The cave experience

All of us have heard about the young Thai footballers who were trapped in a cave in June; an incident that caught the attention of the entire world.

Here was a group of teenagers who came through a tragedy in spite of all odds. And it was a team effort. I believe that calamity brings out the best and worst of humanity.

The Moo Pa (Wild Boars) Academy team, whose ages ranged from 11 to 16, was trapped with their 25-year-old coach, Ekaphol Chantawong, inside the six-mile Tham Luang cave in the Doi Nang Non mountain range in Thailand on 23 June 2018.

The group had planned to explore the Tham Luang cave complex after their soccer practice. But, it being the rainy season, a heavy downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them inside. About two miles of narrow, flooded passageways separated their refuge from the main entrance. Nine days later rescue divers located the team sheltering on a ledge surrounded by water.

We often think of teenagers as restless, aggressive and always busy with gadgets. But here was a team of boys who relentlessly followed the directives of their coach; he taught them how to meditate in order to keep calm while awaiting the rescuers.

The coach, a former monk, had learnt the art of poise and deep contemplation and the mastery of self, right from an early age.

The parents though worried and tense remained calm.

The politicians did not start a blame game.

The ordinary citizens rallied around to be of use in whatever way they could.

The international team who came to the rescue proved that humanity has no borders.

The martyr, Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy Seal, risked his life to place oxygen canisters along the rescue route; his life flows through these kids for they live because of him.

The rescue effort revealed a harrowing tale of grit and patience — no food, surviving on water dripping in the cave, they encouraged each other.

“I told everyone, ‘Fight on, don’t despair,’” one boy said. Another said he learned to make smarter choices and “live life to the fullest”. Others said they hope to emulate the heroes who saved them, and become rescuers one day.

It was dark, the boys could not see their own hands, and yet when they heard the diver’s voice, there was hope. It took another few days to get them out, with meticulous planning, patience, grit, determination and the employment of so many people, time, money and manpower.

Why was there a need for all this effort? Simply because every life is precious. The young boys’ lives were worth more than all the resources invested to get them out.

One life was lost, but many were saved, the world rejoiced and welcomed them with love and affection. They were not World Cup winners, but heroes when they came out, for the ordeal they faced was against all odds of nature and life itself; a much greater competition than the World Cup.

The incident gives us an insight into the power of nature, the futility of ego, and the power of love that unites everyone beyond all borders. It calls us to be in touch with the Divine to charge ourselves through Him everyday just as we charge our devices.

Sr Flavia Vaz is the Principal of St Mary's Convent School, Chinchinim, Goa.

Sr Flavia Vaz

Sr Flavia Vaz is the Principal of St Mary's Convent School, Chinchinim, Goa.