As a child, Padma Rao was fascinated by the ocean – its deepest depths, the mysteries it holds, and the surface waves. When she asked what she wanted to be when grown up, oceanographer was her answer. But like many of us, life had other plans for her. After graduating in zoology, Rao opted for a career in public relations, but she never let go of her childhood dreams. It grew with her and today, she is rekindling them and is on the journey of achieving those dreams one by one. Today Rao is an ocean swimmer, swimming coach, PADI Master Scuba Diver, biker, underwater photographer and a marathon runner.
“I always had a love for oceans since childhood; maybe the natural inquisitiveness I had as a child wanted to explore the mysteries oceans held. To be an oceanographer – that was my ambition ever since school days. I wanted to study marine zoology and conservation. We put in our efforts towards a goal and then life happens and the option left is to go with the waves, hence I ended up doing a graduation course in zoology and landed in a job as a PR professional. It is not easy to let go of the dreams you held close to your heart as a child. Eventually I went on to become an athlete and now I’m a state level swimmer too. Today, scuba diving has taken me back to my childhood dreams, which feels great,” recalls Rao.
Rao, now employed with Wizspk Communication, has been taking professional swimming classes since 2015 under Rajesh Rane of H2O Marinetech. Currently she is a swimming coach at the swimming academy and also coaches her runner and rider friends at Shivaji Park, Mumbai.
“I have been swimming for the last 10 years and started official training in 2015. It is always good and satisfying to impart something to the community you are part of, to help your tribe grow. It is said that swimming can help reduce back pain. Hence Rane empowered me to start coaching women with ailments like that. I coach small girls in Dadar Club, as and when I get the opportunity. Teaching has been on and off, of late as I am focused on preparing for the swimming competitions. I participated in two sea swimming competitions this year – Malvan Sea Swimming Competition which is 3 kms and Goa Sea Swimming competition which is 2.4 kms. I strive to strike a balance between teaching some days and doing my drills on other days for the upcoming competitions,” says Rao.
The Deep Dive
Rao’s diving journey started in 2014.
“I am a PADI Master Scuba Diver and am also engaged in advocacy work in Andaman, I am connected with Andaman more than any part of the world. I did some ocean advocacy programmes in a school in South Andaman called Burmanallah School; the aim was to drive awareness on ocean conservation and coral awareness among school children. I have done different advanced courses related to scuba and diving from India and abroad,” Rao added.
She has done PADI Open Water – Barefoot Scuba in Andaman (Havelock); PADI Advanced Open Water – Temple Adventures in Puducherry; PADI Rescue Diver in Malapascua, Philippines; PADI Wreck Specialty – Coron Palawan in Phillipines; PADI Nitrox Diver from Sri Lanka; PADI Digital Underwater Photography from Maldives; PADI Underwater Naturalist & PADI Deep Diver from Pondicherry; and has fun dived in Bali, Thailand and Dubai.
“As part of community building, I recently launched a Facebook group called ‘Bombay Divers Association’ and a WhatsApp group called ‘Bombay Duck Divers’ to drive in more community growth and connect amongst divers in Mumbai – seasoned senior divers and new entrants – to discuss all things scuba. I am a rider and launched a community building concept called #ridetodive wherein bikers ride to dive destinations, scuba and engage with the dive community and build a network of divers who should be riding and vice versa,” Rao says.
Asked about a memorable incident while diving, Rao recalls, “I was diving in Puducherry a few years back. I am an underwater photographer and enjoy it. I was shooting and a lionfish came close to my face. It was staring at me and wherever I was moving it followed me throughout the shoot, and I made friends with a lionfish! It is a memory that’s etched in my heart.”
Rao, who is also a marathon runner, drives fitness amidst riders and shares tips on running and drives them towards marathons. She is also part of communities which are into beach clean-ups on a regular basis. She is part of different biking clubs in Mumbai including LRMC (Lazy Rangers Motorcycle Club) and Bikers Cause foundation
“As part of the club activities, we ride to orphanages and ashrams, we meet children and give them gifts, meet the elderly and spend time with them. We’re committed to the cause of helping each other, helping those in need and giving back to society,” she adds.
“Running, swimming, biking, scuba keeps me grounded and helps me impart positivity and happiness to people through what I do,” Rao concludes.
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