This is the most honest account I've ever written. I am not ashamed of it. I am not proud of it. It just is. Honest. (for pictures click here)
Your mind is blank. Your senses, numb. Your heart , steady. You'd just witnessed what you remember as your raft tilted sideways on to its right side, and flip over in the middle of a 3.8 grade rapid. It looked as if everything was in control.
There is silence. 5 seconds pass by.
Before anything else, fear strikes you. The fear that something's just gone terribly wrong. That that looked like it was under control, suddenly feels horribly wrong. You know it, but you can't exactly point a finger at it. Your mind is racing because of this intuition , but not in the correct direction. The realization of that fear alerts your other senses to break away from the numbness.
The first thing that hits you is the cold. Absolute, piercing cold. You are in river Ganga.
But that feeling is just fleeting because your senses and horror is multiplied by what you see. Everything is a greenish-bluish-grey. You don't see much around you. Just that colour with light which seems to be flowing and floating.
You realize you are under water.
You open your mouth to scream, but cold water flows in, choking you.
2 seconds have passed by.
You struggle. Wave and beat your hands and your legs in all directions. Nothing happens. You are suspended in water, the only thing you can touch is water which seems to pass from under your hands as you touch it.
You shake your head frantically. Look in all directions. All you see is the ominous colour.
In panic, you try to breathe again through your nose only to be reaffirmed with the water breaking and entering your lungs.You can feel the cold water in your lungs. You can feel it filling you up.
You close your eyes. Maybe it's just a nightmare. This can't be happening to me. I don't know how to swim. I can't be here. This can't be happening to me. You try to wish it away.
10 seconds pass by.
Your lungs start aching. It feels like your chest is going to burst because the air in it wants to come out so bad. But you don't want to let it go. That's the only air you have left.
You open your eyes again. You are looking up now. You see something, can't exactly make out what it is. Then you see some light on its edge. You touch it. Rather it touches you. You realize it’s the raft and you are trapped under it.
Your mind is racing. Why is this happening to me you think. How did I get myself in this position. Why did I sign my own death warrant while signing on that liability waiver form.
You think about your parents. Your parents.
You see their faces. They're smiling. You remember they'd never approved of this in the first place. You remember how much they love you. You see their faces again. They're sad. They're crying.
You realize, not think, not figure, not understand, not calculate. You realize ... that you are going to die.
You calm down a little bit. Maybe it's giving up to the realization. Maybe it's the body tiring with lack of air. Maybe it's the cold water numbing you. Your heart and actions seem to be calming a bit. But your mind is still racing. You feel sad for the loss of your parents.
You try to breathe again. Only to be rudely reminded with more water flowing in. This time you know you took the little more than you could take.
another 10 seconds pass by. Feels like a decade ambled by.
The water in your stomach rushes out. You puke in the water. You taste the puke as it comes out. You feel it mix with the water around you. You feel disgusted, but only for a millisecond. You close your eyes and shake your head to shake off the puke around you.
Then it strikes you, the rope running all around the raft. It's like a breath of air. They said you should hold on to the rope. They said no one really dies in rafting. They never discussed much about what you should do when you are trapped under the raft. They never talked about choking in your own puke.
You start feeling the raft. You match the contours you feel and can see with the mental diagram of the raft. The blank spaces. The curves. The edge. The rope.
And maybe as the last attempt of a dying man, you grab the rope and pull yourself from under the raft.
10 seconds pass. No air in your lungs.
While you drag yourself up, you realize there'll be air waiting outside. Waiting to welcome you. Sudden euphoria strikes.
You see light. All that light. Normal daylight. You almost reach above. But.
But there's no air. What you were told later was that we'd just entered the third rapid (in a series of three - Three Blind Mice as the rapid's called).
Then suddenly there's air. But only for a brief second. Just as you'd opened your mouth to satiate yourself with air, more water had come down. You got a little bit of air, but not enough. More water in your lungs.
What the fuck you think, why isn't there any air. There's supposed to be air up here. There's supposed to be !
Now it's more violent than when you were under the raft. Being in the third rapid, the overturned raft is bouncing around like a pin ball. 7-8 feet of waves in the rapid are coming crashing down upon you. Trying to pull you away from the raft.
You grasp whiffs of air in the middle of all the water, but never enough. It's always more water than air in every gasp.
You get frustrated. Angry. Where's the bloody air. Why's there so much water around me.
You get scared. The struggle now, in addition to breathing, is to hold on the raft as the turbulent water wants to take you in another direction from the lighter, floating raft.
You notice the guy sitting on your right on the raft. He's hanging by your side. He doesn't know how to swim. You had bloodshot eyes he tells you later on. You looked like you'd seen a ghost he tells you. You say you had. Not a ghost, but death itself. But at that moment, he looks as scared as you did.
The only thing you can see is the raft in front of your face. And water everywhere. Above you. Below you. Around you. In your eyes. In your mouth. In your nose. It's salty.
You realize, again not think, realize, that maybe this was just false hope. A decoy. You're still going to die. It's been a while since you breathed. Your smoked out lungs are anywayz over with even the reserve. You need a whole tank of air. All you get is more water than air. It's not helping.
You've done everything. There's nothing possibly you can do more. Why the fuck is there still so much water. When is it going to end ? Will it ever end ?
That's when you feel truly helpless. More than you did the minute before. You've done everything in your power.
You close your eyes. You think of your parents. They're in front of you. Expressionless. You tell them you love them. They love you too, you idiot. They're happy. You tell them you're sorry. They become sad. You can't see them sad.
You clench your eyelids further. And you pray. You pray to God.
You used to say that you didn't believe in him. You're a man of science. A man of your own destiny. You'd never believe in God. You'd said. Now you pray. You close your eyes. Hold on to the rope as tightly as possible. And Pray. You accept your mistake of having had no belief. For having said those blasphemous things. You say you're sorry. You promise to have faith from now. You beg for God to save you just this once. You'll never get into trouble again, but just this one time you ask him to cover your ass. You pray to God for your parents to not experience the pain of your death. You pray. You feel weak. Things seem a little slow.
And soon the water subsides. There's no more water crashing down upon you. You're out of the rapid. You can finally keep your head out of water.
Air. At last.
The first thing you do is you thank god. You thank your parents.
You feel happy. You smile. You have that glazed smile. The kind when you'd have in heavy turbulence if you were secretly enjoying it while everyone around you let out worried whimpers.
You know you'd almost died. You know it was one and a half foot in the grave before you came out. You realize that was just an awesome experience. It was crazy. But awesome. Liberating. You might just wanna do it again.
Finally the guide comes and drags you up and takes you ashore.
You finish the rest of the course paddling fiercely and screaming at the river. Liberated. Thrilled. Thankful.