Just five more seconds and he would have been gone. My dad was not the best swimmer I knew, but this had never happened, but this had never happened. Never. Not in the hundreds of times he had gone down into the water. And now I couldn’t believe it. That’s why I just stood there. It was only about a week after my 24-year-old cousin, Adit’s, wedding and the third day of our vacation in Pondicherry, India, in the summer of 2015. Adit, a teasing, yet humorous person, had planned this trip along with my father, Rahul, who always remained excited about nearly everything and took risky steps just to enjoy himself. The vacation they had so generously planned was about to turn into the scariest moment of my dad’s and my life.
It was sweltering hot, just like every other summer day in the southern part of India. The glazing sun ferociously beat down on my cousins, my parents, and me as we made our way to the outdoor restaurant, a part of our beachside resort, for breakfast. We discussed the plan for today, as we devoured fresh fruit salads, juices, and the famous South Indian dish, dosa, and swat buzzing mosquitos away from are mouth-watering food, not wanting insects do destroy it. Listening to the loud, soothing waves of the ocean, an idea popped up in my mind. I suggested, “Why don’t we go to the pool, again?” We had visited the pool the day before and found it amazingly relaxing. With the shallow end of the pool, surrounded by white marble, hanging over the edge of the platform, the pool was surrounded by heart-warming scenery of mountains and the beautiful beach. Humming to the music of the ocean waves, chilling on the shallow end of pool felt as if you were suspended in mid-air.
As everyone has agreed, within half an hour, our group was in our in swimsuits, at the pool and ready to swim! One-by-one, we lowered ourselves in, first by climbing down the steps, holding tightly to the wall, and easing our way to the other side, as it was seven feet deep where we entered. After peacefully resting for a while, we were all energized enough to splash each other. I had a quick race with my cousin, and all of us began some madness. Little did we know how close one of us was going to be to death.
In the midst of the chaos, my dad exclaimed as my mother splashed water at him “Go ahead and practice your diving on the other end!” I accepted his idea, and swam the breaststroke to the other side as everyone turned to watch me. Noticing the curious looks on their faces, I called out, “Don’t worry; I’m not going to run away! I’m just practicing my diving.” They chuckled and nodded, but continued staring at me. “Be careful!” my cousin reminded me. Uncomfortable with all the eyes on me, I took a deep breath, jumped, and Thud! I landed with a belly flop. Before I knew it, I was sinking lower and lower into the deep water, and at last, I rapidly pulled myself up to top, and found myself face-to face with my dad. “Dad! You can’t swim! Go over to the shallow end!” I yelled genuinely concerned, clutching the wall. Surprisingly, my dad just grinned, “It’s alright, I’m just going to stay on the steps.” With a sigh of relief, I pulled myself out of the water, and once again stood on the edge of the platform ready to dive.
Splash! It was a perfect dive, and I would have celebrated if I hadn’t seen what I did. My dad’s feet were kicking ferociously underwater, hanging about twelve inches above the bottom of the pool. I instantly climbed up to the surface, to find my dad bobbing uncontrollably up and down in the water. “Not funny, Dad. Stop it!” I struggled a smile as my dad continued his joke. My dad enjoys pretending to risk his life to scare the daylights out of me, like the time in Utah when he acted as if he was going to fall off the cliff. I instinctively leaped to help him only to find him fooling me. I got teased about it for nearly the whole day. I definitely did not want that to happen again.
I shook off my thoughts and brought myself back to reality. My dad was still having a hard time when I realized this was no practical joke. I clutched my dad’s shoulders and attempted to shove him towards the stairs, but my dad pressed hard against my shoulders, pushing me down into the water. I panicked as I found it impossible to breathe. I furiously kicked myself out of the water and took a deep breath glancing over at my cousins. Adit was speeding towards us and we both slowly pushed him my dad out of the water. My dad sat on the first step, panting with his heart over his lungs. Everybody’s curiosity had gotten them to join the commotion.
“Are you okay?”
“What were you trying to do?” Questions were spat out continuously until my dad put his hand up.
“I’m fine,” my dad answered. “What I’m wondering is what took Saniya so long to save me? I was literally dying in there.”
“Ohhhhh… I see how it is. I save your life and there is absolutely no gratitude, huh?” I whined, with humor in my voice.
“Ahem.” Adit gets our attention. “You saved him? What would have happened if I hadn’t come over?”
“In that case,” my dad said matter-of-factly, “what took you so long to save me?” With that, we all began giggling and a breeze of relief swept over us. However, of course, we decided not to get back in the water as we had had our fill of entertainment today.
Later that day, my father explained how he had slipped off of the steps trying to reach me and how his life flashed before his eyes. But what I find shocking is that he continues to get into the water without hesitation, though I’m sure the experience of nearly drowning planted a seed of fear in his mind. He always faces his fears and I believe this is what keeps him alive and excited about everything. As he has always taught me, “The events in life are just a part of life. It’s a fact and nothing can change it. It’s not something to be ashamed of.”