I never thought I’d spend Christmas a) Underwater b) Away from home c) With 200 strangers and d) Breaking a Guinness World Record. But there I was, on Christmas day, on a beach in Thailand, witnessing the madness that comes with a Guinness World Record attempt. With the designated role of Timekeeper that involved the expertise of pressing a button, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had to watch the arrival of about 200 enthusiastic Punekars on the unsuspecting beaches of Thailand. The event was a collaboration between Chrysalis Entrepreneur Forum and Absolute Scuba, a diving institute based in Pune, which was aiming at creating the World’s Longest Human Underwater Chain.
On the morning of December 26, the participants got their first gist of life underwater. It seemed quite simple on paper – enter water, form line, descend, hold hands, rise when instructed. But carrying it out proved to be a massive task! “The major challenge that we faced was that most of the participants were non-swimmers,” Siddharth Pujari, partner at Absolute Scuba told me. “We had conducted training sessions for each of the participants and only selected people after judging their performance. Jayesh Bhagat, member of Team Absolute, spent hours training and often retraining the participants to make sure they were ready,” he said.
To record the event, the crew also included the boys from Quidich Innovation Labs who came armed with a drone. They proved instrumental in helping to ensure that the chain wasn’t broken and gave the on-shore team a clear idea of what was happening in the water. Over and above that, the drone gave us an incredible bird’s eye view of the entire island.
Before setting out to enter the water on D-Day, all 182 participants, plus family, crew and divers assembled on the beach and sang the national anthem. (Another thing I never thought I’d see on a beach in Thailand!) With cries of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Jai Hind” the participants entered the water all kitted out with scuba gear, exuding the determination of an army. The entire process was overseen by Paulina, a judge from the Guinness Book of World Records who had the final word on whether the record had been broken or not. Once all 182 divers had descended and linked hands below the water, the underwater videographers began to record the entire chain. Their job was crucial to the success of the record because on shore it was impossible to see what was going on below the surface.
When the gong sounded, my role as timekeeper began. (Yes, I successfully clicked the button.) When both videographers had recorded the entire chain, we stopped time at 6 minutes 45 seconds! As far as we were concerned the record had been broken. The participants surfaced and once again the beach was full of jubilant cries of (hopeful) victory. But, alas, the fate of our record lay in the hands of Paulina. For a good half an hour she inspected each second of the videographers’ footage. Hearts were pounding, hands were held and prayers were said to the ocean Gods and more. And then finally, the lady in the suit walked out of the conference room and approached the now antsy crowd. There had been some complications in the footage and we were now eager to know the final result. Had we succeeded in being the only Indians to break the record? Or were we going to go home telling ourselves ‘hey at least we got to go to Thailand!”
In a clear but barely audible voice Paulina began, “As a representative of the Guinness Book of World Records I am happy to announce that….” The rest of her speech was almost drowned out by the cries of all 200 of us jubilant Punekars. The members of Chrysalis Entrepreneur Forum had successfully formed the World’s Longest Human Underwater Chain! (Quite a feat for people who come from a land locked city.)
Later on, when the beach had resumed normalcy and the foreigners had gone back to sun tanning, we got talking about the day’s events. Seemant Saxena, partner at Absolute Scuba, who had been in the water the entire time overseeing the chain, came out with some remarkable observations. “There was one lady whose mask had completely fogged and she couldn’t see anything. But still she held on to the rope tightly for all 6 minutes, breathing in and out, waiting for the signal to ascend,” he said. It all goes to prove that there’s nothing you can’t do with a little bit of motivation and a whole lot of courage.
The entire experience has just made me wonder, what next? And whatever it is, I hope I’ll be a part of the next adventure! 🙂
To join Absolute Scuba on their next great diving experience, contact them on Facebook.