What do you envision when you hear the word “sinking”? Do you feel the heaviness? The helpless feeling as your feet flap around to find a firm ground. A bit of struggle, may be? Or a resigned state; as the saying goes in Tamil, “When water goes above your head, how does it matter if it is a few feet or few metres?” (Thalaikku mela saan pona enna; muzham pona enna…)
And for a non-swimmer like me (my secret is out!), the word translates to “panic”. End of life as I know it. Hopelessness. At least momentarily.
But when such a thing really happened to me, I was surprised to see how calm I was. We were in a beach near Trivandrum, on a vacation with the extended family, kids playing with the ocean waves, in spite of warning signs on the beach forebading us from venturing into the rough waters of the Arabian sea.
There is another saying in Tamil. “Two things are never tiring to look at – Elephant and the sea”. Sea is a fascinating sight and waves are always inviting. So we couldn’t contain the excitement and were splashing around when one of the family members fell down and she scrambled to get up on her feet, I spotted a huge wave coming in. Before we were ready the wave was upon all of us, completely submerging me. I felt water go over my head. My feet were not exactly flapping but the sea floor beneath was gently pulling me in, conniving with the waves, hugging me and dragging me gently into its deep troughs. I remember thinking, “This is how the tsunami must have felt”.
Of course, I lived to tell all about it! Fortunately there were some fishermen on the shore who spotted us and pulled us out.
But then, not all sinking is hopeless and end of things.
I lived to experience another type of sinking where you intentionally tie weights to your back and go below the rolling waves, deep into the calm currents of the ocean where a whole new world opens up throwing up sea life in all its glory.
I had two months to prepare for my first diving experience, and trust me, for a scaredy cat like me, I needed every minute of that. I spent the time visualizing the very moment you are pushed into the water, backwards – the way it is done with rookies and non-swimmers like me. Gearing up and jumping into the water with all the fun and exhilaration lighting up the air around you – uh, huh – was not for me. I had to be pushed in. I spent time comforting myself that I wouldn’t die from the exercise. Like Aamir Khan in the movie “3 idiots”, I trained my heart to believe All is Well.
I believed it worked, until the diving instructor spotted the fear in my face and tried hard to work me out of it. It is hard to tell now what spooked me more, the upcoming deliberate sinking or all those scary things they talk about pulmonary embolism. Anyways, I did gear up and allow myself to fall backwards and held my breath through all that. When I let go, the sea world that I witnessed was nothing short of breath taking.
As I write this, I feel like I am sinking. In work. There seems to be just too much to do and I can’t seem to find the bottom of it. I wake up later than I would like to and swear to myself every morningto finish up early and get to bed early. And then I still find myself on my laptop way past 11 PM, way past the time my brain stops working.
And I tell myself – Not all sinking is hopeless. I hold on. To the moments of laughter; a surprise hug from my daughter; food cooked and ready when I arrive home by my sweet mother-in-law; sunshine that comes up after a chilly night.
Life throws up in all its glory moments one needs to be grateful for.