Pursuit of Happiness

Deep sea explorer

For corporate lawyer Akshay Chudasama, scuba diving is a surreal experience

When you look out of the 17th floor conference room of storied law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas at Nariman Point in Mumbai, the vastness of the sea is obvious. And if you want to know about the secret that the vastness hides, there is hardly anyone better than managing partner Akshay Chudasama. This day-time corporate lawyer has been to the depths of the ocean for more than 350-plus dives. He says, “It is a surreal experience every single time. Unlike other offbeat adventure sports, you have the ability to switch off here.”

For someone who has an immensely busy schedule and two phones to keep up with every second of his life, he says, “Phones have become an integral part of our time on land. When you’re going on a trip underwater, it’s a different world together. When under water, you’re the master of your own devices at some level.”

His love for scuba-diving happened by accident. During his time as a student at the London School of Economics, he decided to visit Antigua with his friend around 1992. Besides meeting popular West Indies cricketer Vivian Richards, he decided to take a dive in the sea. One dive became many and these informal dives became an addiction of sorts for him over the holiday. After a break, he finally completed his certification to dive in the mid-90s and got back to the bottom.

If you ask him what is the best dive he’s ever been on, he says, “More than anything, for me, it depends on the quality of marine life under the surface or the things I get to see. For example, I visited Sharm–el-Sheikh to see a World War II shipwreck under the surface or the time that I went to Djibouti and came across whale sharks.” It’s not just the big fish that he is after, though. He explains, “As you keeping getting more into it, you move away from just the big fish and action. After a while, you start looking for the rare and unusual.” In his pursuit, he has been to dives across Lakshadweep, Andamans, East Africa, southern Egypt, Sudan and more. He is not the only one who has caught the diving bug. He also goes diving with his 16-year-old daughter, who has been on 65 or so dives so far with him.

Some of his most memorable trips, he reminisces, have been to Raja Ampat in western Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillippines and Palau in Micronesia. He says, “There would be times that I would get to see at least 65-70 species of fish on a single dive.” Swimming with ‘mostly harmless’ jellyfish, travelling two-and-a-half days to get to his diving spot and almost misplacing a friend in the sea, Chudasama has ensured he always has a good time when he goes diving. In the coming year, he plans to visit the Galapagos Islands, which he says is the last frontier of sorts for him.