Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 6 - TANDEMMM !!!

28 November 2007: 
Today is the day when the previous batch get their wings. There is a ceremony in the morning, and a party in the evening. As I get back from a long day of ground training, I get a call from Nishant sir who tells me I'm going to get a tandem freefall tomorrow morning."Be there at five."
I will be there sir, with bells on.

November 29, 2007

Having dreamed of being in freefall for close to six months, I was conscious of today morning being as special as it can get. The best thing about a tandem jump is the total absence of any performance anxiety. Lt Cdr Rajesh gave me a short briefing before we boarded the aircraft. It went something like this- "I will be sitting on the aircraft door. You are attached to with this harness, see? And you will be sitting outside the aircraft. Make sure your feet are firm on the outside of the plane - your heels on the belly of the plane. And when when you hear me saying 'out-in-out', make sure you kick the back of my parachute hard. And then, don't forget to arch as we go down. That's all I expect you to do. Get it?"

And I said, yes sir absolutely. I totally get it. But what I was thinking was - OUTSIDE?? SITTING?? I'm sitting outside the aircraft? Why doesn't he just say that he's gong to hang me out of a plane 13000 feet up in the air?

Still, my happiness as we were taking off and climbing was almost unbearable. Couldn't stop smiling, kept on checking the altimeter every few seconds. Lt Cdr Karthikeyan took a couple of pictures of me here and told me he was going to come shake my hand when we were in free fall. "Wow, really??" 

"Yeah, but make sure you shake and let go...don't keep hanging on to to my hand, please? People do that"

Rajesh sir attached the four hooks at this point and made me feel them. "See, you are attached to me at these four points; even one of them is good enough to take your weight. So don't be scared at all, ok? I wanted to tell him I totally trust the harness and I totally trust you sir and I don't feel scared at all. But I think my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth and I couldn't say anything at all . But i did nod. My first moment of real fear was when the aircraft door opened....umm, why exactly AM I doing this??? I took a couple of deep breaths as the other jumpers went out one by one. They don't jump - they just, like STEP hi, i think I'll go out and walk a bit, see you in a while. The crazy exhilaration, pride and fear that i was feeling at this point is indescribable. It's a feeling that I want again and again...and again. Moments later, I was sitting outside the aircraft and loving it. I looked at the camera and I wish I could say I smiled confidently but that kind of thing cannot be lied about, because, well, it's there on camera. Behind me I heard Rajesh sir saying, "out- in- out" and we just fell into the blue skies. It was so beautiful it was like a dream. I saw Karthy sir and the other skydivers - the red jumpsuits against the gray blue skies were so, so beautiful. I smiled at the camera and waved and all too soon, or so it seemed, our chute had deployed. And as we slowly descended to the ground, I voiced my primary concerns - I asked Rajesh sir if I had kicked the way I was supposed to, if I had arched right. "Yes, Yes good tandem, but you haven't looked at the altimeter yet!"

Right. My altimeter said 3500 already! We did a couple of 360 degree turns - he let me do one - then told me to make sure I appreciated the circuit pattern he was making. I did that but I also totally enjoyed seeing how lovely everything looked - the hangar, the aircrafts parked outside, even my friends. We went into full glide at 400ft and I landed comfortably sitting on the tarmac. Karthy sir took a couple of pictures here, then I went forward to meet Surg Cdr B. I told him that I was the happiest person on the runway that morning. And I think it was the absolute truth.

Day 4 - The Runaway Husband

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I remember reading that skydivers always walk the earth with their eyes to the sky. Because there they have been and there they long to return.

I have a fascinating new friend in this course. His name is Surg Cdr Bhardwaj and he has come from Delhi for this course. He is 48 yrs old and he has done a basic course with five jumps some six months ago. He's dying to do more but his wife (understandably, I should think) feels rather apprehensive about the light of her life jumping out of aircrafts. He loves his wife, and he loves skydiving. So he told her he was going on temporary duty to Raipur to do recruitment medicals, and got into the flight for Vizag - one that goes via Raipur, naturally. He feels guilty about the furtiveness of it - he packed all his uniforms, stamps and the equipment he'd need for the recruitment medicals, then he packed the dungarees that he'd need for the course when she wasn't looking. There's so much glee mixed with the guilt!! I couldn't stop laughing all day today. He says- "I hate lying to her, but how could I not come??"

Basic Skydiving Course (Day 3)

Monday, November 26, 2007

How come no one ever told me how PAINFUL it was going to be??? I was prepared for the fear, I was totally expecting to lose sleep with performance anxiety, I knew I would have to struggle with complicated physics. But this back breaking pain...why did no one tell me?

The word "arch" sounds like such an ordinary harmless thing. But for a student of basic skydiving, it is the beginning of a nightmare.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Skydiving here I come!! (Day ' -1' )

23 November 2007


Apparently skydiving is the only thing in this universe that moves me enough to write. I last wrote for this blog some six months back, and it was about well, skydivers. The last six months have been so eventful - a naval orientation course, a serious relationship and an even more serious breakup, so many new friends and experiences, so much sorrow and so many surprising bits of happiness - and not once was I pulled out of bed with this irresistable need to write.

Today was day 'minus one' of the course that I worked so hard to get into. Never before this have I really understood the need for "approach" and "jaan pehchaan" People used to say - "Why don't you ask your father to approach his old cronies to get you posted to some decent place?" Because it seemed undignified and petty to me, that's why. But when a signal asking for volunteers for basic skydiving came in September, guess who abandoned all pride and reticence and "approached" EVERYONE in the world who claimed to have any connection with the Navy Skydiving team? Please, please, oh please get me to the course. I've spent the last six months reading everything that google chacha has to offer on skydiving, I've watched shows on Nat Geo and Discovery with my heart pounding and eyes shining - if nothing else i need to know if it is half as good as my fantasies.

The day the signal came - the one that included my name in the next skydiving course - I couldn't sleep that night. 
I would sit up every few minutes and think - Oh, my God, it is finally happening. Now, I'll know.  My classes begin tomorrow. Can't wait for morning.

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