He is just nine years old, but his little eyes saw the wonders of the under-sea world. Mayank Ohma Ekka, a Class IV student of Sarala Birla Gyan Jyoti School in Guwahati, became the youngest boy to dive in the Indian Ocean six times and complete his Junior Scuba Divers course.
Mayank, who had been snorkelling and skin diving for the last two years with his mother, a deep sea diver herself said, “I was impatiently waiting to be allowed to dive in complete diving gear – the wet suit, BCD (Buoyancy control device), oxygen cylinder, masks and fins.”
Mayank was exposed to the wonders of the sea by his mother Anjali Tirkey. A specialized scuba diver herself, Anjali would tell stories of the sea world to Mayank and this is how he developed an interest in scuba diving.
Said the proud mother, “Mayank would listen with rapt attention as I would narrate my underwater experiences with him. Besides this, he loves watching programmes on deep sea on Discovery. We buy him DVDs of BBC undersea documentaries. He likes watching cartoons but he is more hooked on to these TV programmes.”
His instructor, Anne is a French woman, who had worked in Indonesia, Mauritius and Maldives before coming to Havelock Island in the archipelago of Andaman Islands. She said, she was teaching such a young boy for the first time in her life and was amazed by the pace in which Mayank grasped the skills. “It’s a pleasure to see Mayank comfortable at diving and his sheer joy of identifying the sea animals is something to watch,” she said.
On the young scuba diver’s hobbies, Mayank’s mother said, “Mayank is more of an outdoor person. He likes trekking and camping. As a parent, I have always been anti-gizmos and the internet. Children lose touch with nature in this way. So whenever we get the opportunity, we take him out. Parents, I feel, should encourage their children to move out of the house and get involved in outdoor activities and sports.”
“Mayank has a scientific bent of mind. He likes to experiment. He initially wanted to become a scientist when he grows up. But now he wants to join the Army and go to Afghanistan,” laughed Anjali.
Revealing more aspects about her son, she said, “Mayank loves promoting anything that is Indian. So he prefers Amul to Baskin-Robbins. It is his dream to unfurl the Indian flag underwater on January 26. Maybe it will not be possible on that day but the next time we take him out to the sea, we will ask him to unfurl the Indian flag.”
So what does it take to be a scuba diver? “You should just be fit and yes, you should not be afraid of the water. Other than that, you should not have sinus problem because then it become difficult to equalize the pressure. Scuba diving is not such a dangerous adventure sport. Parents should not hesitate to allow their children take up this kind of sports,” said Anjali, who plans to take up a Diver’s Master course soon.
“I am an advanced and specialized diver but I intend to do a Diver’s Master course for my son. At present I cannot take Mayank underwater. It’s only after I do the course that Mayank and I can together explore the deep sea waters. Maybe after I finish the course I might become a scuba instructor. But as of now I want to take up the course only for my son,” she said.
However, Mayank is looking forward to 10th birthday when he will get the opportunity to dive as deep as 12 meters and then for his 12th birthday to take his Junior Open Water Diver’s course. Mayank says, that although he loved swimming with turtles, he especially enjoyed being with the clown fish, Nemo, octopus, eels and to watch the variety of star fishes.
“Yes, I love the sea and love to kiss my mother underwater. She is a deep sea diver. The next time she goes for her Diver’s Master course, I will go for my next level. The beauty that lies hidden in the depths of the sea is like heaven. You all can do it if you love water, adventure and fear no fear,” said Mayank.
Mayank also has a passion for caving. He met with a small accident during his last cave exploration, when a rock gave away. “He did cry for some time but that’s okay. Caving is a new-age sport and parents can encourage their children to develop an interest in this sport. Meghalaya is a caver’s sojourn so one does not have to go too far to explore caves,” said Anjali. She added, “Of course, for this kind of sport one has to be really fit and must have strong arms.”
As Mayank embarks on his journey to the hidden secrets of the underwater world, and do what he likes best, we wait for the young kid to set a record and make a name for himself and the Northeast in the world map. We wish him the best in his endeavour.