Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Volunteer at school - It helps you realize that your kid is a kid

I took four first graders on a field trip once. I was a parent volunteer to a class trip to the zoo. A girl and three boys were my responsibility for the day. We were to walk the zoo, have a picnic lunch and meet the rest of the class at the end of the day.

Five minutes into the trip Boy1 had started to trail behind. I looked back - urging him to hurry - just to find he had dug into his lunch bag and started eating a sandwich. I cajoled it back into his bag so we'd have some for the picnic later and moved the group along. 

We saw the lions and giraffes and had interesting discussions before we stopped for lunch. Boy2 at this point was very interested in the seagulls that were scavenging around. He wanted to feed them and not want to have lunch. Lunch was immaterial to him. Lunch was all that mattered to Boy1. So, I tried to get them in sync. 

Boy1 - I really cannot eat my sandwich.
Me- Why?
Boy2 - My mom made me a PB&J.
Me- So?
Boy2- I am allergic to peanuts.

Being a mom you know when you are being blatantly lied to. I called him out on it and told him I wanted the sandwich finished. Few seconds later I heard "Oops" and saw the sandwich hit the ground. For a split second I was going to tell him to pick it up, dust it and eat it. Before I could react the seagulls had swooped in and to his delight finished it. I wished I could have made an army of PB&J appear to help me defeat the six year old but all I had was the usual mommy line - "Well, you will be the one hungry later."

Towards the end of the day we came across a baboon. I have yet to meet a baboon that looked happy but this one had pulled a blanket over his head and sat against the glass looking as sadly at you as he could. The kids contemplated his state and the girl in the group solemnly told them - "If you were a slave to the zoo you would look this sad too"

There were many moments of laughter and fun that day. There was contant chatter but seven years later the sandwich, seagulls and the baboon have not left my head. That was the first school trip I drove the kids to. Over the years I made it a habit to sign up for as many as I could. Every year I got to spend a day with my son's peers. I got to hear crazy stories and was urged (with no luck) to 'race faster than all cars' or buy them all candy. Every time, after every single field trip, I came home with stories and told my husband just how crazy the kids were. And told him how normal and age appropriate our own crazy son was.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Games on the playground

It is the first week of school. I happened to be there in the afternoon to volunteer and while waiting I chanced upon a group of first graders playing an organized game on the field. The game seemed simple - everyone scattered around and then the teacher said "I want you to form groups of " and people formed those groups. Most came together in groups of the right number but there would always be a groups of the 'leftovers'. Leftovers - people that did not want to join a group, or be with boys/girls, or just cling to their best friend. However I kept seeing her tell them that no one won and they were all out. After two rounds I listened more carefully - the rules were -

1. Everyone had to be in the right count group or the whole class was out. So if the group number was five then everyone had to be in a group of five else noone won.
2. It was not - in groups of five, she always said in a group of at least five.

It took a couple of rounds for someone to suggest that they form one big group and they'd win. Simple.
Nice way to get the class to work together and be inclusive.

Ek Chidiya Anek Chidiya

Friday, July 20, 2012

You never know - not light reading

I had walked into Macy's for a quick return. The store was rather empty and I was happy to find a staffed checkout counter. There was just one lady in front of me but soon I realized that the line was going nowhere. Frustrated I peeked over to see what was taking forever. 

An older woman wanted to buy three suitcases. Coupons of all sorts had been pulled out- multiples of $20 off each item and 20% off the entire bill. The checkout lady had a calculator out and was punching and writing numbers. It wasn't rocket science and I really wanted to get out of there. I was on the verge of asking to be served first but then I saw the two of them. Two old ladies trying hard. The suitcases were $155 each so I interjected and told her that the 20% coupon would work better than three $20 off coupons. They did some punching and writing and agreed. The woman then decided that she was going to look around and see if that was the best deal. Before she walked away she turned and thanked me.

At this point - as we do in passing conversation I did the equivalent of saying have a good day. "Hope you enjoy wherever it is the suitcases are going to take you" I said.
"I have to go to Iraq. My son was kidnapped, tortured and killed there" she said. It seemed she had memorized the line. It was not said with sorrow or with tears. It was said in a flat practical tone that I wish I never have to use.

I said I was sorry to hear that as she walked away. Shaken and shocked I went through the return. Walking away from the checkout stand I wanted to find that lady. I wanted to do something. Anything but nothing seemed appropriate or right. All I was thankful for that I had behaved civilly moments back and not let impatience push me into making a blunder that I would have forever regretted.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wrapping up in India - Doing right by the people that helped bring me up

I was a hungry little kid. I loved food and would end up for my second lunch in the one room house that Phulia lived in.  Phulia Dai was one of the maids working in my parent's nursing home. I really do not know much about her family but she lived alone in a room. I know she loved me and I'd eat up half the rice she cooked. She'd add a little oil and salt and mash it up for me. It was the fat, cheap, parboiled rice but there was something about it - something more than just hunger - that drew me back to her place everyday.

I grew up, left home and flew off to the US. Somewhere along the way Phulia Dai retired to her village. She'd come back to my parent place biyearly to collect her pension and then she passed away. I was young and busy in my life to reflect too much on her last years. There were fond thoughts and little sighs of "I should have done more" but they were too little and a little too late.

Over the last few months we have been prepping up to leave India and one of the hardest things has been watching Ashvin come to terms with leaving Lalitha - his nanny and our housekeeper. He wants to marry her so she can come to US with us. This made me think of Phulia and others that were there for me as I grew up. Besides Phulia my thoughts kept going back to SitaRam and Nagendar.

SitaRam has been there in my parent's house before I was born. He was the cook but I remember him being part of my potty training, school pickup and was in fact the 'chaperone' on my first lone trip on a train when I met Peeyush.

I don't know when Nagendar showed up as our driver cum office manger cum backup cook but he is there in my memory as far as I can remember. He believed in me. Full of praises he thought the world of me. There was little I could do wrong - I was the best six year old english speaker in the entire town, my speech in school was flawless and had left him speechless. I know I was not that good but it was great to have a cheerleader all along my childhood.

I am still busy with life but with age comes the wisdom to make time so I am not left with too many regrets. Today SitaRam and Nagendar got onto a plane for the first time in their life and flew from Patna to Bangalore. They are guests in my house in Bangalore for a few days. They were the talk of my parental home and their village. I could have sent them some money but I am going to give them stories. After all they have been a very important part of my story.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Taming of the madam

Two year ago we were waiting for our shipment of furniture to arrive in India. A ship somewhere near Mumbai dumped its cargo into the ocean. It was not ours but it caused enough of a wave to cause our shipment to be delayed by a few weeks. After putting all the data in spreadsheets and discussing options it was decided that we would move into the house we had rented and find some rental furniture to tide us through.

So Madam Mallika- still fresh from Seattle – with her high expectations and rolling eyes went with the relocation agent to a rental shop in Russell Market.

Russell Market is an old school Indian market. You can buy literally anything and everything here – fresh veggies, meat, fish, carpets, dishes, hardware, clothes and paraphernalia in little shops tucked in small lanes I have not dared ventured into. It is also one of the dirtiest and trashiest markets around.

Long story short, I was put in the capable hands of Mr Pervez. He must have seen many like this Madam cause he was patient. Very patient as I shook my head in disbelief and horror at the dirty, dusty furniture in the showroom. Dismantled beds and dusty sofas were stacked in multiple floors in a storage building. I could not believe that I had to choose from that mess. I repeatedly asked him if there was anything better. I moaned, I groaned and I grumbled. He let me take my time, promised me that the furniture would be cleaned and polished before it came to me, even conjured up a new mattress that would remain in its plastic cover till it came to my house.  A torturous hour later I resigned and picked up two beds, a dining table, living room furniture and a big TV.  Side tables and a TV stand were thrown in and the whole rental for two months – with delivery, setup and pickup – was under $200. I won’t be surprised or blame him if he added a bit extra for dealing with me.

Last week - two years later - our furniture was packed and shipped off back to US. I landed back in Russell market. I sent my driver off to pick up some fresh fish as I grabbed a few shopping bags and made my way to Adams Furniture Rentals. There was goop on the road and piles of cauliflowers leaves left on the pavement. I navigated them and stopped to take photos of some birds bathing in a pail of water. I met Mr Pervez again. We went to the building of dusty furniture. Ten minutes later I had three beds, a dining table and my couches.  The dining table and chairs were mismatched but I was not buying them or planning to get my kids married on them. Mr Pervez and I chatted about India and US. I told his staff to ensure everything was cleaned and polished. They smiled, I smiled and I paid.

Half an hour later I had posed with a huge necklace, bought two kilo of lychees, enjoyed a tender coconut and was on my way home with some good fish fillet for dinner.

I am not sure if Mr. Pervez cut off a few dollars for my good behavior but I must say I saw him smile as I walked away. Another Madam had been tamed by India.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Drinking the Indian Way - Black Dog and Soda

Had written this Thursday, February 17, 2011 - somehow it never got published. Wonder if sampling for the blog had anything to do with it ;)

Coaster has a famous Indian movie dialog -
"Jab main black dog peeta hoon,
mere seenay me kaley kuttey bhaunkney lagte hain"
Translated -"When I drink Black Dog, Black Dogs
start to bark in my chest"

Peeyush always drank his scotch on the rocks so I was surprised when at a party he asked for coke to be mixed with it. “Black Dog” he said, referring to the scotch, “You can’t drink it without coke”. Yes, it is that bad. Most Indians here drink hard liquor (wine attributes to less than 3% of the total alcohol sales) and cheaper scotches mixed with soda seems to be the way to down it.

Maybe due to excessive hard alcohol drinking, India has been a little judgmental about people that drink. “He does not drink” is still considered a plus on your marriage biodata (more on that someday). I was reading a blog about alcohol sales in the US by a friend of mine and got thinking of how India has progressed on the drinking front. I see more people (women and girls especially) drink at bars and can firmly attest to the fact that I have seen as many girls throw up drunk here in my last six months as I had seen in the US in the last six years. The concept of drinking has made it to the youngsters, the concept of moderation and drinking to enjoy a drink and not to get drunk is still on its way.

Couple of things that have stood out negatively here are excessive drinking, hypocrisy and bringing down all scotch to the Black dog level (meaning diluting it). On the positive front social drinking is popular and there is a vast vareity at most bars to enjoy. Wine clubs are also making a foothold so the future looks more drinkable.

Few Indian drinking nuances-
1. Most people will not drink in front of their parents. It is not just about the lecture you might get, unless they drink and offer you a drink it is considered a sign of disrespect.

  • My dad would hide his glass of scotch under the table if he heard my grandma come.
  • My cousins have walked around with an opaque glass wrapped by a napkin at a party trying to conceal the golden liquid inside.

2. Alcohol shops are 'shady' places often with a curtain to protect the identity of the people in there. Else they have iron bars all over the facade. I have never bought a bottle of alcohol from a regular alcohol store in India. I think I’d be rather uncomfortable walking into one of these joints. I saw the sign of one at a mall but it was tucked away in some forsaken corner.

3. Drinking amongst the lower income class is still considered taboo and it often done in extreme - hard alcohol with the purpose of getting drunk. Drinking for pleasure is not the norm.

4. In general drinking amongst the younger and higher income class is not a big taboo (except for point 1 - away from the family) and people dole out US prices for drinks at a bar without much thought. Top drinks are - scotch (with soda) or beer for the guys, vodka for the ladies - though the choices are many and I have sat with indulgers of sake, brandy, gin and tonic etc.

5. Wine is … hmm… bad. India is getting into the wine scene and I have had some decent wine at not so decent prices here. There is some 300% tax on wine and due to low inventory movement the wine list is usually limited. Don't make the mistake of ordering by the glass, the bottle is the way to go.

6. When visiting India be nice and bring over a bottle of scotch (not black dog) for a friend. Alcohol is taxed very high here and a bottle of Blue label ($140 at duty free can go for around $400 in stores here). Ensure they try it soda free and you will be doing double goodness – teaching someone to drink for pleasure.

On drinking for pleasure - recently, a friend was disgusted when she saw good some really scotch being mixed with Sprite. She walked off.  I would have done that too - with the bottle in my hand. Bottle of sprite that is (in case my inlaws are reading this)

Friday, March 23, 2012

A long weekend from trip Bangalore - A river, a race, a beach, a fishmarket and a roadtrip.

A few weeks back an event invite popped up in Facebook. It was for the Royal Enfield's road trip to watch the Kambla races. I am no motor-biker but the itinerary and Kambla races piqued my interest.
I contacted the organizers to see if we (an innova and kids) could tag along. It was a bike only trip but they were nice enough to share all the details if I wanted to do it on my own. So, planning began and the a wonderful weekend came to fruition.

Day 1 - Bangalore -> Dharmashtala. I found a really nice cottage by a shallow stream on a plantation. Stream of Joy - Trip advisor had lots of good things to say about it and it turned out to be an amazing stay. The shallow stream with a tire tube swing, bamboo raft and a macchan to hang out and spend the night on was an amazing experience. An evening excursion to a famous temple nearby to hand feed a thousand hungry fish followed by a jeep ride to a Jain temple overjoyed the kids. The home cooked food was local, vegetarian and very delicious.

Day 2 Part 1- Dharmsthala - Kambla Race. We left our cottage around 10am and spend a good half an hour looking at how bowls and plates were made using palm stalks at the plantation. Then we were on the road and with a little meandering made our way to the Kambla race. A large field by a river had enough buffaloes being bathed, fed and decorated to confirm that we had reached the right place. I had heard conflicting reports about this traditional race - especially concerning the treatment of the buffalos and their ability to run. The race tract was not very long and after watching a few races I was more concerned about the human runners that had to keep up with the beasts.
It was hot day and after watching some thirty races and meeting the motorbikes we decided to make our way to Mangalore.

Day 2 Part 2- Dharmasthala - Mangalore was a two hour drive. Based on trip advisor and a great expedia deal I had chosen to say at the Taj Gateway hotel. In a way it was nice to get into an air conditioned hotel as it was turning into a hot and humid day. We ate and relaxed before visiting the beach. Camel and horse rides along with jet skiing kept the older kids busy while by little one was content sitting by the edge of the ocean while the waves pushed him around. A short, slightly crowded beach with lots of snack stall could not compete with the beached of Goa we frequent but was still a beach and that always means fun.

Day 3- Mangalore to Bangalore. While the kids wiped out from the beach slept my mom and I made our way to the fish market around the corner. Mangalore is famous for its seafood. While we did not buy any fish we had a great time looking and taking photos. The fisherwomen were very friendly and happy to pose for the photos. The variety of fresh fish was worth seeing.
From Mangalore to Bangalore it was an eight hour drive with a few breaks for food. We left at noon and were home by eight pm. The roads were good and the drive comfortable with some nice scenic views as we traversed the western ghats.

It turned out to be a great use of a three day weekend and had more packed in it that I thought possible. I would recommend Stream of Joy as a great weekend getaway even without the Kambla races and Mangalore. With its serene surroundings and peaceful water activities it is a place that created beautiful memories.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Everyone has a birthday

Everyone has a birthday but not everyone celebrates one. Growing up in India I did not know when my Indian grandmother’s birthday was. I had never heard of any of the household help have or celebrate a birthday. Many of the poorer kids I played with were clueless about this date or celebration concept – it just did not fit into the family budget, it had not for generations and never became the tradition the rest of us are so used to.

Today I was at one of my favorite haunts – the panipuri guy. I was there later than usual – around seven pm. As I walked up a little kid pushed past me and handed his money to the panipuri guy. He had four rupees in what seemed like ten coins. Here a plate of panipuri has six pieces and goes for ten rupees. So, four rupees would buy you around two and a half pieces, three on a generous day. I saw the panipuri guy give him four. The kid was happy and I was surprised – hawkers are not always generous.

Cakebox perched on top of the portable
gas burner.
My turn came and as I stood near him I noticed a group of men around. They seemed impatient. One held a portable stove and another was on the phone arranging for ‘basmati, not any other kind, rice’. There were two peeling potatoes and chopping onions – helping my panipuri guy. My curiosity – which is easy to spike anyways – had peaked. Then I saw the man with a box. It was a cake-box. They were trying to get the panipuri guy to hurry up and close shop so they could go and party. There would be cake and biryani. A group of twenty-something daily wage earners. Far away from their families from a state a thousand miles from here. They had a cake and a friend with a birthday.

I got an extra panipuri too. He did not say why and I did not wish him. But I raised it as a silent toast to him as I ate it. I know there are way more important things in life but having friends and a birthday you celebrate is something worth squeezing in.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stepping through a complete health checkup at Apollo Delhi

Rs 4400 for a complete health checkup – that is the price of an executive package at the Apollo hospital in Delhi. It looked too good to be true for someone like me that had paid $125 (~Rs 6000) just for my grandma to consult with a physician in the US recently. The checkup included an ECG and TMT for the heart, and ultrasound of the abdomen, blood test galore, an x-ray, doctor consultation and wellness counseling. My mother was visiting the hospital for her one year checkup. A brain aneurysm last Feb had put a lot of fears into us and besides the scheduled angiogram we though a full body checkup would be good. So, we signed up for the executive package.
Executive Health Checkup Includes
all this minus echocardiography and SGOT
(a liver function test)
Step 1 – Call up for an appointment.
It was late in the evening, It had been a long day at the hospital I called to make an appointment. The guy on the line was a smartass – to put it politely. I went along with his first few retorts then he asked me for my mom’s patient id. “AF123…” I read out. “What kind of a number is that?” was a super-fast retort. “What do you mean I asked?” “It sounds like an old weird number, what kind of a number is it?” I had had enough. He got an earful about him working for the hospital that hands out such numbers and going and having a talk with his employers about weird old numbers they hand out. A minute later I had an appointment for the next morning.
Step 2 – Show up for the appointment
You pay when you show up. That means – stand in line at the information counter to be told to go to counter 23, to be told to go to counter 21 for billing, return to counter 23 for invoice then go to counter 25 and listen to three people argue and grumble about their bill before paying.
Step 3 – Nurses Evaluation
Smooth and easy, they take your weight and medical history and give you hope for the rest of the process.
Step 4 Realizing you are number 8 and number 18
After the nurse is done with you she write room numbers against each test you are due for and leads you to the first one – blood collection room. Here you find out you are number 8 in line and should sit till you are called. You sit and count seventeen people go into the room before you lose your patience. As you enter the room to ask it is magically your turn. It seems you were number eighteen.
Step 5 Grit and Repeat
At this point you realize a lot of people bought the executive package and the smartass appointment guy told everyone to show up at 10am. Many of the package buyers are foreigners with translator so an extra pinch of chaos is added. Most patients are hungry – empty stomact for some tests – and edgy. You learn to navigate the line and in some case even cut the line. You speak in Hindi in a demanding, assertive yet polite tone.  You do this for six tests before it is 1pm and time for lunch.
Step 6 Why oh Why?
The next test requires that the patient have eaten two hours prior so there is a two hour break after lunch. There are cafeterias and the package includes a ‘breakfast/lunch’ coupon. We kill time over cups and tea and return back to the second floor. At the first look I was scared they were done for the day. It was empty. The crowd from 10am had vanished. The rest of the tests were a breeze. Almost no waiting lines with relaxed unhurried attendants. You wonder why they called you at 10am. I suspect this being India they called people from 8am on and everyone showed up at 10am but after years of this they should know this by now. Why did they call us at 10am? Why oh why?
Step 7 – Appointment for the next day
You are to come back the next day to get your results and consult with a doctor. This time the appointment is done in person. This time you are smarter. You ask the nurses what a good time of the day is. You take a 4pm appointment.
Step 8 – Four pm means five thirty pm
We were fifteen minutes late getting to the appointment. I was hoping we would not get bumped off the list. Well the doctor was an hour and a half late so it all evened out I guess.
On the positive front all the test results were ready and he spent a great deal of time going over the results. On the very positive personal front all tests results were good and that meant my mom was healthy – this also meant not coming back to the hospital.
Step 9 – Wrapping up
Like the initial nurse station experience this was great. All notes were typed up in timely manner and given in a nice carry bag by chirpy assistants. You almost felt like the chaos and waiting never happened.

Long story short-
It is a great package for the price you pay – the tests are great and doctors good. Just be ready for an unready staff and chaos that you have to personally navigate through. Or, be smart and ask for an afternoon appointment or show up a couple of hours late.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Justifying India with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

I met an interesting woman today. We discussed expats that hate India and those that love it here. Then she mentioned that she had a hearing aid on and has volunteered in schools for the hearing impaired. With my limited knowledge of such schools I said it is great she did that and it is great such schools were become accessible in India. She had lots of good things to say but then she mentioned something that is unthinkable for most of us parents – “They keep the hearing aids at school” she said. “The children are not allowed to take them home. “

“But, that means they can’t hear once they go home?”

“Yes” she said. “But what can the schools do? Many parents sell the hearing aids.”

It is hard to believe that you would sell off your childs ability to hear.

It got me thinking about all the other things that I have found hard to believe there. I won’t list them here but they are far worse than selling your child’s hearing aid.

It also got me thinking of all the things I can’t believe people don’t try to change - the trash thrown around, respect for public and other’s property, respect for other humans and animals.

So, I read a bit and thought a bit and they only way I can try to understand it is by looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and expanding the orange part to fill most of the triangle. Most of the country is struggling to ensure they have enough food and a piece of land to call home. Those that rise above it want to leave something better for their immediate family. Respect, landscaping, wanting to do good onto others is something only a few can afford.

Once again I cannot justify selling a child’s hearing aid or sending your eight year old to be a domestic help in someones house but then I have not had to feed, clothe and manage my family for less than $2 a day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Scuba Diving at Murudeshwara - first but not the last time.

New year resolutions still fresh – year of few regrets –I signed Ankit (12yrs) and myself up for a BMC organized scuba diving trip to Murudeshwara.

Summary of events:
  • Went through a trip organized by BMC. There were five of us along with a driver and a co-ordinator.
  • We left Friday night at 9pm and were back Monday morning at 7am.
  • Drive to Murudeshwara took 10 hours each way. It was hard to sleep in the car - little tight on space and there are lots of curves and bends in the road along the away.
  • After a short two hour nap we did a swimming pool lesson Saturday afternoon that last for two hours ( 30 min in the pool)
  • Spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying touristy water sports and visiting the amazingly massive statue and temple there.
  • Took a one hour ride to Netrani Island where we snorkeled while waiting for our turn to dive. There were other groups ( around 10 other people) that had come on other boats. We never docked at the Island but mainly swam, snorkeled and chilled on the boat.
  • Came back, used the swimming pool lockers to bathe and change before having dinner and heading back to Bangalore.

  • Ability to do all this over a weekend ( Thank you BMC)
  • Scuba diving experience ( read first timer learnings here )
  • Snorkeling while waiting for turn to dive.
  • Option to do a second dive ( at Rs 1000/- extra)
  • Seeing the sights of Murudeshwara
  • Very good seafood at Naveen Beach Resort.

Not so great:

  • Long drive back after a tiring day - it ensured we were back in town on Monday morning but if you have an option try to stay there another night.
  • Having a sick driver popping pills and driving 
  • through hilly areas at night - once again ensured we were back by Monday morning.
  • Being in the midst of co-ordination chaos with bad cell phone coverage. We were not always sure where and what was going on. This worked in a five person group but would have driven a bigger group crazy. All worked out in the end but there were frustrating moments.
Will I do this again? Yes !! I loved diving. The BMC trip was a great starter and as soon as Ankit and I get our swimming practice going and can do 200m with ease we will be going for a certification course.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not being the change I want to see.

I have a panipuri guy. Amongst the many panipuri stalls that I pass on a regular basis he has become our favorite. He asks and customizes the spice level for us. He hands Ashvin as many empty panipuris as he can eat. He is our panipuriwala so when I saw a different guy at his spot I was sad. However much to our delight a few days ago we ran into him again.
He had started his own business he said so he had to find a new spot. Happy to find him we took the little bowls made of leaves and enjoyed the spicy water filled delights. When done I smiled/snickered as I noticed that his new spot was right next to a drainage ditch. The ditch had enough rubbish thrown into it that I didn’t give it a second thought and threw my ‘biodegradable’ bowl into it. Nice spot I thought, he has a trash can right behind him. And then I heard him. “ Ma'am here is the dustbin.”  He had a bucket next to him to collect the trash.
When I first came here I would have thought twice before throwing anything anywhere – regardless of the fact that others had done it. I am embarrassed to say a year and half here and I am being reprimanded by a pani-puri guy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First time scuba diving - a few learnings

Sensible Things I learnt from my first scuba lesson-
  • You DO NOT need to be able to swim 200m. You should be comfortable in water. I have a feeling they have taken people that cannot swim much for a discovery dive. You are wearing something equivalent to a life jacket all the time.
  • The first dive is more like a tour. You move your legs and obey the instructor. My second dive taught me a lot more about balancing and control - when my instructor did not hold onto me and control everything.
  • The guided dives are safe - even if the equipment fails you can get to the surface with ease. They key overall is not to panic.
  • It was a comfortable and enjoyable experience for a 12 year old.
  • Calm is the word. Don’t move your arms and stay calm. Breath and soon you’ll forget you are underwater.
  • You swim way faster and go further when swimming underwater.

Fun things I learnt -
  • It is amazing down there. I would compare it to watching the forest scenes from the movie Avatar. A beautiful different world where the sun filters in through the water, hundreds of fish swim at arms length, then dart away and hide behind rocks and stare at you.
  • Swim in the Indian Ocean - where it is warm and you don’t need a wetsuit.
  • Unless a fish is stuck in a rock or something it is hard to touch one. I tired a lot :)
  • If you can then do snorkel above a diver - it is a lot of fun to play with the bubbles.