11-year-old Dubai girl dives 40ft into sea with dad to celebrate festival

Published: Sat 11 Sep 2021, 5:38 PM

Last updated: Sat 11 Sep 2021, 10:10 PM

She became Odisha’s youngest scuba diver last year


Saman Haziq

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An 11-year-old girl along with her father - both trained scuba divers - dived 40-feet-deep into the Arabian Sea to celebrate their hometown Odisha’s harvest festival – Nuakhai.

On the eve of ‘Nuakhai’ (September 10), Dubai residents Tisya Panigrahi and her father Priyadarshee Panigrahi jumped into the sea at the ‘Dibba Rock’ dive site in Fujairah and sent out their wishes by holding placards on the seabed.

They travelled on the diving boat to their dive site and took the plunge in full diving gear. After descending to a depth of around 40 feet amid colourful coral reefs and beautiful marine life, they took out some celebratory placards. One of the placards read ‘Nuakhai Juhar’, a traditional way to greet people on this festival, while the other read ‘Happy Nuakhai’.

The dive was organised through UAE’s largest diving school Al Boom Diving. Diving instructor Hani El Hajjar, who hails from Lebanon, helped the duo take photographs and videos using an underwater camera.

Tisya, who currently is a student of Grade 6 in Dubai’s Raffles World Academy, became Odisha’s youngest scuba diver on August 22 last year when she obtained her PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Junior Open Water Scuba Diver Licence in the UAE at the age of 10. One can attempt getting this licence only after turning 10. PADI is the world’s largest scuba diving training and certification organisation. Tisya did her training in Al Boom Diving.

She was inspired by the scuba diving exploits of her father Priyadarshee, who has been diving since 2012 after getting his PADI Open Water Scuba Diver Licence from Vietnam.

Speaking about the dive, Priyadarshee said: ‘If a licenced scuba diver doesn’t dive for more than six months, he/she has to do a refresher course. Our last dives were on April 4, 2021 and we were itching to dive again. Being from Odisha, particularly from Sambalpur (which lies in the western part of Odisha, where the festival is celebrated with great fervour), we realised Nuakhai is on September 11 and the festival holds a very special place in our hearts. Therefore, we decided to do something unique and special on this occasion and this idea germinated.”

“An underwater message on Nuakhai has never happened before and I thought this could be a good way to popularise Nuakhai at the international level. More and more people will know about Nuakhai and it will definitely add to the spread of our culture and tradition. It would also provide joy to people back home,” added Priyadarshee.

Tisya said: “Diving is something that I enjoy a lot and the idea of doing something extra while diving was nice. It was fun to hold the placards and pose for pictures and videos. Nuakhai has many memories for me. I particularly like the festival because we get to dress in traditional clothes, dance to peppy Sambalpuri songs and get great traditional foods.”


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