It was a moonless night, dark as midnight. But for me, the sky was on fire. A thousand stars twinkled brightly to celebrate my 100th successful rafting trip as an instructor across the challenging white waters of Dandeli in Karnataka. I drew on my Eon E-Cigarettes, a ready-to-use Vaping device, as I reminiscence about my journey. Its LED tip glowed bright, as the rich menthol flavor flowed seamlessly owing to its Nico-Flo technology.
I smiled. If this is what freedom tasted like, I loved every minute of it. But, it had not been so easy at first. Today, with a practiced hand I maneuver first timers, adventure junkies, corporate bigwigs, bored housewives and many more, dexterously on rivers across India. With a practiced back pivot, I guide many rafts from narrow channels, soaking in the wide-eyed surprise on the faces of the people turning into pure exhilaration, as they successfully scaled new rapids. I love the look of pure admiration on their faces as we bank the raft. Some Smile. A few cry. But in the end, they all walk away with a spring in their step. I am Ria, a rafting instructor and this is my story. I am a girl trying to make a mark on my planet . The journey has not been that easy, but in the end it’s the ride that matters….. and today I feel as if I have arrived.
After completing my graduation, I took up a job as a relationship manager in a big firm. My average day started at 9 am and stretched into limitless hours as I exchanged emails, addressed phone calls and mingled with my co-workers. On the surface, everything was right. Everything was calm. But like still waters run deep, my mind often wandered and restlessness crept in. I didn’t want to be bound to a desk. I didn’t want to do a job. I wanted to be outdoors. To be with nature. The fascination had started as a child and I read countless stories of unknown mountains scaled and rivers crossed, all immortalized into an adventure, remembered by millions. I wanted my own adventure. I wanted one, everyday.
One day, after a listless day at work, I descended the staircase, walked across the grand foyer and stepped into the sunlight. I did not look back. My exchange with my parents was brief. To say they were annoyed would be an understatement of the year. They said I was impatient. I denied. I wanted to seize the day. Wanted to wake up and feel alive. Do things. And do them my way, Anytime. Anywhere.
I researched and zeroed on a professional rafting company, filled in a waiver and started my intense training with a bunch of boys. Everyday, we exercised to strengthen our arms and core muscles. No one paid much attention to me first and sometimes I could see my fellow trainees exchange looks. We started by practicing two trips every weekend and learning swift water rescue training and other techniques. By the end of the day, I used to be exhausted. It took me a while to learn the river, but once I did it, it felt like I have done it my whole life. Soon enough it was time for my “Release Trip” where a trainee guides the raft all the way down the river with a boat full of customers and one senior guide. Nervous at first, on the river, I was in a state of a flow. For me, a bad day on the river was better than a good day elsewhere. My seniors congratulated me and my fellow trainees joined in the celebration. I was no longer the outsider. I belonged. That evening they threw me a surprise party. We sang and danced late into the night. Two years down the road, the camaraderie I share with them is simply amazing. We travel together, cook together, laugh together and always watch out for one another. They were the ones who wrote to my parents about my achievements. I still remember the day when hand in hand they walked to the starting point, dressed up for their rafting trip. I saw something in my dad’s eyes that day. I saw happiness. And pride.
As I draw on my Eon, it feels like a dream. No, Better. It’s living my dream. On my planet and with my rules. Where I belong. No pressure. No deadlines. No smoke, no tar, no ash. Just freedom. To do anything you want. Anytime. Anywhere. Believe me, everyday can be an adventure…you just need to be looking for one!!