A series on true experiences
THE FIRST few steps towards something new, unknown are never easy. That’s what I felt standing on the edge of a rock, looking down, four feet below me, at the still, muddy green, 10-feet-deep river as water enthusiasts whizzed past me diving in over and over again.
This was during a weekend to the Purushwadi village in Maharashtra on my two-month sabbatical from work, a time when your mind often latches on to the word ‘new’ — new places, new experiences, new people (maybe even some cooking) — anything to get away from the monotony of work life. In my search for this life, I stood there on the edge, barefoot, my toes curling to grasp the jagged surface, my mind oscillating between two obvious choices — to jump or not to.
While I was calculating my survival rate as a non-swimmer, an asthmatic and a hydrophobe, three other non-swimmers made a dash for the water without much ado. That left me without a strong excuse, as the only one who hadn’t dared to be part of the excitement going on in the water. The sound of hearty laughter, and everybody’s positive encouragement was intruding into my rather tense thoughts. I couldn’t focus.
I knew there was an unspoken urge that had made me walk to the edge instead of crouching under my windcheater. But I couldn’t make up my mind. By now, a ‘wall’ of lifeguards had been created for me. I could hear little bits of precautionary advice: “Just flap, and you will naturally float up”, “Don’t worry, we’ll all take you to the side”, “Pinch your nose and just jump!”
And that’s what I did. I jumped.
I didn’t remember any of the instructions once I had jumped; my mind too was drowning in this new fluid world and I lost all sense of time and being. Seconds felt like minutes; I couldn’t spot any legs by the side of the river, so I started panicking, convinced I was moving downwards. Suddenly, I saw feet! I had surfaced, and I had survived. I struggled till I got to the rocks, but I felt content. It was good to be part of an experience shared by so many other people.
That moment, and the adrenalin that followed, made me feel something that’s hard to find in mundane activities. It changed my perspective on fear; and I was beginning to cherish the sweet pain on overcoming it. I was out of breath but ecstatic. A little shaken up but overwhelmed with excitement.
And to think that all it took was one extra step. I was suddenly empowered and driven to break out of my timid and nervous shell into a thrill-seeker.
If it weren’t for this spontaneous jump, I would have missed out on my next mini adventure — the Quad bikeride in a rough terrain in Koh Samui in Thailand. Not because it took that much courage, but I would have believed I could not do it. Because I just can’t.
I was nervous when I first plonked onto the bike, unable to steer it in the direction I wanted and wandering off, derailed and coming to a rather abrupt (and embarrassing) halt in the middle of nowhere. Friends laughed at my awkwardness but told me I’ll be fine in a few minutes. I went on, struggling at first. Soon I was a pro in manoeuvring it. It was a real thrill — bouncing downhill, skidding through the water, and turning smartly to make sure we didn’t end up off-track. It was one hour of a pulsating rush.
As I sipped coffee that evening and watched some travellers kayaking in the water, I thought to myself, “There is little that can come close to uninhibited adventure. You have to try it to know what it feels like.”
Bhairavi Jhaveri is 27. She is a freelance writer and journalist based in Mumbai.