One of our best trips in recent times. My parents had flown down from India. We had the company of another amazing family who made a self-catering holiday look like a piece of cake as with them sharing the daily c’s like cooking, cleaning and other chores came quite easily. There were four kids in total and of course, that was a handful for us. However, the kids knew exactly how to make the most of the holiday with their unlimited energy even in the wee hours of the morning or night when the rest of us just wanted to crash on the bed.
Staying together like a big group of people helping each other out with the daily chores and enjoying the rest of the days together exploring the beautiful locales are memories to carry forward in life. One day while exploring and to cut down on some walking time, we decided to go to a beach by climbing down a formation of rocks. It was adventurous, to say the least. Some of us managed faster, some lagged. However, the ones who managed faster than the laggards could not enjoy the beach access for too long as suddenly the earth’s rotation caused the tides to change from low to high. The visible sandy beach space started to fill up with water from far off water table. The speed was quite fast, the laggards started retreating and the faster ones who were already on the beach had to go further away to find enough time to climb the rocks back up. We all have read this in geography books, but to watch it in front of our eyes happening to our loved ones, who were stuck there trying to escape at a pace faster than water swallowing the visible land, sent shivers down the spine. It brought home the image of horror experienced when people are escaping the tsunami or a hurricane. We all stood there at the top of the bed of rocks as the water started filling up all the land space quickly that was visible and rising to cover the rocks. It was difficult to even imagine that some of us were down there because in a matter of moments it was not full of deep water. The episode brought home the point that there are limitations to what a human being’s physical body can do. Our imagination and mental faculties may have no bounds but when it comes to this physical body made of brick and mortar, we are mostly defeated in the race with the speed of water flowing or wind blowing. However, because of our untamed brain, we do things constantly to challenge our physical body. One such opportunity came in this trip itself in the form of skydiving. My father and husband went with huge curiosity to the Tandem skydiving centre just next to the caravan park where we all stayed. They went to register themselves but first were told that they had to be eligible to skydive. My father was over the age limit of 60 so was denied and my husband was disqualified because he mentioned of a benign childhood head injury. They both came to me to the car (where I was taking care of the children) disappointed to reveal the news and ready to go back to the caravan park. I realised that they had not considered that I could still be a contender who could skydive (a thought that did not even cross their minds). The sheer look on their faces of feeling embarrassed that they did not discuss me was then substituted by the look of pride seeing me suggest it. “Yes, you would certainly qualify as you have nothing that does not meet their requirements.” My husband announced this after a momentary consideration.
With great joy and a little trepidation, I approached the reception to get myself enrolled. The moment before signing the form which said that they hold no responsibility of my life if anything goes wrong during the skydive, I decided to call my mother to take her permission being the creator of my life. I did not want to risk my life without her permission, but at the same time, I was nervous as I did not want her not to discourage me either. However, mothers have this weird sixth sense, she exactly knew what I wanted and could probably smell the commitment. She has always supported me in everything I wanted to do in life and that moment was no different. She said nothing more than a strong yes and gave her nod to go for it. I was overwhelmed by seeing her confidence and trust towards me. I completed the formalities and while we waited for my turn, my husband went and brought my mother over to witness her creation risk her life, although calculated. The friends who were with us on the holiday chose to stay back in the caravan with their kids citing acrophobia.
Finally, my turn came and the company announced my name to go for the training where they explained all the safety protocols and what to expect during the skydiving experience. The good thing about the instructions was that they were quite simple. Nothing that one could not hold in the brain. The instructor said at the end – “If there is only one thing that you want to remember from my training – it is that the last 10 seconds are the most crucial part of skydiving. It is to make sure that your feet don’t hit the ground first when you are landing. Your suit has pockets designed above the knees using which you would need to lift your legs. Ensure that your legs are up so that you can land on your bum with a sitting position with legs out thereby not causing any damage to your toes or feet.” I told myself to remember this as living with serious injuries could be worse than dying.
I then met the diver Nick from the skydiving agency who was going to tie himself to my body securely before we both jumped into the air free falling on Earth from a height above the range of birds or clouds. Using typical British humour, he cracked a few jokes to ensure that I am relaxed. I introduced him to my parents, husband and my kids who were all patiently waiting to witness me go up in the sky only to jump down out of the aircraft. The concept of risk is alien to kids, they were super-excited. For some unknown reason, I did not feel any nervousness. I just knew I would be fine. I simply wanted to enjoy the experience and not ruin it by worrying too much and building up scenarios in my mind unnecessarily.
All the training finished, the time to go up to the sky had come. With a group of two other divers who were going to dive with me from fourteen thousand feet, I went towards the chopper which would first take us up to the sky. Steve, the videographer, also tagged along with Nick and myself to capture these once-in-a-lifetime moments on camera. As I sat on the chopper, Nick sat behind me and started strapping us together. He told me how before we finally jump out, he would make one final check to ensure that the straps are tightly secured. Before the chopper took off, three more divers got inside who were lone divers and would jump out from six thousand feet above the ground.
The chopper took off. It was nothing like a usual flight. Very short run up and quickly in the air. There was the heavy noise of the blades of the chopper tearing the air to keep climbing up that did not allow for much talking. At six thousand feet, the lone divers opened the door of the chopper themselves and one after another started rolling out of the craft. My videographer shut the gate down once they all had jumped off. I saw the joy in their eyes and no fear. I was so looking forward to experiencing the thrill myself. In another ten or fifteen minutes, we had now reached the fourteen thousand feet mark from where I was supposed to jump out of.
I was going to be the first diver. Nick came close to my ears and asked if I feeling alright. I replied, “could not have been better, really looking forward to it.” And just then the door opened, I was hurled to the door and a big push from behind from Nick and we were out. All this happened within a fraction of seconds. It was a free fall from fourteen thousand above sea level. Nick was tightly snug to me from behind, but I could not feel anything. We were falling at a speed of 120 miles per hour. Imagine being the pebble you have just rocked upwards and has now falling back to the floor quickly even before you realise. The speed caused by gravity but friction caused by air meant that I had no control of my limbs. My hands kept going backwards due to the thrust of air on them and no matter how much I tried, I did not have the strength to bring them forward. Nick using his hands brought my hands forward to create the straight line so that I can pose like a bird. My videographer captured the thrill of the free fall on camera for me to treasure forever. At a certain point, Nick then told me about opening the chute. And then once the parachute had opened, the speed and direction were in Nick’s control. We flew like a bird. He did roller coasters in the air for me with the chute. He talked to me about the beautiful views we saw from the top. I wanted time to freeze. I was loving it. Flying like a bird was a dream since childhood, and to experience finally gave a joy that was difficult to describe using words. We landed perfectly as I remembered to lift my feet up in the last ten seconds.
I came out of my diving suit and hugged my family. I was speechless for some time as I found it difficult to describe an overwhelming feeling like that using words. I said the experience was addictive and I would not mind doing it again and again. This helped them understand the extent of my enjoyment.
We came back to our caravan to the friendly couple playing with their two kids. I could not convince them to experience skydiving but excited their kids enough to talk to them about it in detail one more time.