Friday, July 21, 2006

Whiffs of Freedom

Freedom is a strange thing.

On paper, it means the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. So what about the internal restraints that we impose on ourselves? Can we call ourselves free if we are bound by shackles of those restraints that are affected by tradition, culture, habit, pride or just hesitation without even a proper justification? There can be a thousand odd reasons for why we chose to do or not do a thing, but that’s not the issue. The question is do you really feel free? Do you feel like you want to do something (of course not at the cost of hurting someone or breaking the law) and can’t do it for the fear of discomfort, mockery or just plain fear? And do you regret it later and wish you would have done it for it would have made you happy? Because if you do, then you really need to set yourself free.

I will tell you what made me feel free. Free as a bird, the kind of freedom that you want to have but hesitate to reach out to. I know the kind of things that I felt like doing just for the heck of it. So I just went ahead and did it. Made me feel free. Really free.

In no particular chronological order (the other instances to follow later).

There was this time that my friend told me that a bungee-jumping camp had come to town. Sure enough I got all excited about it. I had seen it on TV so many times, seemed like fun. But then I had also seen how many of those stunts had gone seriously wrong and people left immobilized for life. The perverseness of my brain forced me to concentrate on the ‘gone bad’ side and my initial enthusiasm began to be replaced by fear and almost an eerie vision of the rope snapping viciously dropping me thousands of feet through air, my hands wildly reaching out, head splitting with sound of my screams, my frame dashing towards the ground headlong first. And then a dull thud, meekly supported by the sound of breaking vertebrae. It became so real that I began to hear the dull thud in my hyperactive imagination. Anyways I managed to put up a smiling, relaxed demeanor in front of my friend who tried discouraging me further by giving his own inputs about the possible ways I could have a bungee diving accident (as if I hadn’t contemplated those already).

But I stayed put. Uneasy in my mind, but fixated on my dare. Finally we reached the venue and went ahead to buy the tickets. There were quite a few before me. So I had an about an hour to prepare myself mentally for the jump. I didn’t need it because it merely compounded my fears through a complete audio-visual experience of what others went through. Then my friend, in his quest of being impeccably informative, told me how one lady had injured her head seriously in another form of bungee-jumping two days ago, as a result of which the use of the machine in the adjoining camp area had been abandoned. I merely smiled at him. With friends like him, one hardly needs enemies. I was still intent to go ahead with it. Finally it was my turn. I stepped forward. My friend resignedly gave me a thumbs-up, with an expression that screamt 'Don't tell me later I didn't tell you so".After the regular rope fastening procedures, I was taken up in a lift mechanism to reach the place from where I was supposed to dive. I was beginning to hope that the ride doesn’t end. But it did. Then the instructor began shooting instructions. Dive. Don’t jump. Your backbone might snap. Don’t jump. I wish he wouldn’t stop. But he did. Then it was just me and the Universe. Did I tell you how spectacular the view was? I guess I didn’t. Well it was. Like it would be from a 15-storey building without any railings to hold onto. Great but scary. The crowds standing below seemed miniscule like a group of colorful ants moving about. Just a split second look, a deep breath and then I jumped.

Crashing through at roughly million miles an hour, I saw the ground rushing to meet me. The air was brushing thickly against my ears, but I could hardly breathe. My hands were outstretched in front of me and my vocal cords reverberating wildly without permission. I was screaming but purely out of the thrill of it, no fear at all. Then when I thought that I would hit ground in another 2 seconds, the rope snapped me up. A new reality dawned on me. The whole suspended-in-third-dimension thing, out-of-body experience. It was liberating. For the first time in my life, my body movements were completely out of my control. Felt like I was at the mercy of a superior being. But still it was not about been enslaved. It was about letting go of yourself, placing your destiny in the hands of the unknown and knowing that he would make it all ok. It was such a spiritual experience that it overwhelmed me. The screams however didn’t stop.

Then, of course, I learnt in mid-air that the first dive is not ‘it’. It is not over till the rope stops pulling you back. And what a pull it was!! I almost went back 60% of my fall and down to ground zero again. The same rush, except that now it was not new. Then once again the rope pulled back. Finally after a while it stopped and I was carefully untied and taken down. I couldn’t breathe for some time and I was sure that my face must have looked like it was hit by a crimson tide. My friend came towards me, grinning. I had done it. Yayeee!! The first thing I said to him was “Let’s do it again!!”

But we didn’t. It was way too expensive (Rs.600/- per dive) and way too much thrill to handle in a day. Especially for a person whose adventure spirit had been closeted all her life, out of her own stubborn ambition to not be herself and be bound by what the family thinks is appropriate for girls to do. But that day, I had chosen to break free. I was scared but I let myself be seduced by the charm of adventure. I realized that I had always been in love with dare-devilry but had lacked the courage to flaunt it, to do something about it.

That day I set my love free.

P.S. I still don’t understand why it is called bungee-jumping when you are actually supposed to ‘dive’.


Joshua Victor said...

This post makes me think about one thing deeply: why didn't the rope snap ? Whey did you survive this experience to talk( sorry write )about it ?

If only the rope had snapped we wouldn't have gone through reading this whole "what freedom means" essay.

Well, in the end you've asked an apt question. But, I ask: what does 'bungee' mean in the first place ?

Anonymous said...

The moment to moment description makes it so lively (with your writing skills) that I feel I am seeing this happening, and I wish I can do it now... I am thrilled, determined to experience this once.