The Surgical Skydive

In adventure sport—just as in surgery—there’s never just another day at the office

“We have Thursday morning off, before we take the flight back to Mumbai,” my dad reminded me as we were winding up a one-week workcation. “Do you have something specific you’d like to do?” he checked in with me. We were in Australia, invited to speak at the annual meeting of the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia in the lovely resort town of Port Douglas, an hour’s drive from the relatively placid city of Cairns. After having completed our work assignments, we took a few days off to visit the Daintree Rainforest – 1,200 square kilometres of wildlife habitat that was more than 180 million years old, 10 million years older than the Amazon.


I contemplated the question he had just asked me. “Let’s go skydiving,” I suggested, both of us having missed doing it on our individual travels the year before owing to last-minute weather problems. Without batting his 78-year-old eyelids, he concurred. “But let me check first if they have an age limit,” I hurriedly added, “What age limit?” he shot back. “I’m fitter and stronger than you!” It was indeed true. I’m 42 and everything hurts every day.

“Hello, is this Skydive Australia?” I called, making a booking for 4th October, also enquiring about any of their stipulations for guests jumping off a plane from 15,000 feet. “We don’t have an upper age limit,” he confirmed politely, “as long as you don’t have any serious medical condition and are above 18 years of age and below 110 kg.” We met these criteria. Our bookings were confirmed. After having snorkelled Down Under, in the Great Barrier Reef, it was time to see what it looked like from a little higher up.

On the designated radiant morning, when the sun shone its golden whiskers through the turquoise Aussie skies, a bus picked us up and three other fellow jumpers to drop us off at the office where the first thing we did was sign a waiver: if we died, they would not be held responsible. It was like taking consent before brain or spine surgery. Only today did I realize the tumult of emotions that patients must feel every time we explain the risk of death to them, but they sign the form trusting us in full faith. Today, we were the patients and we had to trust our diving doctors.

We were shown a safety briefing video with gorgeous views from a Cessna biplane soaring up into the skies and people jumping off it like giant bird poop. Olivia was my diving instructor who I going to tandem jump with. “What’s the most common question people ask you?” I asked her, as she put on my harness, double-checking all the locks. “Has the parachute ever failed to open,” she replied. “Has it?” I asked with a little trepidation on the inside but sounding cheery and confident on the exterior. “Ah, a couple of times, mate!” she said casually, “But we always have a standby, so don’t worry!” she laughed. “Let’s slay it,” she gestured, as we took a picture and video together before walking on to the tarmac. “Do you wanna say your final goodbyes to people at home?” they always joke on record. “Not required; we’re coming back soon to haunt them!” I quipped.

“Does this ever cause motion sickness?” I asked the other instructors of their experience. “We’ve had a few people throw up mid-air,” Damien said, unflustered even as he was on his fifth jump of the day. “The first one minute is a free fall at 200 kilometres per hour, and then we open the parachute, which lasts for about 5 to 6 minutes. If it’s windy, you can feel a little nauseous,” he warned, munching on berries.

Damien, my dad’s instructor, was a strong, well-built man with a golden beard and long hair who had four missing fingers on one hand. “Skydiving accident,” he joked. “I’d happily take that if I only lost that much in a skydiving accident,” I told him. “Nah – got chopped off by a saw while doing some carpentry as a kid,” he explained, his voice muffled amidst the roaring sound of the plane nearing us. Just before boarding, I tightened my shoelaces, lest the shoe fly off and hit the person jumping behind me at 200 kmph.

The five of us got onto the plane tagged to the instructors we would tandem jump with. The plane had no seats, just a low-lying flat couch one could hop on. It had a sliding door that they closed way after the plane took off. As we rose to 5,000 feet and saw the panorama of the world below, tiny ripples gradually started roaring in my stomach. I could feel my heart race. I wondered if this would match the adrenaline rush of performing a difficult surgery, one where there was profuse bleeding, with the patient’s blood pressure crashing and monitors beeping. “Do people ever refuse to jump after being airborne?” I joked around with Olivia as she did the final tightening of the harness onto her and put on my goggles. “Now is not the time to be asking that question, mate! Once we slide the door up, just remember what we rehearsed. As we get to the edge of the plane, curve your legs in, arch your back and make a banana, and jump. When I tap you on the shoulder, pull your arms out wide like you’re soaring.” She gave me a final thumbs up as she tightened the go-pro fixed to her wrist to record the adventure of a lifetime.

Once we reached 15,000 feet, one of the instructors pulled the door open. “1-2-3 jump!” he went out with his jumper in a jiffy. The cold wind blew straight into my face, reminding me of my journey to Everest Base Camp a few months ago. Five seconds later, the next person jumped off. My heart was racing but I had a huge smile on my face. “We’re next!” Olivia slid me to the edge of the plane as I tucked my feet in and arched my back to her face, the force of the wind trying to rip the skin off my face. I felt like the animated version of Jim Carrey in the Mask. I gave a thumbs up to my dad behind me and “1-2-3 jump!” screamed Olivia. We summersaulted out, I not knowing what had hit me, but after the first 3 seconds, I could vividly see the vast expanse of the horizon in front of me. The clear sky with the glimmering sun shone sharp on us. Suddenly, all the rush disappeared, and I felt a sense of calm I have never felt in my life. It was so surreal that I thought of my patients, my family, and my dear friends while plummeting into the clouds below us. Even though was I rocketing down at 200 kmph, I felt like I was afloat, suspended in space and time. True freedom means not longing for anything to be other than what it is. This is what freedom felt like, I thought, even though I was attached to Olivia. We both smiled into the camera and took what looked like soothing pictures mid-air.

As we descended into the clouds, she pulled on the parachute and both of us transformed into eagles, buoyant in the air, enjoying the beauty of the terrain below with the Gods looking on above. It was ethereal. We swerved with the wind, making gentle circles in the air, chatting about surgery and skydiving – both professions were never just another day at the office – as we gracefully approached our landing. “Pull your knees into your chest and straighten your legs,” came the instruction, as we made a smooth landing onto the soft verdant grass – a kind of earthing one would have never imagined. I quickly turned around to catch a glimpse of my dad, who was 10 seconds behind me, land right next to me. We had experienced an adventure of a lifetime. Both of us were grinning from ear to ear as we kissed and hugged each other once we were free from all the strappings. “Paisa vasool,” were the first words that came out of his mouth. I couldn’t agree more.


25 Comments on “The Surgical Skydive
  • Laina says:

    What an adventure! I can’t wait to go sky diving after I read this !

  • Upma Yadav Jaiswal says:

    Superb lifetime experience 👌

  • Maharukh Kavarana says:

    Mazda hats off to you. You are just amazing . I remember you as a little boy and calling me fatso. You are my favorite and you very well know that. I ❤️ you and wish you all the very best for your future endeavors.

  • Khushroo E Patel says:

    So nice to witness the chemistry between father and son.. I too fly with my oldest son who pilots a Cessna and is kind to take me to places I request. .
    Enjoy life as you do.. Too short to live with regrets..
    Hats off to father and son.

  • Arun Pushkarna says:

    If it’s a “Once in a lifetime” plan, I congratulate you for having a great time. And if you ever plan to repeat the experience, pick Dubai the next time.
    Great narration of an amazing experience.
    Get Dr. Turel (Sr.) to narrate his side of the story. I suspect that will be as much, if not more fun!!

  • Tozar Heerjee says:

    Must have been Great to have your Dad along for company. Well done Sir.

  • Dr.Sukhmeet K Kalsi. Family Physician,Counseling Psychologist,Corporate Master Trainer and International Life Coach says:

    Amazing 👏. I’m sure it would have been an enthralling experience
    I always tell my patients and clients, When in an unavoidably difficult situation ,just Surrender to the Divine

    Surrendering in the true sense, isn’t easy

    “When there is Faith,there is no Doubt and where there is Doubt,there was no Faith “

  • akhtar khan says:

    Amazing Dr Mazda..! Tussi Great Hoo..

  • Mahasweta Biswas says:

    Wow Mazda what an absolutely super awesome experience. A real adventure. Whilst reading your experience I had goose bumps

    Hats off to your dad too

  • Bruce Blewett says:

    Excellent article Mazda – I have sky dived and the experience and trepidation is something that is difficult to explain.

  • Dr Parichay Perikal says:

    Indeed a beautifully scripted experience! It just refreshed my skydive memories reading your article Dr Mazda!

  • Rais says:


  • Kersi Naushir Daruvala says:

    I have a good Heart and I could do it I am 76 how old is your Dad. I would have really loved it as I like photography too and all the safety procedure would make it safe. Lucky you and good luck to your next expedition.

  • Eusebio Aranha says:

    Envy you guys and admire your Dad’s spirit. As they say “age is just a number”. 👍

  • Ralecha Mmatli says:

    Well deserved adventure my Dr

  • Marzin R Shroff says:

    What a thrilling adventure! “After skydiving, brain surgery must feel like a walk in the park—just with a bit more free-fall!” 😊

  • Cusrow Sadri says:

    Outstanding Doc, I am sure it’s an experience of a lifetime which your dad and you had. It’s one of the things in my bucket list to be done during my lifetime. As always Amazing narration of the Wonderful experience that both of you had. Absolutely hats off to your dad as well. Cheers 🍻🤗

  • Dr. Rafat Ansari says:

    Had been following ur status all along ..enjoyed every bit of ur dive ..on land,cld even feel the adrenaline rush.
    Purely Desi at heart …Paisa vasool!!

  • Vipul shah says:

    Dear Dr Mazda sir …….

    Lovely Lifetime experience combined with your work vacation……particularly change from daily routine of OT ….

    Outside india is safe comparatively for any adventurous activities….

    It was great experience jointly with your dad….
    We had similar experience in SA but unfortunately only my wife who has more guts than me did skydiving without even blinking her eyes….

    Please continue this type of extraordinary adventures from time to time depending upon availability of your time for getting ready again to serve your patients with your extraordinary skills of surgery ( & Writing of course )

    God bless sir

  • Rita Singh says:

    My God uand ur dad r truly real life heroes. Can’t imagine many people at his going for such an adventure. Hats off to both father and son duo. Long live ur pair in neuro surgery as well.

  • Ellen Ozymandias says:

    You and your dad are such thrill seekers!
    Lasting impressions of an amazing skydive are etched in memories

  • Shyam Babhulkar says:

    Great event of Life, specially for Keki….we Envy You Sir….What a magnanimous experience. We just thrilled while reading itself. One should learn from U.. God Bless You both …Great Duo. Life time experience..

  • Mina Jotwani says:

    Hats off to your spirits Dr Mazda. So happy for you. The experience must have surely been surreal.
    And a salute to your dad too for his high energy and willingness to experience this.
    Love your articles always.
    Best wishes.

  • Anil Karapurkar says:

    What an exhilarating experience. I will try and find an opportunity to experience your exhuberation

  • Tasneem khorakiwala says:

    Wow! Your description of your experience makes me want to do it !


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