Few months back, on August 15, as everyone back in India were busy commemorating The Indian Independence, I along with my other fellow Indians were completely socked in sweat after a tight schedule in Galveston port in United States. But, as soon as we completed the loading of our oil cargo, we decided to celebrate the Indian Independence in a distinctive fashion (Yeah of course at sea). So post lunch, we had a small get-together (Filipino and Indonesian crew too joined us ). It was followed by hoisting of Indian-flag on the mast, and then sounding of the general alarm which reverberated with seven short and long blast across the seas. Soon the national anthem was played on the speakers. Though everyone dwelled from different countries, the pride with which they sung the song was quite admirable and pleasing. Later, we had a group shot of our team and I thought that’s it. But, there was a surprise party organized by the Galley Department which was preceded by a session for the cadets. They were asked to give a speech on the topic
” Life Of A Seafarers ”
I still remember the day back at my college, when I was asked to give a power point presentation in a seminar, conducted by the Institute Of Marine Engineers on the eve of Independence Day. All the colleges from Chennai, India were asked to represent one candidate for the same. To be frank, that would be my first presentation in front of a huge gathering. My preparation was not best in any way, but I felt it was fair enough to compete. And when the day arrived, to my dismay, I was scheduled to the last spot in the group to present it. The presentation started with a female candidate. She was stunningly beautiful. I really wondered what made her join the seas. She was everyone’s attention for the whole 20 min. Even I was mesmerized by the way she spoke. Later, other presentation followed one by one. To my surprise, though the presentation had a common title to speak about, the same words were used again and again, but in a different sequence. Moreover my presentation was post lunch. I saw that the judges were losing interest and the audience were bored to the core. In the front seat, my college Principal kept gazing at me and asked if I could crack it. I was sure nervous, but I assured him I could handle the pressure. I knew if I give the presentation on what I had prepared, everyone would fall asleep including me. So I changed the whole content of my presentation at the last moment, but kept the slides of my power point same. And once I was on the podium and displayed this picture on the screen (the one below), all eyes widened. I knew I had got everyone’s attention and from that moment, there was no turning back. I started the speech clearly explaining my experience as a third year student, and added few funny incidents back at my college to provoke laughter, and kept the audience fresh and ecstatic. To my surprise, when I ended it,there was a huge applause and it was considered as the best closing presentation. My eyes welled up with tears but I managed to smile. The female candidate rose from her seat and appreciated me for stealing her show. Later my entire speech was featured in the “The Hindu” Indian newspaper. It was a moment of pride for my college, which was then considered as a small fish in the market. But after that, the whole scenario changed.
Cited down below is my speech as I remember it.
The White Caps and Blue Stripes
There was a sudden bang on my door ,and then followed the sound of whistle. And from somewhere a boisterous voice echoed in my ears.
“Roll-call, Everyone muster in the parade ground. Fast”, howled the crooked warden.
I was still half –asleep but I got up very next instant when I heard the second thud on the door. I rushed towards the parade ground. The warden counted the heads with the aid of senior cadet captains and we were dispersed to continue for sports. I just strolled around, thinking about how I landed here in this academy midst different rules, norms and plenty of regulations. I just swayed my mind to recall when I was made a part of this cetacean family of sailors – “ The Great Mariners ”. I remembered a small incident, which took place in my childhood days.
During my kindergarten days in school, we used to sit on benches rather than tables and chairs. The front rows were occupied by boys and the rear ones by girls as we boys were considered to be scalawag. But I used to sit only in last row and get engrossed with girls when the teachers used to take classes regarding rhymes and poems. But I still do remember a segment of a well-known poem, which is stated as follows: –
“ Deep blue sea with rushing waves in it,
Deep blue sea with wandering ships in it,
Deep blue sea with tiny and big fishes in it,
Deep blue sea with seagulls flying above it,
Deep blue sea is a fabulous and admirable gift of god.”
There were many chapters briefing about the well-known navigators, explorers etc round the world. The best example is Columbus.
Initially, the sea was a mysterious element to me, to be watched from a distance, from the security of solid land under ones feet. City slickers might denigrate sea as “KALA PANI (Black Water)” but for those who love nature, there is plenty to admire. It was love for adventure and outside that drew me towards merchant navy.
I thought sailing was a pastime for business tycoons lazing around onboard luxurious yachts, but after joining the marine academy it was a real eye opener. For an introvert and shy person like me, pursuing this career was like being carried in a whirlwind. But I did join the academy with some anxiety and tension hoping the transition from civilian way of life to that of a marine engineer would be smooth one. But I was wrong from the beginning.
As a first year cadet, everything seemed to be complicated, awkward and yes sometimes amusing. Getting up early in the morning, running rounds and rounds around the parade ground wearing those half pieces of clothes provided by academy and what they call as P.T Rigs. If u skip, the crooked wardens would hound you. And finally follows the systematic routine provided by the management over here.
But as the days passed, the tough mountain became a tame hill. Many times I was homesick and unsteady. Recurring memory of my parents and family was too much to bear, but these words kept me strong. The words on the notice board in our academy read: –
“ When you have the attitude to excel,
Every race ends in victory.”
These words often helped me face the hardships of training, to keep myself motivated, when the odds were stacked against me or when the going got really tough, and only my will to succeed propelled me forward.
When I entered the third year, I slowly understood what is truth. The navy is an institution of learning. From the cadet’s time, till the day one hangs up ones uniform, the ever-changing nature of a seafarer’s life is an ongoing education in handling people and gaining knowledge in handling situations.
“ Men — the one with whom you sink or swim — who look to u for guidance in moments of crisis and whose actions or lack of action can spell difference between success or disaster at sea. It’s all about discipline — abiding to certain rules and norms of social life. Discipline is vital to a successful mariner. Without this even the army is reduced to a disorderly mob.
Many people join this field as handsome salaries allure them, but they never think about the tedious and rough conditions ahead. The mere result is —-ending up working onshore. They enter the field with great ecstasy, but as the time follows, they seemed to be lost. What I say is “don’t give up”. You need to steel your heart, and resolve to keep in touch with your fellow mariners, and cross all the hurdles and obstacles. This field helps in building up our courage, resilience and would most importantly the spirit of teamwork. This field also enables us close to the elements of nature. The path ahead is long and tough and you need miles to go to succeed and to become a good marine officer. Always keep in thought: –
“The sea looks lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
Miles to go before I sleep.”
(My sincere apologies to Robert Frost)
And from somewhere again the same old boisterous voice echoed in my ears and soon followed the sound of whistle.
“Time for bath. Get ready for dinner. Fast”, howled the crooked warden.