I was nine years old or may be ten, when it was pushkaram season of Godavari in the early 90s. My family members decided they should all go take a dip in the river in the holy season near Pochampad, just an hour drive away from home. Of course I was excited. My memories of almost running naked along the same Godavari in Bhadrachalam, and playing in water for hours together were playing heavily on my mind. What I forgot to calculate was that whenever we went to Bhadrachalam previously, it was mid summer, and Godavari was half or may be even quarter to her original size. Infact the flow was so less, that as a kid, I could easily walk from one bank to the other through the river. That also meant that I never learned how to swim, atleast until then. Little did I know that Pochampad was going to be different, very different.
Before this planned tour, going to Pochampad was a kind of ritual for me – either for a school picnic or for a family picnic – the famous Sri Ram Sagar Project is built there. But that day, we went to a different side of the river adding all the more to my excitement. By the team we reached there, I standing in the gap between the handle rod and the front seat of my Dad’s Bajaj scooter, I could see hundreds of people, all sitting on the banks, as the river flowed along with a gush. I wondered why most people where happy sitting on the rocky banks, while only few seemed to be having a real dip. I was quick to undress into my underpants, and even as others were trying to settle down, I put my feet inside the water, on to a visible rock inside the river. Someone should have told me that there is this thing called COLD RUSH – the rush to get down into water. None did. I tried to jump into water, and even before I could, I slipped, and the first thing that struck me was – “where is the earth beneath my feet”.
It was probably then that I took my first dip. The moment I was out, I remember seeing few strange faces looking at me, including my dad’s. And one man’s face just panicking as he held out his hand to me in fear. I was atleast ten feet away from him and then second dip. It was then I noticed that river water isn’t really blue, but rather a murky mix of clay, black and whatever! By the time my head was out of water this time, I saw my dad flung into air, his clothes on, jumping into the water. I dipped again, but this time, my dad and some other gentleman had reached me, my dad trying to hold onto me with my hair. And then he said something that still makes me smile – “why the hell do you have such small hair” – poor chap all his anger and the despair of the moment boiled into one sentence. Anyways – together the other gentleman and my dad helped me to safety. It was then that I realized that my left ankle was bleeding, thanks to a cut as I slipped into the river. Strangely it started to pain few minutes later, and it was probably around this time that someone, my mom or someone else, who told me I was saved from drowning – DROWNING. Really! I still dont want to use such a dramatic word for this experience, because I was hardly afraid then. But the real fear came back years later, even though I had learned swimming after this NOT SO DROWNING experience!
For some reason, beyond my understanding, I never really got myself to like the Krishna river, as much as I like the Godavari. But the last time I went to Srishailam, along with my wife and a group of friends, I had to take the bait, it was water (and I’m a Piscean mind you) – just water, and call it Krishna or whatever I just had to jump. It was early morning, a touch cloudy and humid, and nice weather to take a dive, especially with other three boys around! It was quite a few years that I allowed myself to take a swim, and the moment I touched the water – the COLD RUSH stuck me. Of course I had forgotten all about it! So I jumped, not slipped, into the water. It felt good that I didn’t forget swimming (ah!!!), but I realized that the body takes some time to get used to swimming like it does in a pool! When I finally thought I was a touch under control, I reached a point where water in the river behaves like river, not like in a pool or rather should I say it was at that point Krishna behaves like Krishna! It was not heavy flow of water, but I guess the body was tiring, all because of lack of practice. I tried to swim back, and I just couldn’t. My power was just not enough to keep me on top of water! So what do I do, I take a dip – dip number one. Immediately I got up, looked around and I was fair 10-15 meters away from the banks, even though I remember swimming along it, not away from it! Ah the Cold Rush! For a rank outsider or a thorough swimmer 10-15 meters may seem too less for the drama about to unfold, but I say be a beginner and try swimming in Krishna sometime! The river was sucking me inside! Then came dip number two. This time the panic was gone, but a sense of wonderment and excitement replaced it. I knew that I had to do something – instead of trying to come on top of the water, I decided to hold my breath and swim towards the banks from inside – something I had practiced in the safe zones of swimming pool. It was then this strange familiar color of water caught my attention – a murky mix of clay, black and whatever! So I go up, took a deeper breath, pointed myself to the direction of the river bank, and took another dip. Even as I swam for my dear life, my heart was pounding, not by the lack of oxygen, but with all the excitement. Then, I had hit something with my hands – the steps at the banks. And just as I helped myself to stand, I saw another friend trying to hold onto someone’s leg. Immediately I reached out to him, but he helped himself up, and gave me a glance. It was an instantaneous look of understanding. He too had just saved himself! River Krishna is not for rookies like us to swim!
As we all returned, I remembered how one astrologer predicted that I have ‘Jalagandam’ (meaning the imminent danger of dying in water!) Now whether he was right or not, I think water takes over me, the more the merrier. That should also explain why I spend ages just to take a bath! The two experiences are only few that I mentioned. But, somehow, I have helped myself into wishing that I should die in water, infact in tons of water. No I dont wish it as a pessimistic way of looking at my own life, but somehow this thought/wish gives me a perspective of the imminent end. It tells me to bathe in life, as much as I can, in fact more than I can! That’s why I wish water will help me transform from this life form into whatever thing that happens to us after the so called death! Thats why I wish to die in water – ideally it should be like swimming across the Bay of Bengal, alone in a small boat, in a bid to create a record – sigh sigh – drama drama more drama. These pisceans you know…