Ocean of Joy
I am not a licensed diver, so what can I say of diving or of the ocean bed? Except that I overcame the only fear I was ever aware of, to enter an incredible universe, that is so beautiful and so pristine, one can travel through centuries of evolution to see the beauty of nature's creatures there. The ocean depths are a hallowed space, and one who ventures there, returns transformed.
I undertook only two pleasure dives, and yet was encouraged to fill a log book, in the hope that some day I would return to experience again the joys of the ocean.
I had never learnt to swim, because I was petrified of water - it was not a fear, it was a phobia. My husband and son are both natural creatures of the water. So I learnt to take it in my stride when they laughed that I swim in the ocean with only my ankles wet. My self-respect remained intact despite the fact that I openly admitted that I never showered because I gasp for air when the first sprinkling announces itself. I was willing to publicly proclaim the fact that I can drown in a bowl of soup.
And then I found myself in this idyllic paradise in the Lakshwadeep Islands, surrounded by people who were doing a course to earn their hard-won licenses as divers.
Ocean of Joy
I hung around the outskirts of all the diving activity. Dedicatedly, I attended all classes. I was always there at take-off point. Often I battled sea-sickness on the Pablo: the loud rocking motor-boat smelling of fumes. I went an hour out in the ocean to watch the divers plunge into the depths. I waited another hour for them to surface, while the boat heaved and turned with each roll of the wave. I watched the masked and tanked divers emerge beatific from their dives only to return another choppy hour back to shore.
She led me to the edge to jump into the water. She watched as I got it into my mouth, my eyes, my nose. She allowed me to go through the experience of drowning, confident that she would save me. She made me trust her enough to surrender to any command, no matter how absolutely impossible it was. She taught me to float in the water, fall asleep, lulled by the waves. She took me where I could begin to see what lay below the surface of the water, and long to experience it. She taught me to discover that I loved the ocean, not merely as the outsider, forever at the shore, but as one with it.
And then one day, armed with snorkels, fins and a life-jacket, I swam alone, as the sun set into the ocean, and the others sat on the beach catching that special hour. I was now ready to dive.
The first time I dived, my mind opened to a new ecstasy. It was so incredibly beautiful. I knew why I was there. Because I could not have denied myself that experience. And I was so comfortable, I was not aware of anything except the sheer wonder of it all. That's when I thought I am content to live here forever. And with that the last flashes of fear had gone.
When I emerged, the divers looked at me with detached concern. Several of them discussed the experience with me. One asked, did you feel scared to flip backwards off the boat into the water. I was not even aware of fear. Had you closed your mind to shut out the experience, I was asked. No, it wasn't there. Another asked, was it difficult breathing through the mouthpiece? I said, "If Pari didn't do it for me, I did it for myself." I was too busy enjoying myself to be aware that there was anything I had to do. And indeed, that was all I did during the dive - respond with unabashed joy. I only wanted to go further into the ocean, deep into the blue.
About my first dive, I wrote:
I am the Ocean, I said. I am. I know. And so I dived into the ocean to find manifested another realm. An eternity that cannot be logged in minutes. Another space beyond dimensions. In speechless wonder I saw beauty and perfection. I shared my joy with Pari, who had led me beyond the threshold of my last fears to know a new freedom. My first dive was a total experience.
After my second dive, I wrote: I entered the ocean, already strangely familiar. Surely I belong here. Is forever too long to stay here? The many splendoured corals, the myriad fish, the very seabed and the deep, vast blue beyond.
Parrot fish, angel fish: translucent colours, grace and light. And in the midst of the beauty and the glory, the fight for existence continues. A school of blue-lined surgeon fish arrive and eat the algae on the coral and move on, as the black-tailed surgeon fish that live in the coral, watch helplessly on.
I realised that I had conquered my last fear. I wrote to a psychiatrist friend, mentioning that I had unlocked the last doors of my mind, and in the process realised a new freedom. I had learnt that we are attached to our fears, because it is so comforting to retreat into them, never to confront them. He wrote back, "Welcome to the open doors of living."
Photo Credit: Lacadives
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.