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!