Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Not To Drown - A nonswimmer's guide to survival

Courtesy: Einnamon
Got to know that yet another soul drowned himself in the pristine waters of Nagalapuram, the landscape which many among us have revered, respected, and relished. It is the second death in the hills over the last couple weeks.

Philosophy: I see many express grief over death of strangers, at least grief is what they pretend. I am not saddened by his death, neither by the death of anybody else who died on trek or the countless others who die each day. He had no role to play in my life. His existence or nonexistence had no bearing on my life. In fact, I was not even aware of his existence until he ceased to exist! Besides what difference would it make to him or to anybody else whether we are pained or not by his death. I know most of you would reason that it is human nature to empathize with fellow human in their deaths even if they are hated when alive. What difference would it make to pretend or even grieve for a dead man whom you never knew or would have never known? Isn't that an oxymoron, being sad on losing something which you never had, never wished for?

Concern: No, I feel no sadness. But concerned I am? These deaths in the wilderness had occupied my conscience for a long period of time. Makes me think what would I do when faced death? What should I do to prevent it? It is not the concern for human life that makes me think, but because one cannot drench themselves in the beauty of jungles with all these idiots dying around. How can one quench thirst with the pure water of the streams laced with memory of blue, bloated, half decomposed body being fished out of it giving a stench of rotten flesh? Moreover, each such death on treks makes it more and more difficult to enter the forests, tightening the bureaucratic grip of forest department. Here are couple points that I could think of to help prevent deaths by drowning.

Solution: So, starting with the best solution to prevent yourself from drowning. Swim! Well, that IS the best and only sure-shot solution. However, if you could swim, you would have not been reading this far. For those who, like me, cannot swim, here are couple tips to improve their survival rate in water. And these are expert advice, mind it, not to be taken lightly. An expert swimmer can tell you how to swim, but you would need an expert non-swimmer for survival in water if you cannot swim.

Prepare yourself not to drown:
  1. Learn swimming. At least if you know how to throw your hands and legs around, it might turn out to be crucial for your survival in those critical moments.
  2. Buy gears that would keep you afloat. Life Jacket is one such thing but bulky and cumbersome to carry on treks and burns a hole in pocket (around Rs 1500, weighs over a kilogram). Inflatable swimming tube comes handy and cheap (Rs 60, 100 gm). Another alternative is multipurpose sleeping mats (expanded polyethylene foam), sleep on it or float on it (Rs 60 per meter of 6-mm foam, 2 meter gets you two mats, around 300 gm).
  3. Buy adequate life insurance and make a clear-cut will. These aren't mandatory but ensures that there are people with reasons to be sad on your demise and that there is no confusion as to who should be sad and who shouldn't be. If your folks are generous enough, as most religious people are, they wouldn't mind spending a tiny bit of the insurance bounty on your last rides to ensure you a comfortable seat in hell.

Avoid being drowned:
  1. If you don't know swimming, keep away from jumping in deep waters regardless how adventurous it might seem even though others are around to save you and they keep pushing you to have fun. If they fail, they'll live to hone their life-saving skills later, but you would die in the process.
  2. Carry a sleeping mat either tied to backpack or inside. This would help in case you fall off the cliff straight into the beautiful, deadly pool. If you can catch hold of a 6-mm sleeping mat, you will be alive. If it's 3-mm, it would increase your buoyancy if not stop you from completely drowning.
  3. Check the water before you venture further. Even if you know swimming, it is best to familiarize yourself with the water, it's temperature, depth, rocks and plants underneath, etc. All your swimming skills might go for a toss when suddenly faced with an adverse situation. Cold water can leave you breathless. A small injury on your spine can render you paralyzed temporarily. Even impact of water is enough to knock you off your consciousness if the jump was inappropriate. All making you incapable of swimming to life.

You are drowning, now what? So, you have finally managed to drown yourself despite all the precautions. Here is what you can do now:
  1. Stop panicking because when you panic, you can't think of other good things that can save you. If you are incapable of thinking, your life is an appendix to this world and there is nothing better than being drown. You will be ripped off this world and we’ll all RIP on your wall.
  2. Take a deep breath in to fill your lungs with air. This helps you keep afloat just like the air-filled condom stay afloat in a bucket of water.
  3. Shout for help loudly. And it won't screw your esteem. Many ghosts who hang around the pools told me that they didn’t call for help feeling shy and as a consequence, they have to spend all their time drinking water. Had they overdosed on alcohol, at least they would have had better things to do in afterlife.
  4. Roll over to your back and make your body as flat as when you are lie on bed after an act of carnal sin. This ensure that your face is out in air to take breath and you can take better advance of buoyancy force which is perpendicular to the water surface and pushes everything up.
  5. Once you are flat on your back, flap your legs up and down gently perpendicular to the surface of water. This helps you keep afloat. Now, spread your arms inside water like you are about to fly and move them closer to your legs without bending at elbows pushing the water towards your feet. This would help you move in the direction of your head.

  1. Just chill. You are dead now and it won’t make any difference whatsoever whether you try a backstroke or butterfly.
  2. Stop worrying about your friends and family, they would happily enjoy the belongings you have left behind (and the insurance bounty) after a brief period of sobriety and would curse you all their life if you haven’t. But just chill because none of those curse would affect you anymore, you are dead.
  3. As you will be destined to spend all your life drinking water and hanging around the pool, make sure not to pollute the area as we humans would come occasionally to chill our souls.

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