Never test the depth of the water with both feet.” —Zen Maestro Phucknuckel
I have been a SCUBA diving instructor for the past seven years. Even though I would keep visiting the islands where I was teaching for no more than a month at a time, my girlfriend and now wife was never really interested in visiting the place. I have been living with the woman for the past 15 years. So when she suddenly opted for a Lakshadweep-over-LA holiday, well, I was caught quite unawares. It suddenly dawned on me that all the idyllic scenarios I had created for her were soon going to be exposed, revealing a grizzly layer of the conveniently forgotten adversity underneath. Adventure travel is a popular form of sadomasochism that generally doesn’t involve the props— though the idea of my wife on an adventure presented the frightening image of a whip being madly brandished on me. For these are holidays that evoke fond memories only when you return home. The suffering is readily forgotten and they are the best of experiences only in retrospect.
It’s actually uncomplicated. No bones about it. With my wife’s work schedule, holidaying with no strings attached is a rarity. So, when she does get her one-week-in-a-decade off, she surprisingly doesn’t want to deal with cold showers, reptiles, packet food or dehydration. There’s absolutely no confusion here. She likes nature as long as she can flip the channel. And I would not advise anyone to dish out the old traveller philosophy on embracing the journey. You have to teleport her to the destination.
I went pale with her unusual request to set out on an adventure trip. Suddenly, I was terrified of the two planes and then the seven-hour, bumpy, loo-less boat ride to the remote island. Did I say bumpy? It’s a backbreaker. Flashes of the baby scorpions that had once jumped out of a fellow diver’s sock started recurring. The cute field mice, which visited my hut frequently, transformed into beastly bandicoots from hell. Poisonous stonefish, jellyfish and sharks that I have never seen in my life emerged in my dreams, further breaking my broken sleep pattern.
And then we landed. Though my concerns were temporarily relieved by the sheer beauty of the islands, an underlying tension gnawed at my insides. The strain was too much. Something had to snap. And then I watched baffled as she happily bounced around the bouncy boat, applied repellent, walloped a freeze-dried butter chicken packet, and effortlessly slipped on her SCUBA gear for the first time (the gear had to be a fashionable match though). Some kind of conspiracy seemed to be brewing here. She was blissfully consuming the joys of island life.
Today, my wife is one good-looking diver underwater (and out of it for that matter). She gets back from two dives, lugs out her tank risking breaking her nails, helps us clean the gear, documents the fish life spotted and, for entertainment, downloads a slide show of the pictures she has clicked underwater for the guests. Where did this non-exercising species get her energy? Shopping 13 hours, 26 blocks straight? What can I say? The mystery never ceases to amaze me and, as I sit here struggling on the script of my next film, she is probably amusing herself somewhere off some reef, 20 fathoms under water, trying to get the best angle on some sleeping shark.
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