By Sanat Pradhan (L&T Howden)
I had developed a strong urge to undertake an adventure trip ever since watching the movie “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”, and when in May 2016 I received a call from a friend asking to go to Rishikesh for rafting during the weekend. I, of course, was immediately in.
It was a stormy day, with thunderstorm on the horizon. We were lucky enough to have been allowed to raft that day as the flow of the Ganges had gone up to a slightly dangerous level due to rain in the mountains a few days before.
The leaves of the trees whipping back and forth, scattered lightning in the sky with a sparse drizzle and rapidly flowing white water all around us, it was a sight to behold! There were six of us excluding our guide and a kayak, our last hope for survival in the worst case.
We started our adventure with a warrior-like cry, “Ganga Maiyya ki Jai!!!”
First up was calm water which gave us an idea of the basics of rafting, which was followed by the first major rapid, “Three Blind Mice”. Suddenly the boat tilted to a 60 degree angle, with water splashing on our faces and blocking our vision. Our hearts collectively skipped a couple of beats. Out of confusion and fear, I left the paddle and grasped the rope on the raft and immediately received a shouting from the guide. From the next rapid onwards, I held onto the paddle and continued the same to and fro motion, irrespective of my vision and position of the paddle. Voila, it worked!!!
“Cross fire” and “Golf Course” were next in the on-course of rapids which was followed by the famed rapid “Roller Coaster”. We had earlier heard about rafts toppling around this rapid. Alas! It did topple, but the one near to us. People swirling in the giant whirlpool was a terrifying view. Our guide looked grim. We were now negotiating the waters on a war footing, literally. We rescued two of those people and pulled them onto our raft. Their faces devoid of colour, they were definitely happy to be alive as was evident from their faces. Within a few minutes, all of the fallen were saved by rafts nearby. We were actually feeling proud about saving someone’s life towards the end of this journey. It was one of the most satisfying feelings indeed. We were nearing the river bank, when the guide told us that there was one more thing that we could do.
That thing was fairly simple. We had to climb up a nearby cliff facing the river and JUMP!!!
The guide asked me “Can you swim?”
“No”, I replied.
“Convenient”, he laughed and said, “You have one less thing to worry about then”.
All sorts of thoughts about courage and bravery rushed through my mind during the climb, until I stood at the edge overlooking the river below. At that moment, all the cells in my brain were shouting acrophobia. I told the guy standing next to me that I was too scared to make the jump, and turned my back, just to realize that this was something I may not get to do in the future, and if I didn’t jump, I would certainly regret it.
With this thought, I turned back again and with open eyes, jumped!!!
I was in the air for what felt like a little more than a second, before hitting the waters which blocked my vision. It was the single most memorable moment of my life.
I came up to the surface of the water, opened my eyes, and grabbed on to the front of the kayak, which helped me reach the river bank. I was enraptured. Words of the movie I saw earlier played in my mind.
“Jo apni aankhon mein hairaniyan leke chal rahe ho, to zinda ho tum,
Dilon mein tum apni betabiyan leke chal rahe ho,
To zinda ho tum”