We were certified as have done an “act of indubitable courage as well as extraordinary incomparable foolishness” and that we had “temporary loss of common sense…….”. This was when my wife, Pushpa and me tried to exhibit a brave act.
Our expedition cruise, “50 years of Victory” was anchored at The North Pole. Yes, at 90 degrees North. The guests were given a crazy offer. They could take a “Polar Plunge”. The organisers cleared an area of about 15 feet by 15 feet on the icy surface of the ocean. The melted ice formed a pool of polar ice water. The water was surrounded by thick wall of ice all around. The temperature was about minus 20-25 degrees centigrade at surface. One could see the water as it was freezing. Even so, the passengers came out of their cabins to take a plunge. A different type of adventure.
We were told it could be fatal to be in that water for more than one and half minutes. To ensure the survival of the people who take the dip, they were tied to a rope before the dive. The rope would be used to pull a person out, in case they fainted or wasn’t able to come out at the stroke of 90 seconds. Once the swimmer was out, he was immediately made warm by towels and rum if one desired. Then you could go to your cabin and have a hot shower and relax for a while, till the blood pressure got back to normal.
I was not confident of taking the plunge. Not too many from our crew dared had opted for it – only about 10%. I gave an excuse to myself, “I am from a warm place like Mumbai. We were not exposed to extreme cold. No… no… no… not safe.” I told Pushpa too. But she had different ideas.
l was still considering the matter when Pushpa threw a surprise at me. She said she wanted to go for the plunge. I thought she was joking. Nope, she wasn’t. For such crazy activities, usually I persuade her to join me. This time she beat me.
It so turns out that before we left for the trip, Pushpa in a casual conversation had mentioned the Polar plunge to our daughter, Meeta. Meeta suggested, “If you get a chance, do it! Why do you want to miss it? Unlikely that you will be going there again.” I wasn’t aware of this conversation.
Pushpa was determined. And she did it too – without any fuss! To survive she had to return within one and a half minutes. She was pulled back after a minute or so. They offered her vodka to keep her warm after the plunge. But being a teetotaler, she refused to take the drink and survived comfortably.
Pushpa’s plunge inspired me. After watching her doing the feat so comfortably, I had to do it too! I went to the cabin, changed into swimwear and took the plunge. I’m not sure I’d have taken the plunge if it weren’t for Pushpa.
After the plunge I realised it was one of the most exciting, adventurous and crazy events of my life.
We were given certificates from the organisers for the brave act. The certificate also stated that we “did an act of indubitable courage, as well as extraordinary, incomparable foolishness… “ It further said that Ship’s Doctor had confirmed that it was an act of absurd heroism and we had “temporary loss of common sense”!
Having the plunge at 90 degrees North was a life time opportunity and achievement. Having done something that not many would do and being the first Indians to do that, we were extremely happy to have accomplished the feat and fully satisfied with our efforts to go on this expedition.
This incident further confirmed my belief that if in doubt, ask yourself, “If others can do it, why can’t I?”