The idea was unique.
UTV Action Movies, a channel launched to showcase fast-paced and high-octane action from Hollywood in Hindi and action movies from Bollywood, decided to take a group of journalists and trade associates skydiving in Cape Town, South Africa. Yes, you heard right. We were being shepherded to half way around the world to jump off a plane from a height of 9,000 feet.
After a 15-hour long journey, we crashed early that night, dreaming and dreading the fate that awaited us the next day. Next morning, wake up call was at 5.30 am. We had to get to the site early, as skydiving depends heavily upon weather. The temperature, visibility and even wind speed has to be right before you take that plunge.
Are you mental?
Along the way, the tour guide kept saying we were “mental” to attempt this. Not the best way to keep up your morale. Several people had second thoughts. Upon arrival at the site, about 45 minutes outside Cape Town, we were briefed about skydiving.
There are several types of skydiving. The one we were attempting was called tandem skydiving. In this form, an individual jumped with a professional. It was his responsibility to open the parachute after a 30-second free fall. All we had to do was “enjoy the view”. Right.
We were also informed that the company had never lost a diver and in only one instance did a professional jumper have to cut away from his partner. Safety measures were tight as the company lost its license the moment there were any ‘incidents or casualties’.
But then an indemnity form was passed, asking the diver for next of kin details, in case of ‘an incident’. So much for pep talk! But the one thing that gave everyone the jitters was the size of the plane that was supposed to get us up there. It was the smallest and frailest looking plane possible. Six people would have to squeeze in.
Lots were drawn and I ended up in the last slot. It meant I jumped last. My bad. Wind conditions weren’t good enough and visibility was low so we had to wait an hour before the first team headed out.
To jump, the combined weight of both divers needs to be less than 230 kgs. This meant that one member of our group (129 kgs) was immediately knocked out. Another one backed out.
The ones in the iffy category due to weight issues were asked to wait till wind speed picked up. The first batch headed up. It took them about 25 minutes to get there. We waited with bated breath for them to come back to terra firma. Then we saw them, small specks gliding towards earth from the sky. Five minutes later, they were down and raving about how amazing the jump was.
That got every one pumped up. Soon, people were heading up in groups of three and jumping.
All returned satisfied even as I waited my turn. Then, after eight hours of starvation and wait, it was finally my turn. By then, I just wanted it done with. My instructor G had already jumped with seven people before me and was touted as the best jumper around. We began our walk to the plane. G assured me that I was in good hands and strapped me tightly in my harness. The flight to the jump spot felt long. Along the way, we were given glimpses of Cape Town and a fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean. But all I could think at that moment was how I was supposed to accomplish the feat.
It’s a small world
At 9,000 feet, we stopped and the plane’s door was opened. I was told to feel lucky as I had the best view of the day since my jump was in the evening. However, all I saw were tiny specks below that were supposed to be houses and cars. It is in that moment when you are sitting at the edge of the plane and looking down, that fear overwhelms you.
After that, you jump. For 30 seconds, you fall. It may seem forever or just a second. Also, contrary to popular belief, no thoughts about life or death pass through your head. It remains totally blank and then, the chute opens. There on, life comes to a standstill as you slowly drift to the earth and make a soft landing. My instructor let me maneuver the chute and I landed safely on my two feet.
It is once you have landed that the sense of accomplishment slowly seeps in. We had a glass of champagne each and learnt that we were record holders for the highest number of Indians to jump in Cape Town on a single day! How’s that for a perfect landing, I mean ending.
Imran Khan: I’d made up my mind... I was going to skydive
Imran Khan in Celeb and the City, spent the last couple of weeks shooting in Queenstown, New Zealand. Beautiful place. The big thing to do there is adventure sports. I’d made up my mind before I even got there that I was going to skydive. I jumped out of a plane at 15,000 feet, and fell for 60 seconds at a speed of 200 km/h before my instructor pulled the chute. Why did I do that? One would assume I’m an adrenaline junkie, that I like the danger of it. And one would be wrong. I wanted to do this, because to me, it is representative of what makes human beings great.
I shat in my pants the first time that I had to sky dive from an airplane thousands of kilometres above sea level. All of us were made to wear just two harnesses to keep us attached to the aircraft. I screamed my lungs out. But after I completed the stunt, I felt I could do it once more. I did and now, I’m notscared of jumping out of an aircraft at any height.
Hanging outside the aircraft was the scariest stunt to perform on the show. But yes, I did it really well and now, I enjoy
skydiving whenever I get a chance to do it.