The day was bright and the water was transparent as thin air. I was on one of the most remote island on planet, Tillangchong Island. I set my dive gear, camera and got ready to glide over colourful coral reefs. The reflecting sun was shining on the water surface. I jumped into the water with a splash. I cleaned my mask and looked down inside the deep blue. The glares of the sun were entering the water. Its light bathed everything underwater– the fish, the ground blanketed with beautiful coral reefs and every small individual living in them, their presence I could feel but not see.
The rays of the sun shone on me through the water, warming my body. The moment I hit the water, I was weightless. Slowly I descended to 6 m equalising at every meter. Suddenly I felt the pressure in my ear causing excruciating pain. I stopped, took a deep breath, ascended a few meters, swallowed my saliva and tried descending again. But the pain continued. “I can’t afford to miss this dive’, I told myself and foolhardily pushed once more. This time I had total concentration and gave my best shot, but there was no change. I signalled my dive buddy, Elrika to continue the dive. In a while Elrika descended with our field assistant Yoayela.
Before I surfaced, I waited for a minute, and observed my surroundings. I saw many shining air bubbles; large bubbles were breaking into smaller bubbles, and then disappearing into the vastness of the blue. On their journey to the surface, they were breaking and the sun seemed to be absorbing them all. Different portraits of silver bubbles were forming on the background of the blue water canvas and the sun appeared to spotlight their beauty.
I touched the soft air bubble with my palm. The touch of the bubbles was tender. My wanting grew and I touched every bubble, small, medium and large, passing by. It appeared as if each passing bubble was carrying different emotions—joy, fear, surprise, disgust, anger, tenderness, all passing by in the form of bubble.
While I was enjoying watching the bubbles, I noticed a glow, some spark—red, blue, green and purple. It had varied shapes and colours. I opened my eyes wide but seen nothing beyond the blue water. I swam for some distance towards the sparkling lights. This time I squinted my eyes towards the illumination and noticed tiny creatures—jellyfish (Ctenophores). I looked around carefully and I could see many such individuals. Some elongated while others oval, and round.
I was so engrossed in observing these minuscule creatures that I did not notice that I was circled by a school of barracudas. The suns reflection on their body was providing them the energy to perform. Their performance had synchrony and rhythm. They had fixed their collective gaze on me. I was consumed by the energy of their performance. I stayed completely still and watched them intently.
The world was quiet without the notion of time and thoughts. The only sound that could be heard was that of the air bubbles released by my breathing. Only when my dive computer beeped, did I realize that I had spent the entire one hour in shallow water and forgotten to surface.
Immediately I surfaced, got on the boat and looked for some sign of Elrika and Yoayela on the surface. Initially, I could see nothing but in a while, I spotted the bursting bubbles on the surface of water. Once again I was watching the bubbles. The only difference was this time I was watching them from the surface.
In a while Elrika and Yoayela surfaced. Once on the boat, she described the underwater life she had seen. I listened to her intently. Then she asked if my ear is okay and what I did after she left for the dive. I looked at her, started to give a nonchalant answer and stopped. Too many things had happened in that one hour. How can one compress an infinite moment of profound awareness into a nutshell? I did not know. All I knew was that I had lived that moment just watching a passing bubble.