How many times do you think you can flap to the surface of water when you’re drowning? Multiple times I thought, from what I’ve seen in movies and documentaries. Do you think you can scream for help? I thought you could scream for help. How else do you alert the life guard?
I surfaced 5 times. I didn’t scream.
I was standing uncomfortably waist-deep in dam waters with feet balancing on some slimy rocks.
It was my best friend’s birthday and I was visiting her with her family as a surprise. On reaching there, we decided to go to a nearby Dam as the weather was nice to drive and get into water.
Waist-deep because I didn’t know swimming. I went for classes as a child but never picked it up. Last year, a friend had taught me to float in the Red Sea. I thought that was enough to save myself if I ever had to. I’d even laugh about it carelessly saying if I happen to drown I’ll just bring myself to float. I can say from experience now, that you absolutely cannot do that. At least I couldn’t.
My friend waved out to me to join her in the water a few metres away from me. Since she looked fine with feet on solid ground, I waded through hoping it would be comfortable there. I should have known better. One step at a time, I walked towards her reaching out till I slipped on the last rock and fell into a deeper end where I didn’t feel ground below me anymore.
I went in and surfaced up the first time in panic, reaching for her hand. Stupidly I tugged at her for grip pulling her in with me. I couldn’t see or hear anything clearly anymore. Completely submerged. I moved my legs around trying to find the rocks but couldn’t.
I surfaced again, holding my breath to avoid water from entering me. All I could see was whiteness with water splashing around from my flaps before I sank in again. Why was I not screaming? I should’ve screamed. I don’t think they knew I was drowning. I’ve seen in movies the person drowning screams for help. I just couldn’t say anything.
I surfaced for the third time. This time breaking apart from my best friend I drifted into the deeper end. Still flapping. I tried to put everything I remembered from swimming classes to use and prayed I was moving to the rocks. I struggled to bob up and see myself only drift further away from them before sinking in again. Why was this happening? I was trying so damn hard.
I surface for the fourth time. I could see my friend’s sister now. With a panic-stricken face she was screaming my name out and reaching to me. But she was too far away for me to hold on to. Everything was white in the background. It suddenly struck me that I was still holding my breath. I took in a quick breath before I got pulled in again.
I could only think of the last thing I spoke to my parents. ‘I’m going to Mysore tomorrow’ they weren’t talking to me so they didn’t respond. I didn’t want to die with that being my last conversation. Desperately I flapped and surfaced for the fifth and last time, as high as I could. I realized I had been spotted but I just could not flap anymore. I was tired now. I didn’t want to give up but my hands just dropped. I sank in again, this time longer. Miliseconds felt like hours.
They say your life flashes before you in situations like this. I just saw white. There was nothing else. Eyes closed shut, breath held. I could see white and hear nothing. I know it was only seconds but I remember saying to myself ‘I don’t want to die’ ‘please don’t let me drown’. I heard faint, unclear sounds of my dog and my brother playing in my head. Some other faint familiar voices. None of them made sense but sounded comforting to me as I felt myself sink further.
At that moment I felt a hand pull me up by my arm. I couldn’t see who it was. Finally long enough above water for a deep breath ! I took in as much as my lungs could in one go. Still bobbing around, I was lead to the rocks. I could now see and hear everyone.
‘Did you drink water?’
‘Are you okay?’
‘Can you breathe fine?’
Questions firing at me till I finally reached the edge and walked out of the water. My legs were bruised, I could see myself trembling head to toe.
‘I’m fine’ I said.
Only then did I see that my friend’s dad had dived in and pulled me out. Money-Car remote-Notes-Bills etc all still on.
‘Thank you, Uncle’
I said in immense gratitude as the whiteness faded into color again. And the faint voices disappeared.
Oddly enough, just after this. When everything had settled down and dried up. My brother called me up from Germany.
‘Where are you?’
‘In Mysore’ I said.
‘Oh okay, stay safe, idiot’ he said before hanging up.