Tuesday, May 11, 2010

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I was born in Mandya, two hours from Bangalore. I moved to Bangalore's St Josephs Indian Boys High School hostel in class six. My aspiration was to seriously pursue sports. But after a knee injury, I was advised by the doctor to stay away from football or hockey for a while. That's when I switched my focus to swimming. Not only did I completely love being in the water, but it also helped my knee heal quicker.

Wet behind the ears

Under the guidance of my swimming coach Nihar Ameen, I represented Karnataka and India at various events. Becoming a swimming coach myself was a natural progression. But it wasn't until 2003 that I had my first taste of Scuba diving. On a holiday to Singapore, I decided to follow a signboard on Sentosa island, and decided to give the sport a shot. My first experience was magical; I saw sting rays and sharks swimming all around me. But it wasn't until 2006 that I had a chance to have another go at it. This time, I went to the Andamans and got my open water diving certification. I came back to Bangalore, but I knew that I was hooked to Scuba forever. Soon, I went back to the Andamans and completed my advanced diving course.

Scuba for a living

Despite how much I enjoyed Scuba diving, I had to come back to the grind in Bangalore and take up a job as a swimming instructor. In what seemed like destiny, I bumped into Madhav Reddy in 2008 and he informed me of his plans to start a dive centre in Bangalore. While I was quite surprised at the thought of a Scuba dive centre in a non-coastal city, I grabbed the opportunity. It was the best thing to happen to someone who loves water. I have beenw working with Planet Scuba India (PSI) since 2008.

What it takes

In February-March this year I completed the instructor course from PSI's Andaman Diving Academy. To clear the course, a student needs to pass a five-part theory exam scoring 75 per cent in each part, perform a facedown, non-stop swim for 800 meters using a mask, snorkel and fins and show proof of at least 100 logged open water Scuba dives if attending the PADI Instructor examination (IE). I have logged close to 200 dives. The dive spots I've been to are Andamans, Netrani (off Murudeshwar, Karnataka), Goa, the Maldives and Singapore.

On the job, underwater

I've recently taken about 10 to 12 students Scuba diving and it's a wonderful feeling to be with people on their first dive experience in the sea. Although the job isn't a mundane 9-5 cubicle-bound occupation, it does entail a lot of responsibility. One has to have tremendous patience with students, for many of whom Scuba diving is a new and different experience. Managing the cumbersome Scuba diving equipment is another challenge.

Tips for aspirants

Someone aspiring to be a Scuba diving instructor needs to be very good in the water; you have to love water. Also being an instructor means being a good teacher. You have to teach people theory as well as guide them in the water and therefore good teaching skills are essential. My background as a swimming coach has made things a lot easier. I love to teach, and this works in my favour.

Well worth it

The most important motivation one needs in this profession is to love what you do. I don't mind the serious responsibilities attached to the job, as long as I am underwater. But having said that, Scuba diving can be a great career. Once you are certified as an instructor you can literally teach Scuba diving anywhere in the world. Also what other job will let you travel around and see sights for a living? You also have the scope to make good money, once you gain enough experience.

Deep pockets?

Scuba diving is an expensive sport. And while getting an instructor certification might tax your pockets, dive centres have their way of supporting those who are really interested. One can work at a dive centre for a period of time. This lets you earn and avail of a few advantages as well.

A flood of opportunities

Of the 23 dive centres in the country, there are only about 20 Scuba instructors of Indian origin. So far, a large number of instructors have been foreigners. As Scuba diving becomes a popular sport and more places along the coast of India become popular for the sport there will a gap and therefore a need for more instructors. Becoming an instructor now is far more convenient. Earlier the only option an aspirant had was to go abroad for an instructor course (Thailand being a favourite destination). Last year, PSI opened the country's first instructor centre, the Andaman diving centre; this also made it cheaper and more convenient for me to become an instructor. I am hoping to see a lot of Indian Scuba instructors in the future.


Copyright 2010 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd., DNA (Daily News & Analysis) All Rights Reserved

Source Citation
"In deep water and loving it; India's youngest Scuba instructor, 24-year-old Bangalorean, Madhu Kumar BM, tells Elizabeth Soumya he's up for any challenge as long it's underwater." DNA [Daily News & Analysis] 9 May 2010. Educator's Reference Complete. Web. 11 May 2010.
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