Just like the sweet, short summer romance that we read about in novels of romantic nature, me and my friends came upon and fell in love with this little island-paradise on earth, Havelock. Nestling quietly among its more well-endowed counterparts in the Bay of Bengal, this island is one of the most happening ones in Andaman. It captivates you with its ubiquitous naïvety and oozing charm of a destination which has not succumbed to commercial prospects. Yet.
Lined with petty kirana stores, bike rental shops and a strew of beach-side restaurants on both sides of narrow roads, this delightful island is perfect for that quiet little getaway that you and your sweetheart have been procrastinating all this while.
But this post is not about Havelock. No siree! This one is the child of an eventful night when I went to watch a very forgettable movie called ‘Zindagi na milegi dobara’. Forgettable except for the bit where a very scared (still yummilicious) Hrithik Roshan, an aquaphobic, goes through a life-changing experience and emerges still an emotional wreck but as someone who is in accordance with the one element he was most scared of, water. Sometime during watching tears run down his chiselled jaw is when I felt that little kick in my non-existent guts telling me this is what I should do before the year ends. No, not having an emotional outbreak and increasing the saltiness of the sea, but scuba diving!!
Commenced thus the art of searching and filtering data on TripAdvisor, lonely planet et al to find that ideal (read ‘budget’ but ‘decent’) spot for diving and viola! A kindred soul in all such (mis)adventures with me came upon dear little Havelock.
Two days after our arrival in the island, we met diving instructors at a very unimaginatively named bistro – Diving Café. Went through the medical sections, gave the sizes for diving suit and powered mask (no, you don’t need your contacts down under. Isn’t that wonderful?) and signed the form with the stupid, stupid flourish of a newbie in the scene. Next day saw us taking a ride in a boat as white as the waves to an empty beach. Somebody got me a diving suit and before I knew it everyone else had put it on. I frankly didn’t know if the zipper came in front or back. Tried it both ways inside the wee little room that was the toilet and it seemed to fit both ways! But since my pride was in question, I shouted above the engines “where does the zipper come? Front or back” to a friend standing by the door when at that exact moment the engines died and my pride was not in question anymore.
Next was the training by the shore. They had already briefed us about the hand signals. It is essentially 5 techniques that they teach a newbie. How to breathe through your mouth using a regulator, how to get water out of your mask if, god forbid, it gets inside, how to reach for your regulator if, again god forbid, you lose it to the sea, how to get water out of it and put it back into your mouth and most importantly, how to equalize your body’s pressure with that of the sea level that you are in.
The crash course was quite overwhelming at first. I choked on the regulator and got the water out of my mask by inhaling it right inside. Strong introspection moments, I tell you, when life hands you a blank look and contemplates to the wind if this is exactly my cup of tea or should I say, my wave to ride? But before I could gather enough guts to call it quits, the instructor had tugged me deeper into the sea and pushed my head right under the water.
It was just pure bliss and magical after that. Breathing through the mouth came so naturally! I was so much in awe of what I saw around me to breathe much anyway. Zillions of tiny silver coloured fish struck a pose long enough to catch my attention before fleeing under my flipper clad feet. Numerous varieties of fish of all imaginable colours and combinations hid or swam nonchalantly around us under the dancing lights from above. I wanted to touch them as we swam past their coral abodes, but the instructor was very firm about us not leaving a trace behind in that nature’s bounty for all.
We swam deeper into bleached and shadowy corals. Bleached, sadly, because of rise in water temperature. Below me where depths unknown. Well unknown to me! It looked like the Grand Canyon to me! Just more mossy. Above me the sunlight played with the waves and fish appeared all shimmery.
I was deep under for more than half an hour but it felt like 10 minutes! When I was inflated up (yes genius, that’s how you come up) against the weights I was wearing to hold me down at some level, I felt on top of the world and wanted to shout at the top of the voice at the risk of turning my instructor deaf, that I have never been in so much awe of anything after I lost my childhood to concrete jungles and modern contraptions.
Apart from scuba, we pretty much stuck to beach hopping, wolfing down of coconut pancakes and downing Blue Lagoons in Havelock. I also found out from an instructor that Bali is one of the best diving spots in the world. Wonder what the flight tickets are like…