A short stories blog about first-time diver’s saltwater taste and their first breath underwater.
Every day, we guide new people for their first dive. The way, they react to this new world which they have seen in movies and on Utube to date always amuses me. They have never tasted seawater in their life as these are from towns and even if they live next to a seashore, they hardly venture in the sea because of water pollution. For them getting in waist-deep water for training is a big achievement. Many times, they have fear of drowning because of the vast nature of the ocean. As dive professionals, we give them the confidence to cross that boundary, so we always have to assure them of their safety by indulging them in our real-life stories of diving which shouldn’t scare them, but to build their confidence for breaking their mind barrier. So I call this is as a ‘Make and Break ‘moment – Make up one’s mind to step in the ocean and break the barrier of underwater breathing’.
Once these newbies step in seawater and notice new diver’s ‘Mela’, 40% entering are like them, scared but excited and 40% returning from sea enthralled and excited after their first taste of seawater continuously chattering with excitement sharing their experience of what they have just experienced.
Apart from this 80%, there is the last portion who are going in and out of the sea with blank faces but are focused on their job of training and giving these new babies, yes these first time new divers has to be treated like kids who walk in the school holding their parents’ fingers and a hand on their shoulders to assure them of the new world they are going to see and experience. This new world is going to change their life from a sheltered, enclosed world to expose them to new challenges. These professionals treat new entrants very carefully as their training is going to influence their behavioral patterns.
Yes, those are we, who are calm and focused like Monks who use their charm on these kids to ‘change their life’. We are ‘Katrina Kaif’s’ of a famous Bollywood movie – ‘Zindgi Na Milegi Dubara’. Though not pretty, hardened under the sun with a heart of gold and soft due to every day’s soaking in seawater. We pamper, convert, and pushing people’s minds to dive and explore what secret lies in the deep waters of the ocean.
Always I remember one of my senior instructor’s (Kush) advice, ‘one should enter this profession just to see a smile on these new diver’s faces after their first dive. Treat this as your biggest reward. You have selected this low paying profession not to earn money, but to change one’s life. Your ‘Passion has become a profession, so make complete use of it’. We are here to introduce and induce them to taste seawater which is so clear that a school of small fish can be seen at the shore itself. This makes new divers so happy and this starts melting their inhibition of what supposed to be a scary world. These adult turned kids trust us like they trust their teachers who are going to change their world. This may sound like a big statement as we meet them only for one day or for an hour, but this hour is an important part of their life to create love and passion towards oceans and water which occupies 2/3rd part of the earth. They have always seen this underwater world in movies and youtube videos. They are amazed to see its variety and diversity in color, size, and shape of marine life in reels, so today they are going to be converted from ‘REEL LIFE TO REAL LIFE’
Seeing each and every kind of human nature teaches us a variety of human facets that changes from person to person. A hi-five after their first breath underwater or after they perform their 3 tasks successfully to sort those 3 problems normally first-time divers face encourages immensely. It gives them the assurance to face challenges they are going to face after a few minutes on their first dive. Every new diver has to be calmed down and cajoled to take his or her first underwater breath, yes breath and not breath-hold swimming. They have to be reminded of the difference between underwater swimming and diving. To be reminded of keeping breathing continuously with their newly found gadget of SCUBA – Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus which empowers them to breath underwater effortlessly and live a different life, even if this lasts for few minutes. Progressive humans has always tried to enter new environments and adapts themselves for surviving in new environments. This is one attempt of mankind to live life like other earthlings – water species.
These new divers have to be cautioned about what they are going to face underwater, some rules to follow strictly and some problems with solutions to overcome these problems.
Every professional follows his or her way to convince these new entrants. Some in a mechanical way which new divers find difficult to absorb and follow, while some follow the storytelling method which creates interest in diver’s mind and can relate to them. I follow the latter. After becoming a Dive Professional, in a short period I have experienced a variety of people which still amuses me of people’s behaviors underwater. Sharing these experiences through these short stories.
NRI couple from US of A
It was a usual day at the site, Guests were walking in and our dive center’s team was in the water to train them and lead them to dive. I had taken a break for some refreshments and was sitting at the reception. Here walks in an NRI couple from the US of A visiting back home for vacation. Highly educated, young, smart, and good looking, too. The wife looked slightly hesitant. Looking around with wide eyes, continuously looking at the dive site which was beyond the mangrove line. The husband was with a whiff of confidence. Looked like the husband is the one who had made the choice of diving and the wife didn’t have any option but to drag behind. When we, dive professionals see this kind of nervousness, tries to pacify them. Being a senior in the team and on my break, our receptionist, called me to speak to the couple. I love these challenges to break their inhibition and take control of the situation before it’s late and the guest completely turned in a negative mindset. Looking at my outlook with a bald head and white noodle beard, I always noticed respect in the guest’s mind. This outlook might have been turning as my make-up for ‘first impression is the last impression’.While discussing with that couple, I realized, the lady was terrified with the thought of entering the water and her husband was hell-bent to dive. I started weaving my charm around her to make up her mind to dive. After 5/10 minutes of chatting, the husband was relieved to see my knack for breaking the barrier without knowledge of the target. He immediately announced getting ready to head into the water. Unknowingly, I was relaxed because whenever any couple decides to dive, their first demand is to take pics together on the surface and underwater. We, as divers face a major challenge to deny the demand because if one of them is not comfortable going too deep, we cannot click them together. Though we promise surface photographs together but do not promise underwater photographs unless both of them are equally comfortable.
In this case, the husband entered the water without his wife which further helped me to cajole his wife. She was relaxed as I could sense peer pressure on her to dive from her husband. I spoke to her for 10 more mins and my receptionist was looking at me anxiously as one canceled guest means lesser business by one guest.
Finally ‘Mera jadu chal gaya’ (my charm worked). she was ready to step in the ocean for training with a condition of returning if she can’t take a breath underwater, I will not push underwater. I added my condition on top of it by saying she has to give me time to work on her breathing for which she didn’t have resistance.
My first step was successful. She stepped in the water, crossed mangroves. I looked at her with triumph. Once that fear of getting in the water was driven away. After donning gear, I started my regular brief which according to local divers is long, but for me is a must because shortcuts do not help. I strongly believe in my selection of this profession over my earlier one or other adventure sports. I am here to change someone’s life. I am going to get them addicted to this beautiful world just like my other passion for mountaineering. These addictions are positive addictions, unlike other addictions that affect one’s health.
Coming back to my latest challenge of making my guest comfortable, after my briefing which involves how to hold the regulator in mouth and breath and ways to tackle every first-time scuba diver faces, she was ready to breathe underwater. I have an experience of first-time divers popping up immediately after their first deep in waist-deep water. To my surprise, she didn’t even blink. As professionals, we observe the guest’s eyes to check any glint of panic. I was relieved to see none in her eyes. After training, we swam to the dive site which is about 100/150 mtrs by towing her there. Throughout the two, I was talking to her continuously making her smile and sometimes laugh with my PJs. Though my friends scream at me if I crack PJs and I love to trouble them because once they get used to my PJs, they enjoy them. I can see many eyes tolling up after reading this claim. 😛 Here, with the help of PJs, I make my guests comfortable by relieving their pressure of diving. Though I found her comfortable in breathing while training, still she had doubts about going deeper at the actual dive site which was about 8-10 mtrs. For commoners, this is quite a depth. I promised her to bring her back to the surface if she is not comfortable. I had to make a promise to take her not deeper than 2/3 mtrs so that immediately we can come back to the surface.
After reaching the dive site, we started descending after making her comfortable again by turning her, face down, allowing her to practice breathing, and showing her the depth to relax her to show the underwater world from the surface. This was the moment, where there are complete chances of scrapping a dive by the guest. Without wasting any time to change her thoughts, I started a slow descent. While descending I was looking in her eyes to see any other sight than excitement. She showed no emotions. I decided to take a slightly easy way on her diving. Started showing her the amazing world. If we professionals do this mechanically because we see this world every day and every dive, so we have to use some theatrical ways with sign language of course. She was so engrossed in watching a real-time video of the actual sea world by swimming like a fish. I was so happy to see her showing the ‘Awesome’ sign very often. Without realizing the promised depth of 2/3 mtrs to her, I touched the sea bottom which was about 8 mtrs.
I had achieved my professional commitment. With lots of pics and videos of her smiling and happy face clicked by our photographer who timed it perfectly to reach me when she was at the peak comfort level. I finished her dive with flying colors. I was happy to convert one scared soul to a confident one. After finishing dive, we surfaced and started going back to shore. Normally I discuss and take feedback from guests while towing back along with my PJs. I asked her, have I changed her life? She turned towards me to face me (Guests are laying at their back while towing) and said, ‘yes, you have changed completely because of my fear of water, I could enroll for swimming’. After going back home, she promised to enroll in swimming. I cracked my regular PJ which I crack with all satisfied guests which are, ‘now I am your Katrina Kaif, a bald one’… She again turned and said, ‘yes, bald and handsome’. After coming back to shore, I removed her gear to point at her husband who had already finished his dive and was waiting anxiously for his wife. She had a big smile on her face and hugged him. I showed him our ‘awesome’ sign. Both of them walked towards me and hugged in turns. I gave them a big gift by fulfilling their dream and every pennyworth of experience. In turn, they gave me job satisfaction which is my ultimate goal.
More stories through my perspective on my passion became a professional stint where my job has become such a satisfying one in which I can relax in water during the day time and on the beach when I am not working.