I was addressing a group of young hospitality professionals. The lecture began with how the Indian Hotel Industry was in the past, the current scenario and what could one expect in future. It was a pretty interactive session, much more than I expected it to be, overshooting the time! Let me not bore you with the lecture now…. Don’t know why boring gets itself attached to the lectures in the first place. Lectures have been the medium of imparting knowledge from time immemorial and they’ll continue to do so. They can be inexpensive and yet have the widest reach, making them being used so extensively.
Since this particular blog is for the marine fraternity, I wanted to touch upon a few things of the past, some forgotten and some remembered fondly incidents and memories. My source of information has mostly been my own sailor. He has shared a lot about his work and social life, as I’d express interest in the stories of the sea and the sailors. I have a particular liking for the breed. I always referred to his team onboard as a brigade. I shall cover a few good old day memories here, as it is rightly said that the old is gold. Present is right on your faces and as far as the future is concerned who knows it better than you all!
I found the only thing connecting the past, present and future times for the sailors is the good old Biryani! So much has been spoken about the Sunday delicacy. No sailor needs any intro to the chicken Biryani. Some of them fast the previous day so that they can make the most of their date with the Biryani. Yesterday I received the Sign off calendar from my husband and the unit of calculation was Biryani. I know he wanted me to have a nice laugh and count the biryanis too. Unfortunately no matter how much I miss him I can’t have biryani every Sunday!
People carry a lot of misconceptions about shippys or their profession. I remember when I told my colleagues and friends about me marrying a sailor. They instantly came up with the most common unwarranted comment, “A sailor has a wife at every port.” I would laugh it off as I understood what happened onboard and outside. Coming to my own experience, the fiancé didn’t even know how to ask me out forget taking me on a date. If he happened to be on the side of town where my office was he would pick me and drop me home, as if I was a highly perishable commodity that needed to be deposited home in the nick of time. This man can’t have a distant girlfriend forget wife.
The days of languorous shore leave are long gone. Overnight stays are unheard of and sailor towns a distant memory. In better ports, seafarers head for a seamen’s mission.
Let’s look at some other glorious things from the past, take it with a pinch of salt, all in good humour.
The haircut Saga
While onboard it became the moral responsibility of every cadet/ young officer to display his skill as a hair dresser. No matter whether he could handle a pair of scissors or not he had to do a good job with it; otherwise he’d be entrusted with others jobs too!
Women, read it as middle aged ladies; would visit ships at the port and do the mending job for clothes. A stitch here and tuck there or fixing that loose button. It was one opportunity to see the fairer sex around. No complaints but the ones who came giving their clothes would be dressed well and smelling a lot better than they would on other days.
Mobile Phones with calling cards
Talking about the days when there weren’t hand phones in use. Sat phones were expensive, so the sailors looked forward to the girls who’d visit ship with mobile phones and calling cards. The crew onboard could call home from their cabins, which was a luxury. Even if one didn’t intend calling home the pretty girl who came with the phone was the reason enough to make that one call. Need I add that the men dressed even better than they’d while giving their clothes for mending? Looking, feeling and smelling good, all in one; there was certain charm to it. A lot of made up stories that would be shared among the group and they’d remain the top talk till the next such visit onboard. Making the saying empty vessels make a lot of noise true. All jazz and hardly any truth in it.
Ship chandlers, along with their lady colleagues would bring not only provisions but a lot of happiness for the crew onboard. Any opportunity to see a beautiful lady was never missed.
The captain was commanding the vessel in the real sense. He only had to order and all was done. He had a radio officer with him and also a purser. His job was planning the operations; execution was the duty of the Chief Officer and his team. The top two, Captain and the Chief Engineer were the ones who called the shots, mostly sporting the royal beard as well.
The crew looked forward to the shore leave, in those days they were quite common. All were happy to go out and spend some money. This was pre ISPS and 9/11. With the implementation of ISPS shore leaves are restricted to the extent that some are stopped altogether.
There was a certain charm that the shipping industry carried which has changed to some extent. There was luxury which is commonplace now. Captain’s job profile has changed too, not just a commander any more but has to double up for a lot of other’s when there is a need; this today applies to all professions not just shipping. Ships have connectivity and everyone uses mobile phones. One is in touch with the outside world virtually and with family as well as friends, over video calling. Only shows the industry has changed for good and has made life easier. But good old days do bring a smile on our faces as the new generation of mariners will never connect with some of the things of the past.
If the sea mesmerizes you and you love the tales that it gives birth to, do follow my blogs on Cdr Abhilash Tomy, who is a Sailor par excellence. He is the first Indian, second Asian and 79th person in the world to circumnavigate the earth in a sailboat unassisted and without any stops. His next big event is the Golden Globe Race 2018.