September 6th, 2009
Before you understand what this post is about, you have to first read about the Venkateswara Dead or Alive trekking experience. Go ahead. I will wait.
Twiddling thumbs & waiting …
Way back in Cave Pool 1, I was holding the sleeping mat and was trying to swim in shallow waters. As I was doing that, Vinod Sir swam to me and asked, “Hey did you go to cave pool 2 and see that gorgeous waterfall?”, to which I replied, “No .. I haven’t gone there yet.” He was visibly shocked; “What?? You haven’t gone there yet? Having come this far, you don’t want to miss it.” I had my defense ready, “But I can’t swim in deep water.” to which he said, “Hey, that’s not a problem. There are so many *real* swimmers here and you can’t drown. Grab a mat, go to that perpendicular ledge, climb it up and jump in. If you don’t go there, you are missing the essense of the trek!”
That did it. I was very curious at what the waterfall would look like and at the same time, I was afraid to go to the other side because of my scanty swimming skills. Before coming to this pool, I was telling Gowri Shankar that today would be the day that I would lose fear of swimming in deep water and learn diving. Gowri was enthusiastic about it and said that he would surely help me shake off those stupid imaginary fears. I made up my mind that I would dive in to the deep water from the ledge of cave pool 1. Then some swimmer would help me with a sleeping mat. With the mat, I would swim to the ledge, climb on to it and visit the cave pool 2 & see if I could have a dip there.
By that time Vinod Sir came back to the shore. I told him and Anagha that I would be diving and they be ready to save me … in case I drown. The water was very deep and the height from which I would jump would be around 20 feet. They were in position. They were positioned at about 3 feet away from the ledge. Each of them were holding a mat and told me to jump. I climbed to the ledge and went to its edge. Then the fear started off. I just couldn’t get myself to jump.
I felt my legs trembling and I was profusely sweating. I have never seen a trembling leg before. So I looked downwards to see if my legs were really trembling. But heck no! They weren’t trembling at all. Sweating? I couldn’t digest that also. I felt as if I were sweating but I wasn’t sweating also. Only my hair was wet. My heart was pounding. My intestine was in my mouth. Vinod Sir was shouting from the bottom, “Dude, jump in. We are there.” & Anagha was shouting from the other side, “Jump in Aswin. Nothing will happen. Once you go in, you will come up again & we shall give you the mat then.” As this fear episode was happening, Vinod Sir lost all hope on me and climbed on to the ledge. He came next to me & jumped in to the water as if it was so normal.
Then Vishal came in and jumped. Then Indira and then a few more. One by one, people just walked and jumped. My mind was goddamn racing. “Is it really so simple? Or am I complicating it so much? What the heck is it?” My mind was having conflicting thoughts. “What if you drown?” and then it would answer, “No no… they would save you. No one wants a trek to be spoiled by non-swimming idiot.” and again, “What if you hit the rocks when jumping?” to which, “Ha!! There’s only water below and all the rocks are behind. There’s no way you would hit the rocks.” My legs were trembling even more. Every time I looked down at the water, my mind would give some sort of conflicting lecture or other. At this time, there were 6 or so swimmers down there who were all literally yelling at me to jump. But I couldn’t.
Slowly one by one went away. Anagha was the only one who was waiting & damn patient with me. I was standing there and wondering what to do. Should I climb down the way I came up and miss the waterfall & go back a loser? Or should I get over my fear, jump in and go to the waterfall? Instantly I knew the answer. The trembling came back again. It was a lot stronger this time. From the opposite ledge, Gowri Shankar took a perfect dive. Mind you, he didn’t jump. He dived. He saw me and said, “Aswin!! You haven’t jumped yet? Come on, come on, we are there to save you.” Anagha was shouting the same thing at me she said earlier.
Suddenly, that wave engulfed me. The wave of courage. Mind became clear. I was standing on the edge. Trembling legs stopped. The only thought was, “When you land on water, close your mouth and shut your nose.” Done. I screamed, “Gowri, I’m coming …” and JUMPED!!! I could see myself going down at drop dead speed. I don’t even know whether I screamed. Suddenly, the speed decreased to a crawl and I was in water! What the Hell!! I’m in water. Whoa!! I started paddling my legs under water and was moving upwards. My eyes were open this time. I could see Gowri Shankar’s legs paddling and his hands were on the lookout for mine. I could see that from below. I shouted, “Gowriiii” but he couldn’t hear and I shouted once more. Immediately I realized that I didn’t open my mouth at all while shouting. Mind was playing double games again. I knew better this time. I closed my mouth and shut my nose. I was slowly going upwards.
A few seconds later, I felt a hand tugging at me. Yay! I hit home. In a shot, Gowri pulled me up. With an amazing speed, head came up first… HUFF .. PUFF… SPLIRTT … HAH .. SPIT .. WHOA .. SPLIRTT .. PHEW … BRRR … Yayy!! Gowri handed me the mat to which I held on to & soon everyone was clapping. Or at least I heard so. Mind playing double games again? Don’t know. But who cares. I asked Gowri whether I can do it once more. This time it was easy. Get up on the ledge. Jump. When in water, close your mouth and shut your nose. Done. It was over in a second. Then myself, Gowri and Anagha swam to the perpendicular ledge, then on to cave pool 2.
Anagha dived here immediately. I dived after her & Gowri helped me with a sleeping mat. Here, he taught me the underwater cycling trick. I was cycling and slowly went under the waterfall. It was pushing me. Then for a second time, we went around it. The water was warm and we moved in once more. Gowri told me to look above & I had a look at the most gorgeous place ever. The two hills created a ceiling with a huge kind of hole in the middle. Through one part of the hole, the waterfall was gushing with a ferocious pace. Through the other part, the hill’s peak was visible brightly illuminated by Sun.
From cave pool 2, we slid down to cave pool 1. I held on to the sleeping mat while sliding down the water slope. At this point, Ravindran helped me and both of us swam to the cave pool 1’s shore.
Phew! What an experience that was. I lost the fear of deep water and height. I will definitely put this to test next time I visit Nagala or Venkateswara. I need to thank an innumerable number for giving me this experience. Gowri Shankar, Vinod Sir, Anagha, Ravindran, Ravi Ghosh, Indira, Chitra, Mohan S, Max and a few more who made it all the better.
Thanks guys! I owe you one! I came back a winner.