Last year I almost drowned in the Ganga. I attempted to rescue a drowning man and failed. It was an exhilarating experience.
As close as I felt to drowning, I knew that it was in my power to live – it was more an awareness of extreme danger than that of a near death experience.
The flailing man sailed by my outstretched hand by a whisker and as I made the dive into churning flow, I too, was carried away by India’s most holy river.
After a moment of panic, I realised that by floating on my back I could remain buoyant, kick hard and reach the banks.
By the time I reached the steep wall of earth in shallow water, I’d lost my shorts. I scrambled naked up into the trees, to the amusement of passing river rafting tourists.
An Indian man at the cliff top handed me a pink sari to preserve modesty and Charlie Ma made a hurried dash to find me.
Reunited on the sandy shore upriver, the local police came to say that the man had drowned. The dead man was allegedly drunk and had toppled into the river while taking a selfie.
The policeman added:
“Thank you, but please, don’t do it again. Very dangerous.”
It’s a lesson I’ll remember.