Thursday, 06 2007
"You will be going for freefall tomorrow morning."
I must've woken up four times at least in the night. And every time, repeating to myself -"Check in-Check out - Horizon-Up - Down - and Arch!!" over and over, like a mantra - I tried to reassure myself to sleep.
My very own Accelerated free fall, stage one. Half of me wondered how I got so lucky; the other half wanted to know if I really and truly wanted to be the recipient of this grand gift. I have no qualms about admitting that my pulse rate was a good 120 per minute as the sea king climbed to 10,00 feet, and I was thinking some very sad thoughts - "Why don't I just tell Cdr Rajesh that I absolutely feel terrified - I'll ask him to give one more static line jump and then my five jumps will be over. I really don't think I can do this! I'll forget what I have to do...I'll forget to pull the cord...I bet everyone can see how scared I feel..."
But then I realized that admitting that I was too scared to jump required more courage than actually jumping out. This thought made me laugh and then I saw Gaurav taking position at the door of the Sea King - his face as white as a sheet. I thought, "If he can, I can, and I'll do it better than him!!" Gaurav jumped out with Lt Cdr Rajesh and Lt Cdr Mahesh and then it was my turn. I took position at the door, with Borah and Rao on each side. I turned to the left, to Borah, and yelled into the wind - "CHECK IN!" He gave me a smile and an "OK!" that was at once so amused, so reassuring and so happy that all my fears slipped away as if by magic. I mean, if anyone should be scared it should be these guys - jumping out of an aircraft at 10,000 feet with a complete greenhorn who might mess things up so completely that let's not even think about it. But if he's so happy, so confident about this, he must have good reason. And that's when I knew I was going to have a great time. To the right now, to Rao, this time grinning,"CHECK OUT!"..."OK!".... "Horizon! Up, Down and Arch!!"
And there we were, falling through the sky. My eyes are filling up with tears at how much of a joy it was, even now as I write this tonight (was it only three days ago?). My first thought was "I actually thought of not going through with this!!" And my second -"These people get to do this everyday, I'm so jealous!" ....my third, "Wow, the world looks so unbelievable pretty from up here!!" At this point I checked my altimeter and we still weren't at 9000 feet...."I really AM doing thisssss!!yesss!!"
Ok, 9000 feet. PRCP*. Followed by the delayed PRCP. "I'll go tell Rajesh sir that I do have the 'Altitude Awareness' thingy..." You seriously have so much time to think up there. I mean think about it, I was falling at 120 miles per hour and I was thinking of so many things. I saw the coastline and then to my utter surprise, I identified our dropzone as well. 5000 feet.Wave. Ok, now time to pull the ripcord. I closed my fist around it and pulled, but as it turned out, I could pull out only half of it - it was too long - Rao helped me with rest. For some reason he seemed to want to take it from me but I didn't let go (he later told me he was worried I'd drop it and lose it, but he hadn't known known how stubborn I can be! My cord, I'll bring it back!). My chute deployed and I have to admit that I had neglected to count the thousands. As my fall slowed the first thing I did was stuff the ripcord in my overall. The stupid zipper got stuck and I had to struggle to zip it up. It worried me that I had lost valuable seconds in this process but my altimeter said it was only 3500 ft. I relaxed, faced the wind, saw the target and planned my foolproof course for a perfect landing. It apparently was NOT foolproof because I landed in front of the ATC building. This is only about a 100 meters from the target so I'll say I'm getting better. At least this time I was near enough to walk back to the hangar. No jeep needed to come pick me up. I think I'm getting the hang of this.
*Practice Ripcord Pull