At the Sea: Kanika Mohan Saxena is India’s Second Deep Water Diving Instructor
“The first time ever I walked the surface of the sea was eight years back. It was something I fell in love with, for good!”
Kanika Mohan Saxena is India’s second deep water diving instructor- a coveted place earned with sacrifices and sheer hard work. From being a top media honcho, with 17 years of experience, to being a diving instructor at the sea, her story is nothing short of extraordinary. Talking about her first ever experience at the sea, Kanika says, “It was in Thailand, eight years back where they took me ten meters down into the ocean with a helmet fitted with oxygen supply. It was then that I realized that the waters fascinated me”.
“In 2011, I enrolled in an open-water course in Koh Tao Island, Vietnam. There I met an Australian girl who started teaching me. She enjoyed telling me how life underwater was exciting and how she had been all around the world. When I went into the water, it was really scary as the weather that day was pretty rough. There was this surge of sudden excitement and in that moment and I knew I was hooked.”
The very next year after her Vietnam trip, she reached Nha Trang in Vietnam for her second stage of advance open water training. Kanika says, "I was 30 then and pretty late to fall in line but a dream is a dream. After securing the necessary skills there, I packed up my bags for Koh Tao, Thailand for the next leg of training. This is the highest diving point in Asia. All my peers were around 20 years of age, European, and much more confident than me. They didn’t shy away from water. Whereas, I lacked the basic confidence of jumping into the sea. In the beginning, it was terrifying as I was in the middle of the sea, water all around me, with no equipment and a depth of 300 meters. Once I almost drowned and had to be helped out by my instructor. But all this changed when a peer of mine on the boat just told me to shut up and get over my fear. He literally threw me into the water. Splashing and struggling to survive, I somehow tore off the cocoon of my fear and survived the waters. That was the defining moment in which I let my fear and inhibitions go drown themselves. Once I came back on the boat, my vigor had revitalized."
In 2012, I came back to Mumbai after my training. I was working with Fox Star Studios as their Project Head. But a strange feeling constantly nibbled at me. I really wanted to get back to the sea and pursue deep sea diving. And so I enrolled into a swimming club in Juhu and for the next two months to learn swimming. I practiced both mornings and evenings. And soon, against everyone’s advise, I left my high profile job in 2012, packed my bags and took to fulfilling my dream. Everyone around me told me that I had lost the plot and needed to re-focus on my work. They asked me how could I forgo a five-figure salary? But I was pretty adamant about my plans.”
The Master Scuba Diver Trainer
After completing almost 50-60 courses, she finally became master scuba diving instructor, the highest certification in diving for an instructor. She says, “It was a feeling of achievement like never before. I had never imagined that, given the country and the background I was coming from, I will be able to achieve this”.
“In 2013, I came back to Mumbai after 11 months of training. I was in touch with a dear friend, Anees Adenwala who owns Orca Dive Club in Worli. When I spoke with him, he asked me to come join them and teach their students. I started taking weekend courses at Celebration club in Andheri. Anees soon realized that I was actually good at this and offered me a permanent post with them. We now conduct courses for Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) license for individuals before they enter the ocean. I work with them on weekends. This entire process has taught me the value of self-discipline and perseverance.”
Apart from this, Kanika also works with Anees’s production company, Underwater Film Services, which specializes in shooting underwater sequences for Bollywood films including Udta Punjab, Rangoon, Dhishoom, Flying Jatt, Kalakandi and the most recent one, Bhoomi. In the past, she has also headed five production departments including that of Balaji Motion Pictures’ marketing department. Today, she holds the coveted position of being India’s second deep water diving instructor.