Friendly skies

It does not matter how many times you are up there or how experienced you are at these things. Holding the overhead horizontal bar across the door that has just been opened and leering into 13,000 feet of deep abyss is just as unnerving as the 100th as it is the first time. It is just like the experience on a brand new roller-coaster. Even for the coaster enthusiasts (or coaster nuts, for some) the moment, when the coaster makes all the way on the lugging rail to its highest point and perches there for a second, before it screams into a dizzying fall at rushing speeds, is something that is always fresh, new and exciting. If you really want to up the ante, if the few hundreds of feet that even the tallest coaster in the world dashes to the ground from doesn't satiate your sense and appetite for extreme entertainment and intense rush, then the moment described above is just the right prescription. Hold the bar as tightly as you could, allow yourself to be rocked back and forth a couple of times by the tandem master strapped to your back, bring on the goggles attached to your head cap to cover your eyes, feel the force of the gushing wind intimidate you to the maximum, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to be pushed into tizzy spin of free fall. It doesn't get any better (or any worse) than that!

The actual act of jumping out of the single propeller airplane accounts for less than half the fun. The events and the moments that build up to the act make up for the most of it. First, the paperwork. You would be pretty certain, looking at the thicket of legalese that has been handed down to you in a clipboard, that you are indeed waiving all your rights and willfully cooperating in the study of "Euthanasia - its impact on the Medulla Oblangata" and not just waiving your right to put the para-jumping company out of business. It is quite understandable when the guys who want to take you up in the skies, drop you down from there, with the aid of a parachute that has been packed, prepared and sealed by them, do not want any part of the lawsuit that your kith and kin might be interested in, courtesy the pro-bono attorneys who just salivate at cases as these, if things do not turn up the way they were intended to, and you turn up on a ground as a ragged bag of bones. So you practically sign everything, but your living will, acknowledging that you are indeed amazingly out of your mind, incredibly idiotic, astonishingly asinine, that it is (and it is yours alone) waking conscious choice of jumping out a good airplane, and that the people, who help you in making come true this nightmare of a dream, would not, in any remote possible way, be held responsible for any malfunction of any moving working part of the paraphernalia involved in the entire operation from the airplane to the parachute. (The legalese is so complex and wordy that it would serve as a perfect setup for a Grisham thriller, a Hitchcock mystery, when the tandem master executes the perfect murder by asphyxiating you with tethers of the parachute, blames it on the equipment malfunction, waves the clipboard in front of the eager attorneys, gets away with it, and recedes into the sun-baked beaches of Cayman islands. There is a Hollywood movie begging to be made there!)

After the much needed "don't blame me for your stupidity" charade is done away with, you are treated to the first serious fare of "training". Hollywood movies play the spoil sports in most of these "training" situations. At the mere mention of training, the mind conjures up the following images, from all the various recent Hollywood movies you have seen of late, in random order - you would be crawling through the trenches with grease paint photogenically applied over your face, run up to a 10 foot wall, make a one jump extension to the top of it and climb down the other side of it, swing by a rope over murky puddle of water, run downhill quite quickly on a very inclined slope, before you come crashing down, gasping for air, while the Drill Sargent looks at you in a sense of general approval - all this while the background music is blaring through the Dolby Digital DTS speakers. The actual training was nothing like that. The tandem master just shows you how to stretch your limbs while you are falling, and how you should NEVER EVER kick him in the groin, while flailing your limbs wildly in excitement, once you are in a free fall. That was it. Just a literal one minute instructions run down - no trenches, no walls, no puddles, no Sargent, no music. That would be the first time you are really going to dread for your life, only because, it feels that the tandem master (instructor) left out lot more life-saving instructions out of lethargy. And moreover there would no question-answer session after the instruction dispensing. Now how is one to know how to pull the chord of the parachute, if the tandem master is dead, succumbing to a heart stroke, midway through the fall? Lucky, for us Hindus, that we believe in something called destiny and fate!

Soon after the one minute instruction recap, you find yourself in the bowels of the twin engine airplane, sitting next to few more eager jumpers, looking equally worried. You try to recollect what the instructor rambled on non-stop in a rapid fire fashion just a while ago. Was it fetal position that you have to get to immediately after jumping, or was it spread eagle position that you have to be in, and what was it that should never ever be done in any situation no matter what, was it kicking wildly or holding your breath? The questions attack the cerebrum from all the corners of the cortex at the same time and you try to ward them splicing your time and fighting each of them valiantly. In all the excitement, in all the worry, you forget all that "do"s and the "don't"s of it. And there isn't time to get back on the ground and go through the steps all over again. These tandem masters are cruel and sadistic that way. They read your face and know exactly what is going through your mind. When you look at them worried, they flash a sadistic smile, as though saying 'wait until we get to the door and you hold on to the horizontal bar overhead'. A few minutes later appears the moment of truth dancing in front of your eyes. You slowly get up and get to the door, one look down below, and all that has been masquerading/disguising as bravery till then slowly transforms into pure horror. Before you let out a last moment franatic "wait", the tandem master flashes his familiar sadistic smile once again, and a few moments later you are tumbling down in a free fall, yelling at the top of your lungs at the female form, waiting next in the line, to back off from all this!

A T-shirt back at the operation hut read - "Why jump out of a good functioning airplane?". And the answer was just as zen - "Because the door was open"


Anonymous said...


surya said...

I have a lot of respect for your writing abilities. Your writings are mixed with great philosophical thoughts and amazing analysis. I really enjoy reading your ramblings on latest movies.I haven't read your articles on velugu needalu except for the one on ilayaraja.I was amazed by the depth of the writing. Even though i don't think movies deserve too much of anyone's valuable time, i still enjoy reading your opinions on movies. I wish i had the anaylitical skills that you have. Keep up the good work sir.