‘I stuck my toes out. If I stood there a second longer, I would never jump’

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Nisha Susan
Is 30 and lives in Delhi. Is a journalist with Tehelka

I’M NERVOUS about most things that involve physical courage and the movement of my limbs. I was the kind of careful infant mothers leave recklessly at the top of stairs and playground slides, sure that she would not budge an inch.

Illustration: Uzma Mohsin

So why then jump off a high platform attached to a rope, bounce around stupidly, and pay money to do so? Who knows? It seemed like a good idea then. My classmate R and I scrounged around, found the money and stood in line to register to bungee jump. You had to register because it was the first time the bungee had come to Bengaluru and everyone wanted to have a go. (It was like the four-minute mile. Until Roger Bannister did it, it seemed impossible, beyond human ability. But soon old ladies tottering by were cracking the four-minute mile.) By the first week of the bungee, sevenyear- olds and octogenarians had made the leap off the platform and onto the front pages of the newspapers. A couple had jumped together. In the three-day gap between my registration and my appointment with the rope I passed Kanteerva Stadium several times. Each time the auto-driver shook his head and waved his fist at the decadent ways of the bourgeoise as their tiny forms leaped in the distant horizon.

On the day, R and I planned to take a couple of hours off from class, hop politely and then return to class. We thought of ourselves as fuss-free girls. Kanteerva Stadium had the air of a medical camp, excitement mixing in the air with plenty of sick fear.

R had opted to go second. I toddled over to the steel structure from which we were to jump. The climb up was slow, not because I am afraid of heights but because I feared the ineptness of my own feet. Would I be the one who tripped, fell and died on the way up to the bungee platform? What an ignominious death for anyone, even someone who had avoided anything more strenuous than walking to the lending library.

Then I was up on the steel platform with the small group waiting at one end. A gate separated us from the one about to jump, the one communing now with the tall jump instructor and with his imminent fate. My grinning pleasure at the sky and the silliness of it all faded as I realised that a row of military schoolboys were to jump before me. They jumped, dutifully, neatly. Until the last one. I saw him having long conversations with the instructor. A half hour passed before he came back. I could not think about his embarrassing climb down before I was hustled past the gate.

The jump instructor gripped me by my shoulders, looked deep in my eyes and said, “I want to tell you something. There is no fun standing here. All the fun is out there,” he waved wildly at the empty sky. What an idiot, I thought scornfully.

A minute later I knew what he meant. Now with my new appendage strapping my ankles together I stood ready to jump. How many storeys high was I? I could see the top of Kanteerva Stadium from where I was.

I stuck my toes out. In that moment I knew that if I stood there a second longer, I would never jump. That poor boy before me, I was wrung with pity and contempt for him. I jumped, bounced around like a giant’s toy and laughed.

Would I be the one who died on the way up to the bungee platform? What an ignominious death for anyone

On the ground R’s genteel aunt and mother had waited for us to finish. They sweetly offered to pay for another round as if we were toddlers on the merry-go-round. We declined and went back to class, hair and clothes only slightly ruffled.

Now I write for a living and daily regret the absence of a physical life, a youth misspent. Where are the energetic metaphors that should emerge from a life fully lived? But bungee-jumping appears faithfully when I think of the strange business of writing. The leap of faith you make every time you type a line. Like being asked to bungee 50 times a day. Put your toes out. Now jump. Because there is no fun standing here. The fun is out there. And jump again and again and again.

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