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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Idiot's Guide to Diving in Puducherry aka Pondicherry

The Terrific Trio
Left to Right: Mellowdrama, Damsel in Distress aka Sulbha, Bollywood Star aka Ashwini
Do you sip your margarita with a straw? Or do you glug it down?
Yep, gluttony makes all the difference between a good dive and a great dive. 
The diver’s mark of honour is to come back with a fairly full tank and certainly not to hit 70 PSI or below. I unfortunately tanked my tank of air faster than my buddies. No points for guessing how I down my margarita. Ah well que sara sara, there's always a next time to kick butt!

BWRAF Pre-Dive Check
Pre-Dive Check: Bengali Women Really Are Fabulous
Anyway, after guzzling air, flapping around in what I hoped was my graceful mermaid best, dodging other equally clunky divers, and generally behaving like Colonel Haathi’s brigade (Jungle Book reference for topicality and what our instructor Kush wittily labels all Open Water folk) I sulked around hiding my pressure gauge.

Of course my fantafabulous instructors at Temple Adventures knew, and sportingly shared their stories of their first dives and returning with near empty tanks in no time. I am dead sure they made it up and for all I know they have gills under their ears. The folk at Temple charge a bit extra for PADI OPEN WATER certification and that extra +3K probably covers charm. Those guys are positively disarming!

It took me four dives ranging from 12 metres to 18 meters and a bumpy ST bus back to Chennai (from Pondicherry) with two vexing lecherous sorts on the adjacent seat for the straw revelation to hit me.  So here I was sleeping after telling off aforesaid randy sort, when I received a rather inopportune crack on the head – the thought struck me with all the force of a ST bus abruptly braking at a 100+ kms/hr. It felt like I had discovered the holy grail! To give Sid our instructor his due he did suggest straw breathing in passing but clearly I was carrying my stringent convent school childhood training of staring attentively whilst zoning out. So the significance of that statement drifted past me like a lazy Manta Ray.

I spent the rest of the bus ride to Chennai practicing my straw breathing and it worked, I was never out of breath or exhausted. And I was no longer gulping for air. Maybe I can apply it to running?! Meditation? Hmm…possibilities, possibilities.

Bags (Kits) are Packed
Bags (Kits) are packed, ready to go, standing outside Temple's door

So in a nutshell what constitutes a PADI OPEN WATER COURSE at Temple Adventures.

·     Where: Temple Adventures, Pondicherry aka Puducherry (3 hrs from Chennai, India)
·     How many of us: Three – Me (Mellowdrama), Ash (Bollywood Star) and Sulbha (The Damsel in Distress). 
·     When: 23rd March to 26th March 2016 (4 day course squashed into 3)
Contact: or

·    Basic Qualification: Ability to swim 200 metres non-stop at your own pace. Crappy swimmers pls note: doggy paddle allowed. Non-swimmers can do Discover Scuba.
·    Getting there: Flew from Mumbai to Chennai (Indigo roundtrip) on an awesome deal, Cost: 4K roundtrip (ahem defence discount).  And then cabbed it down one way (Cost: Rs 2500/- for all three - guest house Le Cyng's Bala organized it). Return ST Non-AC (Do not ask but cooler than the cab) cost us barely Rs 300/- each.
·     Diving Spots: 12 metres at Tex Mex and 18 metres at gorgeous Temple Reef
·     Best Season: Apparently this was the best season according to the famous Aravind (partner and soul of Temple Adventure and after whom Aravind’s Wall is named). We did not quite luck out and visibility remained stubbornly at 5-8 meters however we had better visibility on Day 3 at Temple Reef.
·     How much: Cost approx Rs 24,500 for 18 metres (60 feet) PADI Open Water certification. This includes confined pool and sea training, drills, class room sessions, videos, review tests and an exam.

Sea you around
The waters beckon - it's (deceptively) calm
·     Schedule: Get there at 6:30AM if you want breakfast.  For more detailed day-to-day ramblings + the travails and travels of the terrific trio, click here (COMING SOON)
·     What do I get at the end of the course: The PADI Open Water Certification that enables you to dive up to 18 metres (abt 60 feet) anywhere in the world with a buddy of course – duh! Regular fun dives for non-qualified folk and non-swimmers is btw 8 metres to 12 metres max. As a certified diver you also get access to material uploaded on the Scuba PADI community and can check out e-manuals and e-books. Essentially you get a log in for life, a temp certificate via email and the final card in a month (hopefully).
·     Instructors: Rockstar Sid for being our calm, chilled-out and completely hands-on instructor (literally, he had to keep a firm grip on us drifting divers desperately aiming for zero buoyancy) and inspirational Kush who had the patience of a Buddha – he was unbelievable, I sure would not have had 1/10th the patience with me. A special shout out to Das for patiently replying to all my gazillion mails and to Xavier for being funny! Sid wishing you oodles of luck in all that you do, Kush keep finding gorgeous spots and a big hi to the fantastic, fabulous ‘Bengali woman’ and Xav get a notebook dude + Roopmati says hi. Aravind hope to see you and your lovely family in Mumbai when you zip off to Kamshet -the baby sitting offer holds!
·      What did we see:
o   At 12 metres fish and live coral such as fan coral and whip coral but visibility was pretty bad on day 1 so that was a bit of a bummer. But the drills and exercises underwater anyway kept us busy. My pet nemesis of clearing the mask (I had lost a lens in Lakshdaweep eons ago on a discover scuba dive) was overcome. But that did not stop me from losing a rubber band in every single dive. If you spot a black band when you dive in the Bay, that would be mine. 
o   At 18 metres the dive was at the incredible TEMPLE REEF and it was absolutely worth every penny we spent. Not much coral but the sightings were beyond belief, nothing had prepared me for the scope of the entire project. Hats off to Aravind and team for constructing this – complete and utter respect! As for the fish life – let’s just say you can spot 100+ varieties and me being no fish expert I pored through the guides later and figured I saw shoals and shoals of Giant Trevally, Groupers, Humbug Damsels, Longfish Bannerfish, Angelfish, Powderblue Surgeonfish, Bluestreak Cleaner Wrass, Snappers and heaps more. Sid also got us to hold this adorable Coral Branded Cleaner Shrimp but that was the time I was hitting the red zone so I was looking more at my pressure gauge than the cute critter.

Banksy?! Please tell me that's Banksy!
Fell head over heels with this one high up on a dilapidated building
o   What we did not see: Most of Pondicherry since we were busy in sessions from 6AM  to 9PM. Spare an extra day for Auroville and other sights that you can actually enter  vis-à-vis jogging past ‘em as we did. We saw the churches and temples and Ashram all on our run early in the morning but we did manage to explore the complete French sector and went Banksy art spotting until I spotted one  signed Tona...damn.

o   About Temple Reef: It is this incredible artificial reef created using materials such as rocks, palm fronts, iron bar cages, Aarvind’s dad’s old car chassis and a scooter. I believe there were a few cycles around as well but I am not too sure if I spotted that or the scooter. We saw the cage, the ill-fated bottle garden (did not quite work out the way they wanted it to) and the car. Anyway the idea is for fish to congregate and congregate they did with a vengeance!!! I felt a bit like a villager visiting the big city for the first time, I didn’t know which way to look!
#NotBanksy bloody Banksy fan
Is it #Banksy. Is it #NotBanksy? No it's #BanksyFan 
·     Stay: As I said the folk at Temple Adventure are really helpful and hooked me up with some addresses ranging from super reasonable to super splashy boutique heritage hotels. We being the chindi sort, opted for the most reasonable at Le Cyng Blanc (Bookings +91 9944204935, +91 9944060735). Being a French ignoramus, I never dared to pronounce the name of the establishment but Bala’s guest house got me by nicely. Owner Bala is an absolute gem. Highly recommended. He was really helpful and the best part –the guest house is barely half a minute away from Temple Adventure which is great when you have to get to the dive centre at 630am. Psst Bala lots of luck with the Kerala venture!!! I will definitely trot by again, had a wonderful stay, thanks a bunch for everything from hospital recommendations to restaurant references. Cost: For the three of us in one spacious room with three beds we shelled out just Rs 1500 (with AC and 24X&7 access to a well equipped kitchen + free WI-FI). 
Could this be it?
·     Food: If I got Rs 100 for every restaurant we chose to eat at I would be pretty darned rich. We eventually ended up eating at just three because Ash decided to fall scarily sick, we barely slept and we ended up cooking most meals at the guest house because we were too tired to head out -
o   Baker Street Absolutely delicious and great French breads and salads. A study in contradictions, the name is Queen’s English (Sherlock Holmes anyone), the music was Indian classic, the walls had Geisha styled art and the staff spoke French. But the food was worth it!  Five stars! Cost: Approx Rs 300/- basis your appetite. But definitely not more than Rs 500/-
     Umami’s KitchenThe only reason we went there was because it was ladies night free drinks. Since I quit alcohol, I asked them for the same thing minus the booze and they said it would be chargeable! Patiently explained how no alcohol makes it a cheaper option. They eventually got it. Slightly pricey but absolutely divine prawns in coconut batter and fish filet with a teeny tiny portion of salad that might have looked appetizing under a microscope. Cost: The girls got free booze but still worked out to about Rs 300 per person and we just had starters.
Jungle Code - Not Banksyesque but nice!
o   Satsanga Overrated and frightful service. Food so-so. Real bummer because this was to be our ‘We are certified so let’s dress up and eat out’ night on the town. Worse, no one saw us all dressed up either. Cost: Approx Rs 500/- basis your appetite. Real downer, so not worth it but the ambiance was nice if you ignored the blood leaching mosquitoes.

o   Thela walla amma across the drain that is rather imaginatively called a canal – Friendly, interesting wall art that made for a great photo opportunity, cute scamps who became my friends, an accommodating garbage dump for additional flavour and divine biryani which was apparently overpriced according to Nischal (Potential dive master and soon to be marine archaeologist) who says one ought not to pay more than Rs 60 per plate. Cost: We paid Rs 90 and this despite me knowing Tamil and Ash knowing French. Man, we are suckers for cute men.

Great company with biryani
Mellowdrama always attracts the right sort of men @Amma's Thela across the drain picturesquely called canal
o   Rest of the time – At home courtesy Sulbha’s ready mix upma and amazing Dalia ready mix creations + Maggie + bread and fab cheese + my inspired mushroom cheese creation. Not to mention mooching off Bala’s guest Deepesh who was a mean cook and an impromptu party that saw the biryani, paneer, beer and kababs flowing. Cost: Sulbha bata do, but the day I did grocery shopping, it barely cost us Rs 300 (Panner, Corn, Mushrooms, Veggies)

o    Medical Care: Yeah we experienced that too as Ash got frightfully sick. We believe she might have sampled the turbid, swamp water swimming pool as a hors d'oeuvre. We had to rush her to the hospital at 1 AM (Special shout out to Vineet, Bala and Aravind for helping us out). New Medical Centre near Temple Dives was not exactly anything to write home about. When we reached there, they were facing a water crisis of their own and we had to wade through a few inches to get to the reception. It was a bit unnerving to be treated by someone practically half our age at 1AM at night but she was great. She injected Ash, gave her meds and packed her home. Next day our girl was fresh as a daisy! Cost: Just Rs 150 for a consultation, I thought it was a printing error. Meds and stuff extra.

SOME PICS FROM TEMPLE REEF: Totally depends on visibility: Pics (C) Xavier Panangadon 

FOOTNOTE - Abusing underwater and diver camaraderie
Now that will get a special mention in my follow up day to day diaries with sketches. Divers are just so chilled out! Everyone is a buddy and everyone hangs out. Oh and yes you CAN say ***head and WTF along with more critical "out of breath", "what's your gauge reading" signals. Plus fish have their own signals e.g. Grouper is groper and well others not really meant for public consumption. Stay posted for a follow-up with a blow-by-blow (pun unintended) description of what really goes into a scuba diving trip@Pondi.


Khush said...

:) enjoyed reading this Rama.. thanks :)

scott McRobie said...

Scott McRobie
Scott Alan McRobie

Scott McRobie
Scott Alan McRobie

Scott McRobie
Scott Alan McRobie

Scott McRobie
Scott Alan McRobie

Scott McRobie
Scott Alan McRobie

Rồng Xương said...

những vết mảng tối màu trên mặt có lớn vai trò là vì sạm da. đốm nâu cũng là sự đổi thay màu da thông thường, có màu nâu, đen cũng có thể xám xanh xám bởi sự sản xuất quá phổ biến sắc tố trên da.

tăng sắc tố thường là kết quả của nội dụng phơi nắng và những thay đổi hormone ở phái đẹp vì progesterone và estrogen.

hắc sắc tố thường được gọi là "Hỗn hợp đắp mặt thai nghén" vì vì những mảng tối của nó - thường xuất hiện trên mũi, xương gò má và hàm - thậm chí còn phát triển hơn trong khi phái yếu mong đợi. tuy nhiên điều đó không có nghĩa là phái đẹp chào đón sự gia tăng của những điểm xấu hổ với cùng một loại vui vẻ khi họ làm con mình.

dự phòng tăng sắc tố là chiến lược hiệu quả nhất

phòng tránh đốm nâu là Cách trị nám hiệu quả nhất? vì không có công nghệ loại trừ melasma mang lại kết quả lâu dài, do vậy những chuyên gia khuyên nhủ nên duy trì Phương pháp Ngăn ngừa những hắc tố melasma. các chiến thuật thường hoặc làm dự phòng mảng tối màu như:

dùng kem chống nắng hàng ngày. bởi ánh sáng mặt trời được là yếu tố dẫn đến mụn trứng cá phổ biến nhất, vấn đề quyết định kem chống nắng thường ngày không thể thương lượng để giữ cho da bị khô. tìm kem chống nắng có bảo vệ rộng với SPF từ 30 trở lên.

Nón ngoài những trời. Mũ rộng rãi khiến giữ các phần dễ bị tổn hại trên mặt. kiếm tìm bóng râm bất cứ khi nào ngoài trời, là tối ưu.

quan tâm da nhẹ nhàng. vì những sản phẩm gây kích ứng da sẽ làm trầm trọng thêm cấp độ da bị sưng tấy, hãy lựa chọn các sản phẩm nhẹ nhàng không bị đốt cũng có thể đốt.

حراج الدمام said...

شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام هى واحدة من ضمن شركات قمة الدقة والتى هى اسم وصفة فهى افضل من يطلق عليه هذا الاسم وهذا بفضل قدراتها الكبيرة فى القيام اعمال التنظيف العام للبيوت والمنازل والشقق حيث انها تقدم خدماتها التى تشغل بال العديد من العملاء والذين يبحثون عن شركات تنظيف بيوت بالدمام ويرغون فى التعاون مع ارخص شركة تنظيف شقق بالدمام فاليكم اكبر شركة فى عالم التنظيف المنزلى والبيتى وهى شركة تطهير منازل بالدمام قمة الدقة

كم من الوقت تحتاج اليه ربة المنزل لتنظيف بيتها ؟

لا توجد مقاييس خاصة لوقت التنظيف المتقن فهناك ربات بيوت تسطيعن ان تنجز مهمة تظهير المنزل ومسح الارضيات وازاله الغبار فى وقت سريع واخريات يقضين اليوم باكملة ولا يستطعن الانتهاء من غرفة واحدة

ولكن الامر الذى لا يمكن انكارة ان مهمة تنظيف البيوت حقا مهمة شاقة ومرهقة جدا وتحتاج الى وقت متسع ومجهود كبير من السيدة واما اذا كانت ربة المنزل امرأة عاملة فان القيام باعمال تنظيف السجاد وغسيل الجدران ومسح الارضيات امر ممل ومرهق

ولهذا تم تقديم خدمات الاعتناء بنظافة المنازل وترتيبها باسعار خيالية فنحن ارخص شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام قمة الدقة كما ان شركة نظافة منازل بالدمام توفر كافة العمالة النسائية والتى تحتاج اليهن ربات المنازل كثيرا
شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام

khaled ali said...

شركة امست للتنظيف