Thursday, October 16, 2008

Deep Sea Diving

Well one would normally think of diving in the water, but I would like to share my experiences of my dive, not along the coastline but in a little joint tucked away amongst the green fields of Mapusa.

Now for deep sea dives involving long duration, and ours was for a duration of 3 hours (is that considered long?) decompression schedules and so-called saturation diving systems are used. On some such jobs, divers are kept at dive-depth pressures in surface chambers for up to 60 days, then are delivered to the dive site by means of a diving bell that limits their exposure to the water and provides a measure of comfort during the long descent and ascent.

Now that is what theory states…lets get practical. We were on the look out for a place called Kamalbai’s and as usual instructions to reach the venue differed from communicator to communicator. ‘Oh just go past the police station,’ says one, ‘but don’t take the road to Assagao.’ ‘It’s in the fields,’ quote another, ‘you just can’t miss it, there is nothing else there. But don’t go there on a Thursday.’ Are these instructions? As per the theory, the divers are kept at the dive-pressure in surface chambers….well our vehicle was on the surface, the pressure was slowly building up, and we had been on the look out for a full 30 minutes. But Halleluiah! We were delivered to the dive site ( Kamalabai’s) by the diving bell….in this case it was the car horn of our friends urging us to follow in their wake.

We had arrived, a warm environment with a red glow where we could sit at two levels, cushioned from the other world despite the fact that throngs of devotees were at worship during the Navratri festival. Silence reigned, while all around us fish swam on trays…….pink, brown, red the myriad of colors that gave me an impression that I was diving into some colorful and wondrous world. ‘Sit back and relax,’ Joe whispers in my ear, ‘you are always so hyper, take it all in.’ Now when did this man learn to start whispering back in my ears, I looked at our friends seated with us I could hear them talking silently all through the experience, and I felt I could also understand completely what they were saying, although the voices seemed to originate from some far-away plane of other reality -- like a weak radio transmission coming from outer space. On one side the kingfisher looked ready to dive in for a tasty treat. I was saturated. Where was I?

‘We have prawns, Chonak, Kingfish, squid, Bombay duck,’ the voice was human and he was addressing us. I came back to the present with a start. This was Kamalabai…a small restaurant started by Shyam Sunder Pednekar way back in 1998, and by the look of it, was still popular to the locals. ‘Can I have a look at the menu?’ I ask. I must have reached the de- compression stage…nothing seemed normal. Are we not supposed to be given a menu before we order? My friend Rehana who has been here before nudges me under the table. ‘you get whatever they have purchased this morning,’ she says softly. Now here was another soft spoken person…or maybe Joe’s vibes were being transmitted all around the group. One would normally expect a lot of raucous laughter and bawdy jokes in small places like this; but everyone was intent on one thing only…the food. What had the proprietor managed to procure today.

Once we told him what we wanted, the service was quick…huge king prawns gently coated with rawa enveloping the tangy masala within. Now the word used in ‘gently’. Unlike other places where all you can taste is the fried rawa, here it was barely noticeable. It was the masala and the tender meat. That dish was fresh…it looked as though the kingfisher had swooped it out of the water and deposited it in the kitchen. I must have voiced my thoughts aloud, because Joe gave me a cross look pointing that the kingfisher that I was visualizing was actually an advertisement for the packaged water.

But unlike Joe the others on the table had no qualms about my ramblings. There was the crunch of teeth biting onto the shelled heads (the prawns of course)…’it’s delicious,’ Rehana states ecstatically, ‘I love the juicy texture.’ ‘As long as it is the prawns and not my head,’ her better half growls from the other end of the table. I guess most husbands do have this type of humor. But coming back to the food...platters of heaped fish, grilled chonak and kingfish had materialized with Masala squid and hot buttered Naans.

Did you read that part… ‘provides a measure of comfort during the long descent and ascent.’ As we nibbled into the kingfish…the platter was empty within seconds…all that one could see were heads moving up and down comfortably…..plate to platter and back to plate….the chonak, squid were polished off before you could say ‘Joe Mascarenhas.’

Now why did I think of that? In theory of deep sea diving, the one-atmosphere diving systems enable the diver to ascend directly to the surface without concern about the bends or delays for decompression. The one-atmosphere "JIM" suit is actually named for Jim Jarrett, but the initials very clearly stand for Joe Mascarenhas with a capital “I”. You see he was spouting theories of the merits of those dishes which were now lying empty before us. There was no delay in his de- compression tactics…he had already reached the surface in one go.

Pednekar whose nickname is ‘pakho’ the butterfly flitted to our table. ‘My motto is QQP’ he says. Now that is a new one…unheard of in deep sea diving. We look at him in confusion. ’Quality, Quantity and Price,’ he smiles. Well that sounds true, I thought remembering the huge platters, the delicious taste and the smile on Haroon’s face after paying the bill…even without the right equipment, this deep sea diving will thrill you to bits.

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