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 OUT...like 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.