Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Chhattisgarh has a many lesser known places hidden behind its vast jungles and industrial complexes.
Devpahri is one such place near the Power city of Korba.Situated around 80km from Korba lies a picturesque waterfall on a small river.This place is so remote that one of my colleagues informed that the villagers around here saw electricity only a few years back.I mean they had no idea of the outside world.No idea of electricity and power.But things have changed quite dramatically now. There are good roads there.Hospitals and schools are working and in fine order.

A few weeks before I left chhattigarh and moved to nellore myself along with my friends visited these waterfalls.The place is quaint and remote.If solitude is what you are looking for,this place is excellent.
There comes a huge reservoir on the way to Devpahri.We spent some time here clicking pics and for some fun

Downstream of the Devpahri falls

A spot of calm 
Right near the falls

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Scuba Diving in Pondicherry,India. Part 2: Sea Dive Day

This is in continuation of my Scuba Dive experience in Pondicherry,India.
Here is the first Part. Part 1.

The next morning we were at the office of temple adventures by 7am. It was hard,waking up at 5 30 am on a weekend vacation where our original plan was to just chill. The thought of diving in the sea is what kept us motivated and excited. Though we were there at the office by 7 am it was around 8 am that we actually departed for the dive site. We had to keep our clothes and stuff in the office itself.Stuff meaning mobile phones and wallet. So I sent a text message to my family informing that I
wont be in contact till noon that day. So we set off wearing only the dive suit given to us and reached the point from where our boat was to start off after a ride of 30 mins. On the way one of the staff asked us if we took ay motion sickness tablet. I confidently said no as I thought having trekked and visited places in the Himalayas many times I would be okay.I was wrong.

At the site we helped out the staff in loading the stuff on the boat and we looked like a group of Navy SEALs embarking on a secret operation. We started off soon on the boat and the feeling of being on a secret mission only increased as we sat on the floor of the boat on opposite sides,looking at each other. The boat bobbed up and down as it hit the gentle waves. It made its way out of the small creek out into the vast open sea and made it to the dive site in around 30 mins. As I no longer had my watch I lost track of time. The boat crew expertly anchored the boat and we were ready to dive. The staff asked us who amongst us would like to go first. All three of us did not hesitate in raising our hands.It was decided we would be going first with a fourth person joining in. The rule was like this. Only 4 persons would be going down in the waters with the others remaining on the boat. Each person going down will have a instructor with them.So the client to instructor ratio was 1:1 which was an excellent thing and made us feel completely at ease.

I was the first one to go.The crew on the boat helped me with the equipment and in a classic James bond style I flipped over the side of the boat into the choppy waters. Everything went upside down.A hand grabbed me out and pulled me above water. Leon was there holding me. He gave me some time to relax and then gave me some pointers including a quick rerun of the basic signs.He asked me if I was ready to which I replied I was and we went in.I got out almost immediately. The same thing which happened in the pool happened here also. Instinctively as soon as I was going underwater I was holding my breath and not breathing through the regulator. Again I told myself to forget everything and concentrate on only one thing.Breathe.Which I did pretty good the second time. Soon Leon and myself descended slowly into the depths of the sea.Leon indicated to me to hold a rope,which I rightly assumed to be the anchor.We descended slowly taking stops now and then.At every stop Leon turned around and asked me if I was OK.Of course 'asked' here means asked in sign language.I replied I was 'Ok' by showing the 'ok' sign. The visibility in the water was somewhat poor.I knew it wouldn't be like the crystal clear waters they show in ads and at any rate I was here for the experience of a scuba dive and I was okay if I couldn't spot any fishes. But slowly the fishes started appearing.At first I spotted some lone fishes darting from left right in front of me. Leon had to indicate vigorously now and then pointing towards the fishes. I missed many at first but slowly I turned my attention from the 'breath' 'breath' mantra I kept repeating to myself to spotting the fishes.I spotted many.Then slowly shoals of fish started appearing.I was wonder stuck.It was a beautiful site. The fishes in the group gently swayed and moved in a graceful manner as they appeared in front of me and disappeared away into the murky depths of the sea.Now and then I put my hand near them. The group disbanded immediately and the fishes split in all directions only to regroup later some distance away.The scene was mesmerizing.

Soon we reached a depth of 12 mtrs. I knew this because we had two gauges attached to our gear.One was a pressure gauge showing the pressure in the oxygen cylinder.It was showing a pressure of 100 kg/cm2 if I remember correctly. The other gauge was showing the depth. It read 12 mtrs, the deepest we were going. We stayed around here for a some time just looking around. The whole experience was surreal. A human isn't designed to survive underwater.He cannot breathe there.He is surrounded by everywhere by something that has no breathable oxygen that we need to survive.Add to that there is the issue of pressure.For every 10 mtrs one goes downwards a pressure of 1kg/cm2 acts on the skin.That means double the atmospheric pressure every 10 mtrs you go down.So in these unfavorable conditions humans aren't designed to survive long term.But like in all field humans have come up with ways to survive for longs periods of time giving us the ability to explore the vast seas. So there I was wearing these human designed equipment in those unfavorable conditions trying to have some fun exploring the sea.I experienced first hand there an impressive resolve of humans to go beyond the normal in their quest to know the unknown.

Soon the time came to surface and Leon indicated so with the 'thumps up' sign.I replied 'ok' and slowly we started ascending.We stopped every now and then because failing to do so would cause 'bends'. 'Bends' were caused if a diver ascended too quickly.When I was a kid I had read about bends in a issue of tinkle comics. It has to do with the difference in pressures inside the body and outside in the water.Even though Leon didn't tell me why we were stopping now and then I knew the reason. So it took us a while till we reached the surface. Since there were 4 pairs of divers underwater I ran into Bhanu and we took a pic together. We looked around for Abhishek but he was not around. It would have been wonderful if we had gotten a pic with the three of us together.Anyway we had no way to search for him so we carried on and moved on to the top.I was the first to surface. Before they took off the oxygen tank I looked at the pressure gauge and it showed 60kg/cm2.
Bhanu and myself
After they removed the equipment I slowly climbed up the ladder and sat down still reeling under that out of the world experience. The others asked me how it was to which I happily replied it was awesome! Soon Bhanu and Abhishek surfaced. They both had broad smiles on their faces and as they climbed on the boat we looked at each other and nodded acknowledging the superb experience.The three of us had many wonderful trips and adventures and this was one more.We sat down and waited while two more batches of 4 people each did the dive. All the while we waited on the boat as it bobbed up and down gently on the sea. Many of us puked because of the boat's motion including myself. While returning there was a count to determine the number of persons who puked and it stood at 8 out of 13. Bhanu and Abhishek did not.

After everyone was back we started off on our return.Somebody suggested they play a scene from the popular bollywood movie 'Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara' where Hrithik comes out from the sea after his dive and theres a beautiful score playing in the background.Its a great scene really. We joked around a bit about it as our boat rode away in the afternoon sun making its way for the land.

We were back at the office soon and as we were in a hurry to catch our afternoon bus we wanted to be done with the formalities as quickly as possible.This is the part where I was thoroughly disappointed with Temple Adventures.Up till that point everything was excellent.I was impressed by their work. But as soon as we reached all of the crew and instructors got busy for their next dive I believe. There was no proper closure of our trip and for our group. I ran from person to person to get the signature on our certificates. I felt like being in a govt office as I was directed from one instructor to another. Meanwhile Bhanu tried getting the pics taken underwater. Here also we had to crowd around the reception to get our pics.And it took a long time. Abhishek left for the hotel to get ready. After a long frustrating wait at the office we finally left at 1230 pm.Temple Adventures if you are reading this please note that like you had a class when the whole package starts, have a session at the end also asking about our experience and feedback and sign our certificates without having us to ask you.

After a very uncomfortable meal in a small,congested and hot restaurant near the bus stand we left Pondicherry at around 2pm. Bhanu went his way to Bangalore while Abhishek and myself left for Chennai from where I was to take a train to Nellore and Abhishek for Ramagundam. We managed to catch our train and there ended our wonderful trip to Pondicherry.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Scuba Diving in Pondicherry,India. Part 1: The Training Day.

I read somewhere that when you are diving underwater, once you get below 10 metres depth, you can't see the color red or yellow.Our Blood looks blue at that depth. In Pondicherry,India we dived to a depth of 12 metres and no I did not cut myself to check if the above stated bit of info is true.Far from it, I did not even remember that info.In fact I was completely lost in a state of trance.Surrounded by the green of the sea water and the sound of each breath I was taking echoing in my ears I was far away from the world.The scuba diving experience in Pondicherry turned out to be extremely thrilling and it all started out with a casual plan with my friends to just chill in Pondy for a weekend.

Abhishek my friend was the one who insisted we go to Pondy and along with another friend of mine Bhanu we spent a weekend in Pondy last month.We did not come with a specific plan to scuba dive but only had a vague notion to do it if the cost and time suits us. We assembled in Pondy at around 6 am in the morning and as all three of us were tired, we just slept till 12 noon. By 2 pm we were fresh and ready.The first thing we did was go to the agency offering the scuba dive experience, Temple Adventures. Their office is situated a few minutes from the beach in a small quiet neighborhood.We had hired out two bikes from our hotel and that made the search for the office easy. As we walked in we found a few people milling around the entrance. Heaps of scuba related equipment were laid out neatly on the cupboards near the door.We inquired about the scuba package.The shortest package they had on offer was the 2 day package costing Rs 7000. It would be starting that afternoon and would end by 12 noon the next day. The time suited us perfectly, the only thing to decide was if we were ready to spend 7000 bucks for that. It took us only 5 minutes to come to a conclusion and we booked ourselves a spot.

After filling up some forms and reading some informational booklets we had a 1 hour class where our instructor Leon explained to us a few basic pointers about scuba diving.After that theory class we had a practice session in a swimming pool.Now I consider myself fairly comfortable around water.When I was a kid my dad used to take me and my siblings to rivers and lakes for a bit of water fun.In one summer vacation he even took us to the River Godavari nearby my home in sweltering summer heat for 15 consecutive days to teach us swimming. These constant rendezvous with water made me a bit comfortable around water bodies. I thought I will be fine and go through the scuba dive experience like a hot knife through butter.I was wrong.During that practice session in the pool my instructor, after having checked all the equipment on me and giving me all the instructions, told me to slowly go underwater. As I lowered myself slowly into the eater with the regulator in my mouth,I instinctively stopped breathing even with the regulator in  my mouth.This is exactly why they have this training. I raised myself up and surfaced. I took stock of the situation and told myself to breathe through the regulator. The instructor told the same thing. Breathe.Breathe. Breathe.The second time I did okay and started breathing through the regulator.After getting comfortable it was time to learn some basic underwater signs and actions. We practiced a few signs like signalling 'ok',' go up','go down' and 'something wrong' which can also be called 'all is not well' sign. The 'something wrong' sign is followed by indicating the location with our index finger. We also learnt and practiced what to do in case the regulator falls out of our mouth. All this practice was over by 6 pm. By the time it ended I was confident of doing well the next day out on the sea. 

We headed to the beach after the practice to have some sea food as all that practice had made us hungry.To our dismay there was not one seafood stall anywhere from the north end of the beach all the way to the south end. Finally at the end point we spotted one restaurant which had seafood but it was full so we just had some bhel and fruit salad in a nearby stall. We spent some time at the beach and went back to our hotel by 9 pm. We went out again for dinner.We had to be at the office of Temple Adventures the next day at 7 am so though we wanted to stay up late we slept by midnight.
The actual scuba dive day on my next post.