I was blissfully shooting underwater; totally unaware that death was fast approaching me …..
The December of last year was unforgettable. I got an assignment for Air Mauritius – I had to do a photo-shoot for their upcoming advertisements. I was thrilled. Then I heard that one session included shooting underwater. I have always had fear of water and am scared even to take a dip in holy rivers during pilgrimages, what to speak of staying underwater for an hour! And regarding my swimming – well, a stone boat would float better!
But work is work and so I decided to go for it.
Gathering all my courage and offering heartfelt prayers to Lord Nrsimhadeva, finally I stepped on the boat. After sailing for half an hour we reached the spot. All around was peaceful, crystal clear water. There was no one in sight except for us. Suddenly, there was a tap on my shoulder. It was the diving instructor. "Put this on your waist," he ordered handing me a 10 kg stone belt. My heart-beat increased. "We will place this glass helmet over your head," he said, "You can breathe through it. If you are comfortable, indicate like this – he formed a circle by joining the index finger and the thumb and extended the other three fingers – and if you are uncomfortable, point upward. There will be ten life-guards during the shooting."
Finally the moment had come. I slipped into the scuba diving outfit and wore my 45 kg helmet. Once inside the water it felt no heavier than my ord inary bike helmet. Gradually we sank 30 feet deep till the sea floor. It was a marvellous sight. Soon the models arrived and I began shooting. I looked at the fish swimming around me and thought – What a progress science has made! Here I am – a human – but enjoying no less than these fish in water. 30 minutes later.
I felt breathless. Let me click a couple of more pictures and then I will go, I said to myself. However, after a few seconds my breathing became more difficult and I felt like I was sinking to the floor. I grabbed my neighbour's hand and pointed upwards. He pulled his hand away and gestured in a way that said, "Don't bother me; let me enjoy." Hey, but you are supposed to save me, aren't you? I thought. I turned around. Everyone was absorbed in the shooting. No one noticed my lifethreatening situation. Somehow my oxygen supply had been cut and now I was minutes away from dying in this water tomb. Oh Krsna! Save me please, You are my only hope.
Suddenly, I spotted the steps of the emergency ladder barely 10 feet away. I dashed towards them. But by now my oxygen starved brain barely had enough reserves to maintain vision; even to initiate muscular movements was too demanding. My limbs buckled and I struggled to remain erect. My eyes bulged out and death seemed just a minute away. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna. I chanted. Krsna Krsna Hare Hare. Please save me Lord. I prayed. Please save me.
A face appeared before my bleary eyes. A life-guard. A moment later I felt myself being lifted and pushed towards the ladder. Aha, I got it. But I had no strength to pull myself up. More pushes and I heaved myself up a few rungs. A shimmer of light shone. Numerous hands appeared from the watery roof and grabbing my suit pulled me out. Someone toppled my helmet and I collapsed.
I woke up an hour later fresh, as if nothing had happened. But a look at the sea and all the images began flooding back in my consciousness. My heart began heaving inside my chest and I sprang back. No more underwaterwell, now no more water! My decision was firm and final.
No one could figure out how my oxygen supply had got cut. I didn't care so long as I was alive. I was glad that at the moment of my impending death I had the good fortune of remembering Lord Krsna. As Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita(8.5) , "One who remembers Me at the time of death surely comes to Me." It was by the mercy of the Lord alone that I had the presence of mind to remember Him at that time. I learnt that I should be more attentive during my regular chanting of Hare Krsna and not to be complacent.
The scriptures describe the material world as a place of suffering where there is danger at every step. I had heard this; now it "as confirmed. Not only do I watch my own step now, but also that of my neighbour. Who knows-he may just step on my oxygen supply line?
Gopinath Carana Dasa, (Satya Gaud) is a professional photographer and shoots for advertisement agencies.