I sat outside my room (with a pinacolada of course) and thought about it hard. Why was I diving? Did I really want to do it? What stopped me? What was I scared of? Why was it so difficult for me and so easy for everyone else? My friends came back from their dives and couldn’t stop talking about what a spiritual experience it was for them. For hours the only discussion would be the fish they saw, other dive experiences and what the water meant to them.

I decided I would skip the open water course and just do a DSD (discover scuba diving). A DSD is meant to be super simple where a dive instructor goes under water with you and literally holds your hand every step of the way. I met Raoul who was from Bombay but moved to the Andamans 10 years ago. He gave up city life for a slower paced life and a life with the ocean. Our first day was great. He held my hand and took me for a small shore dive. We saw an octopus, some clown fish (yes! Nemo!) and a fish that looked like an old angry Indian Uncle. Now, I could breathe fine. The only rule in diving is – never stop breathing. So I kept practicing my breaths. Water kept entering my mask and I kept clearing it out. Even though nothing was technically wrong this time, I couldn’t quiet my mind. We would be swimming over something beautiful and Raoul would point at something interesting and my mind would start panicking and want to go up. Over the next 5 days, I tried diving with Raoul every single day. Some days were better than others. I would come out and give myself a pep talk and go back and try it again the next day. The last day however, truly showed me how much I still have to learn about controlling my mind. Just 5 minutes of us being underwater I started signalling to Raoul that I wanted to go up. Raoul shook his head and said no. He tried to get me to look at him and just take slow, shallow breaths to calm down. Now, my mind had already decided I wanted to get out and not be underwater. I started pleading saying i wanted to go up. He signaled saying if we go out then that’s it, we’re not coming back in. I am a very stubborn person and just nodded and started going up. We were floating in the water for a minute and he asked me what was going on. He said I was breathing fine, I was using the fins well, everything was great. I shook my head. I told him I had no idea why my mind was racing so much and why I felt so much panic. I know logically that I’m not in danger but I just couldn’t stay under water. He sighed and we swam back to the shore.

I went back to my room and cried for a good 20 minutes. Every single day felt like I was failing. Something that was so easy for most people, was so difficult for me. I know that I take longer to learn things and nothing comes easily to me. When I started dancing, I was lost in class for a month. And then suddenly one day something clicked and it wasn’t hard anymore. I didn’t have enough time on the trip to do the same with diving, but at least I’m better prepared (mentally) to handle it the next time I try it. I’m not giving up that easily, and I’m glad I had this experience because it taught me so many things!

Here are some of the things I learnt (or re-learnt) when I went diving

  • Doing something for the first time is difficult. When people master something, they forget what the beginning was like. Beginnings are often scary, you may feel lost but there’s always a sense of excitement.

  • The speed at which you learn and adapt is different from everybody else.

  • Do not compare yourself with others

  • No one can help you to do anything, if you truly don’t want to do it

  • It’s so important to understand yourself - why do you certain things, what’s your motivation, what drives you, what pushes you. I got a great glimpse into my mind during this trip.

  • How do you control and deal with the voice in your head. For me this was the hardest. I feel like I failed at it during the trip and it’s something I want to work on.

  • The main rule in diving, which will help you overcome any kind of panic or anxiety situation - just keep breathing, remember - Long deep inhales and exhales.

  • Have you tried anything for the first time recently? Have you been diving? I would love to hear your experiences and know what you’ve learnt! Please leave a comment and I promise to reply 🙂

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Comments (36)

    • Sumana

    • April 1, 2019 at 16:41 pm

    This is such a comforting read because I went in for my first dive with the EXACT same expectations and had the exact same experience. It really bummed me out, but I’m hoping to get over it and try again! (And not hate on myself even if I can’t do this)

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 18:50 pm

      Phewww thank god I’m not alone!

    • Meera

    • April 1, 2019 at 16:44 pm

    Hi Pooja. While reading your article, I felt like it was written about me! My experience with diving was equally stressful and exhausting. My mind was so uneasy the entire time that once it was over, I kept getting dreams and visions about the experience. I’m so glad to hear that I wasn’t alone in feeling so frightened. Thank you for putting this out there and showing me that yes everyone has fears and it’s okay to not excel at everything. All we have to do in life is keep breathing! I plan to get better at swimming so I’m more confident in the deep waters. And then I’ll give it a go again. Thanks for inspiring the world as always! Lots of love.

      • Pooja Dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 18:53 pm

      OMG! I kept seeing fishes every time I closed my eyes for a few days! Good luck with swimming 🙂

    • Rahul

    • April 1, 2019 at 16:48 pm

    Hey Pooja,

    GREAT TO HEAR FROM YOU through your blog! I was craving for it since long!

    To answer your question – I struggle a lot with consistency and discipline so this year I decided to put conscious efforts in changing that. I started reading books to tackle this situation but I was failing at it again and again.
    For almost a month or two I tried but then thought of trying some other way to reach my goal so instead of READING now I LISTEN to audio books and by doing this I am able to achieve my goal of being consistence and disciplined throughout. Off course I am going to try READING again (because all books are not there on Audible) but till then I am happy with wherever I am today.
    With your blog, I hope to READ on a regular basis so keep writing!

      • Vidushi

      • April 2, 2019 at 09:47 am

      I love your bakes.
      I was in Andamans in Nov’18. I along with 3 other cousins, we decided to dive. I was sceptical too being underwater, but my cousins coaxed me to do it.
      And I am so glad I did. It was surreal.

      • Pooja Dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 18:52 pm

      Thanks Rahul! Could you recommend some books you’ve been reading/listening to?

        • Rahul

        • April 3, 2019 at 11:14 am

        I am reading books recommended by you! But one I am listening right now is – Atomic Habits by James Clear!
        DO READ/LISTEN this book! You’ll Love it!

    • Hima

    • April 1, 2019 at 16:52 pm

    Pooja – lovely article. Beyond the juicy pics on Instagram, this post reminded that we all have difficult days and we must work at it to overcome.
    Good luck with the next dive.

      • Pooja dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 18:54 pm

      Thanks Hima 🙂

    • Ruby

    • April 1, 2019 at 16:56 pm

    Omg , this whole experience of yours is exactly what I know will happen to me when I will be underwater… reading your article made me realize it’s just not me who will have these crazy panic attacks and feel disappointed with self but it will be motivating too … cos atleast you tried again and again… that’s exactly what I want to do try the least even if I know for nuts I wont be able to ever ever let water enter my nose! Die is the word …

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 18:55 pm

      Not being able to breathe from my nose was the toughest but I slowly got used to it! I think with time it will get better? Hope you try again xx

    • Kashmira

    • April 1, 2019 at 17:36 pm

    I & many people would surely relate to this.
    In this fast paced life it’s ok if we go slow bt consistent. Everyone requires their own time to develop any skill.
    I m happy to read this post as failure & struggle stories are important & less talked about than success stories.

    Thank you for sharing your experience & lessons we can learn from 🙂

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 18:56 pm

      Thanks Kashimra 🙂

    • Payal Agrawal

    • April 1, 2019 at 17:37 pm

    Hi Pooja, I’m a big Fan of yours… This blog from you actually teaches that it is absolutely Human to be a slow learner.
    Talking of my experience:
    I myself have been scuba diving twice…
    Initially while taking deep breaths I got my heart beat so fast , that I literally was panting and wud want come back on the surface again and again .But later when I shut the voice in my head and took over it ..I realised that while u are breathing under water (from the mouth -thru a cylinder attatched) u should inhale very less and exhale for a longer duration … . Once I learnt that ..then there was surfacing …I went into deep waters and had the time of my life ..
    I hope this tip will help you in your next scuba diving … Good luck .Love you.Respect.
    Payal Agrawal.

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 18:57 pm

      Thanks Payal! Will keep that in mind the next time I try it 🙂

    • Armin

    • April 1, 2019 at 17:48 pm

    Hey Pooja! I can so relate to your diving experience. I was with my niece and nephew (all of 12 and 10 years) and who took to diving like they born with fins and I just entered the water and panicked.

    But, I am a stubborn Bawi and the next time I managed – I don’t know how but I did. I am also glad that I opted out the first time – it gave me space.

    I will never be the best diver but just breathing in and out in a rhythm is the best therapy in the world.

    Don’t give up – go to a dive site that is calm – it helped me.

      • Pooja dhingra

      • April 2, 2019 at 19:15 pm

      Thanks Armin! That gives me some hope 🙂

    • Linoshka

    • April 1, 2019 at 17:50 pm

    It’s so great to be able to read your blog again. Love how you really put yourself out there Pooja with regards to dreams and big mountain goals ( literally :)) When I started dance classes with my then boyfriend, I thought I knew better since I had already gone for classes as a child. Turns out I was taught the wrong beat and steps of Cha cha. To be able to unlearn that and then start afresh was so embarassing because everyone else got it so quickly. I kept practising at home. Long story short, I went on to win a Gold Medal in Cha Cha at the National Ballroom Championship. I would really suggest meditating every day . It has helped me so much in understanding my emotions , what goes on in my head and why I react the way I do . Being in that awareness, helps me make better choices which yields better results. Also, you must read this book , “The 5AM Club” by Robin Sharma. It is phenomenal! Keep pushing through. Our strength lies in our weakness. All the best for the next dive. You can do it!!!

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 3, 2019 at 09:36 am

      Oh wowwwww! What an incredible story! Thank you for sharing <3

    • Linoshka

    • April 1, 2019 at 17:52 pm

    It’s so great to be able to read your blog again. Love how you really put yourself out there Pooja with regards to dreams and big mountain goals ( literally :)) When I started dance classes with my then boyfriend, I thought I knew better since I had already gone for classes as a child. Turns out I was taught the wrong beat and steps of Cha cha. To be able to unlearn that and then start afresh was so embarassing because everyone else got it so quickly. I kept practising at home. Long story short I went on to win a Gold Medal in Cha Cha at the National Ballroom Championship. I would really suggest meditating every day . It has helped me so much in understanding my emotions , what goes on in my head and why I react the way I do . Being in that awareness, helps me make better choices which yields better results. Also, you must read this book , “The 5AM Club” by Robin Sharma. It is phenomenal! Keep pushing through. Our strengths lie in our weakness. All the best for the next dive. You can do it!!!

    • Supriya

    • April 1, 2019 at 18:46 pm

    Hey Pooja!!
    I’m 25 yrs old.
    So, I have never been to diving or open waters till today.but I love water sports and stuff since childhood. I’ve had a similar experience while learning swimming last month. Thing was that I could nt come up for a quick breath while doing freestyle. While other elder ladies would do that very well. Neither could I swim forward with head up. Don’t know the reason. But I could somehow relate to your story.
    I’m sure m not gonna give up on it So do I expect from you, to go back to the same place where you have up and dive with the same instructors. And share another blog how you felt underwater.


      • pooja dhingra

      • April 3, 2019 at 09:37 am

      Thanks Supriya!

    • Snehal

    • April 1, 2019 at 19:06 pm

    Hey Pooja!

    Absolutely resonated with this article. I don’t know how to swim and because I really want to try scuba diving someday, on weekend trips wherever we end up near a pool, my friends keep trying to teach me. Everyone is constantly saying ‘Oh it’s so easy, it’ll take 15 mins to learn’ or ‘Humans are naturally born to swim, just let go you won’t drown’. And yet, after having tried so many many times, I can’t even get myself to float. Something that comes so easily to everyone. For me, the minute there’s water anywhere near my ears and nose, I panic. I wish I could overcome this and enjoy the joys of floating in a pool or swimming in the ocean or going diving. Hopefully, some day *fingers crossed*, for you and for me 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing.

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 3, 2019 at 09:39 am

      I totally feel you! Good luck, Snehal! Hopefully we both will make it soon 🙂

    • Ritika Arora

    • April 1, 2019 at 19:13 pm

    Hi Pooj,

    Can totally relate.
    So when I did it in Bali, the instructor left me with the support of a pole like structure to help others. I got so panicky, considering I don’t know swimming really.
    But that moment the head said – will this panic help? I paused for a moment. Th best I could do was to wait. And I don’t know how I did that, but I managed to calm myself down.. taking in deep breaths, waiting for that guy to appear soon.
    I think we understimate ourselves when we think about how much we can handle. 🙂

    • Manjusha

    • April 1, 2019 at 21:33 pm

    Hey Pooja.. you can’t imagine how much your story resembles with so many of us. I am terribly scared of heights and on my first trip to Europe and first ever solo trip to Swiss (read anywhere ever) I was frozen at the top of Mt titlis when I looked down… Couldn’t take a step forward and people had to help me out. That’s when I decided I am going to do something about it and not feel so terrible. Next day signed up for paragliding at Interlaken. Wouldn’t tell it was a real success but I managed to be in air for some good 15 mins. The pilot told me later that I was shivering for quite sometime during takeoff. And then again last year I tried zip lining from the biggest zip lining park in Europe and it was a disaster to quite an extent. Was grumpy and sad and still get nightmares about it. But hey.. I tried.. I dared to look down while hanging on that rope. And now I am trying to learn swimming. Not always successful but making small baby steps. We are all humans at the end. So cheers to us and our failures and our trials.

      • Pooja dhingra

      • April 3, 2019 at 09:40 am

      Wow that’s incredible! You should be proud of yourself! I tried paragliding in Interlaken too and it was one the best experiences of my life.

    • Juhi

    • April 2, 2019 at 06:52 am

    There is so much to learn from this blog of yours, thank you so much for writting this up. You are amazing <3

    Looking forward to read such more blogs and posts 🙂

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 3, 2019 at 09:41 am

      Thank you, Juhi!

    • Khushboo Mehta

    • April 2, 2019 at 23:46 pm

    Hi Pooja! I can totally relate to your blog!
    I just got back yesterday from the open water diving course !
    Ioved how you’ve written about every challenge you face while diving, it is so true.
    I was in a similar situation the first 3 days and gradually got a hang of it.
    It is all about controlling your mind more than the skills.
    Give it another shot and you’ll definitely be better than before!
    Everyone has their own pace and ways of acclimatizing , it’s just that you have to find yours.
    The diving experience has taught me alot more than just going under water to enjoy the marine life.
    I’m inspired by your blog and will write about my experience too!
    Khushboo 🙂

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 3, 2019 at 09:42 am

      Thanks Khushboo! Please do share the link if you end up writing about your experience, I would love to read 🙂

    • Anju

    • April 3, 2019 at 00:21 am

    Hi Pooja

    I love water and have enjoyed underwater walk and watersports. So I thought I will give diving a try too, on my trip to Phuket. I panicked in the pool session itself. I could breathe well through the regulator but when the instructor told me to remove the regulator underwater and put it back and clear out the water inside by blowing out, I just could not do it. I was panicking and failed every single time and gave up as we were running out of time. I was quite sad and felt like a failure. But I have decided I am not giving it up and will try again, more patiently and bravely next time. Thank you for sharing your experience, atleast I am not alone 🙂

      • pooja dhingra

      • April 3, 2019 at 09:43 am

      Hi Anju! Omg removing the regulator under water was the hardest part. I hope you try again, I’m going to too!

    • Abhay Solanki

    • April 3, 2019 at 13:41 pm

    Yay.! New blog 😍
    Hello Ma’am I want to do Kitchen Internship.

  1. Hey Pooja,

    This blog post is just everything I experienced when I went diving to the Great Brarrier Reef!! Ever since I had learned about the Great Barrier Reef (like in 7th grade) I wanted to go diving there. Even though I was so excited, it all went bonkers under water. I even know how to swim!! This is the first time I have read someone write something different about diving!! Everyone always says wow it was magical. Even in ZNMD, Hrithik was water phobic but killed it in his diving experience.

    Are we just a few people who did not enjoy deep sea diving?? And why doesn’t anyone ever talk about how salty the water really is!! hahahahahha!!

    Thanks Pooja for articulating this experience so well!!

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