When I think of Pattaya, I am reminded of three things
- Undersea walking
- Kay, though strictly speaking you can’t call Kay, a thing.
We set off in the morning for the most famous Pattaya beach, we were to enjoy two activities, parasailing and undersea walking. Immediately, I decided I was going to try both. We got into the speed boat and shot ahead. It was a very windy day, in fact it was blowing so hard that I thought the wind was going to rip my hair, off my head!
Some, half an hour later, we could see something in the sky, as we moved closer we were able to make out colourful parachutes soaring in the sky. Will I be able to do that? a teeny voice asked me, I squashed it immediately. We anchored our boat close to a floating dock and almost immediately we were made to wear the gear, I wore mine, the fastest, Yeepee.....Seeing that I was ready a lady asked me ‘you go?’ I said ‘oh! No, no. First somebody else go, I watch’. So she replied ’you ready, you go’ Well, I thought I might be physically ready what about mentally. I said ‘I afraid, I watch first, then I go’ for which she said ‘No, No, No afraid, run.. run and go, no problame…half dip? Full dip? I said ‘half dip’. ‘Okay , now run…run.. run ..’she said and I ran and before I knew I was lifted off the dock and was dangling in mid air. The rope slackened a bit and my feet dipped into the water and I dragged my legs (not that they were in my control..!) under water. It was the strangest feeling, cold water, gushing wind ..asking me to abandon everything and leave everything to its mercy. Oh, My god what have I got into! That thought made me hold on to the rod with all my might, so tight that I felt my hand hurting but nothing would loosen my hold at that time.
I soared up again, I dreaded to look down, but I did, I could see the dock faintly, far down below and could see people as small specks. I looked straight again and gathered courage to look around, it was an exhilarating feeling. On the horizon I saw Pattaya written and my fear vanished from my heart and soul. I allowed myself to glide, fly and soar . I kept looking right, left, up and down trying to capture the view in my mind. I tried to capture the feeling too. Feeling of being powerless, yet powerful. Fear gripping feeling and the feeling of abandonment. Is this me? Am I doing this?
That's me !!
Mid air, .....now, I was turning around...... the view changed, I could see that I was moving closer to the dock, but I was way up still . Is it over? I didn’t want it to end. I started coming down, down and down..and so skillfully it was done that I landed very smoothly. Face flushed and a smile so wide that it almost touched my ears! I stood transfixed unable to shake off the blood rushing feeling. Expert hands removed my gear and I could hear another one being commanded to run.....just run..
Undersea walking! Let me give you a background about my swimming skills here. I learnt to swim, 25 meters! Non stop! which I consider one of the biggest achievements of my life, on 12.aug.07 i.e. at old age. A month from that day I learnt how to drown just as quickly! Seriously, it is an art to learn to drown once you know how to swim. I have mastered it. One moment you will see me swimming happily, with gay abandon and with the blink of an eye you will see me splashing, gurgling,swallowing water.. and hands beating the water and disappearing under water and re emerging, gasping for oxygen, all that’s associated with drowning. It completely alarms an onlooker.
So you might wonder, what on earth made me say ‘yes’ to undersea walking. Well, I wanted to maybe prove a point to myself or get over this panicky feeling while in water. Before entering the water we were given some instructions. The divers also taught us some signs, hand signals. They were something like this, as soon as we touched the sea bed, we were supposed to show them an ‘all ok’ sign, a tight fist. If we did not feel comfortable, we were to show open hand, palm down, tilting it up and down (like as if we wanted to say ‘so so’) If we felt totally uncomfortable and wanted to go up immediately, we were to show ‘thumbs up sign’ indicating that we wanted to go up for sure.
We formed a queue, around ten of us and one by one the people in front of me disappeared under water. Soon it was my turn. They asked me to step down a few rungs of the ladder, then they put this huge full face oxygen mask kind of thing, on my head it rested on my shoulders, quite heavy, as soon as I went one step further down, the water was over my head. At this point, I would like to mention since the time I got stuck in a bathroom, whose walls were made of steel, with no windows, and a door that got completely jammed, I have developed this fear of closed spaces, claustrophobia. So with this thing over my head, and water everywhere, I felt panic .Sheer Panic. Unknowing the diver took my hand and went deeper and deeper, finally, my feet were touching the seabed, he stopped and turned around and asked ‘all ok?’ in the recently learned sign language. I kept looking at him for some time. My mind telling me to show him a ‘not ok sign’, take me up, this is a mistake, Panic. The diver glared at me and angrily asked again ‘all ok?’ Say something, finally my hand curled into a fist and I showed him the sign. My mind screamed, what are you showing? Wrong sign! You have gone mad! Suddenly the diver vanished from sight and my hand was guided to hold on to someones hand.I couldn’t turn and see who it was as the vision around me was restricted, I could see only in front, water..water. I could feel the panic rise, I forcefully calmed myself, repeatedly told myself relax, relax, be calm, be calm. I reasoned, I am holding somebody’s hand, it is not as if I am all alone.... soon I felt my other hand being guided to hold another person.
We all started moving ahead. I don’t know for how long we walked, it seemed like forever. Suddenly I felt the person holding my hand trying to let go of me, I grabbed harder, is my hand slipping? I held tighter. The person kept jerking and I wouldn't let go, a moment later, I felt somebody yank my hand off and break the hold; the person whose hand I was holding was not able to take it and was led back (I came to know later). Here I was, my hand just waving free trying to hold on to something. After what seemed like eternity my hand was linked to another hand and I felt a little peace, how quickly we get accustomed to little comforts.
We moved ahead again and soon saw a huge mass of corals. We were made to stand facing the corals, right in front beyond the corals I saw a camera, oh ! I was being photographed, ‘Smile’ I said to myself. After this I thought, now we will go back, but that was not to be. We were taken a little away from the corals and given something in our hands.(Yes, we were made to let go holding each other!) A diver came in my view he held out his hand and a swarm of fishes came to eat the stuff in his hand. I did the same thing and several fishes of different sizes started plucking and eating. What a sight, it was beautiful, different coloured fishes swam back and forth, swimming effortlessly, twitching their tails, swaying their fins, staring with those beautiful big eyes, It was fantastic; here I was surrounded by fishes with no human in sight. Me, water and fishes! Unbelievable.
Hello World !!
Slowly we were made to get up and we started to go back .I surfaced up, just before coming out of the water the mask was taken off and I climbed up the steps, shakily. Once above water, I was glad to breathe but I felt weak and tired, I was given a bottle of water, I was asked to finish at least a litre of water. After drinking water, I felt better, the dizziness vanished and I was ready to narrate the experience to anyone willing to listen.
Kay was our guide; She enlightened us about the culture of Thailand, its people and life. I couldn't make out how old she was, a petite built, she looked as if she wouldn't be able to organize a thing. She proved us all wrong and she skillfully guided us, satisfying our curiosity, putting up with our idiosyncrasies, and all this with an ease that only a mature individual can muster. We were at the right place, at the right time, every time. Later, she told me that she was an orphan, and before I could say oh!... she continued, 'but I am happy, I live with aunts and uncles and whole lot of cousins.' She had caught the flu and in spite of having a raging fever she was guiding us through and managing the schedule so well that we didn’t even feel we were in a new place. She kept us entertained, the best part was the constant smile on her face. Thank You Kay !