Little did I know about the hazards of life at sea when I first entered the world as a shippy’s wife.A picture clouded with travelling to exotic locales, while spotting sea creatures en route to a journey, sunsets and sunrise adorning the horizon each day while I sat on portholes for hours on end admiring and enjoying the tranquility of the sea and its varied moods came to clarity over the years. The hazy picture conjured with images of glamour and style lost its glory each time I came to know a little more about this life.
For our sailors, it’s like the only life they know; as they spend a chunk of their life dedicated to the sea.
As early as eighteen years of age sometimes, while their contemporaries enjoy a life free from responsibilities and hanging out with friends, some destined to become sailors find themselves adjusting valves and calculating ETA’s. They bid goodbye to smart and funky casuals to get dressed into heavy boiler suits and safety shoes not to mention an uncomfortable helmet that supposedly will protect them from mishaps. And the distress doesn’t end there. Life goes on shuttling between sea and shore, while studying for exams and giving orals to go higher up in the rank.
But the one thing that always struck me each time I saw these men, was the fact and their ability to take everything in their stride. Odd hours or intolerant weather conditions they wear the happy go lucky attitude on their sleeve. Away from families for months on end there’s a lot that a shippy loses out on. Leaving behind ailing parents or a growing child is definitely not easy, but as they succumb to the demands of their profession they also get into the skin of the most uncomplaining human beings.
While I went sailing each time I possibly could, my folks back home wanted to hear of stories to where I travelled and what I saw. And I readily and happily obliged omitting bits and parts of difficulties that are encountered on board. Trying to keep up pace with the man who remained busy round the clock, sometimes when we hardly got to see each other besides a rushed meal or a hurried brush along the alleyway. And as one gets used to a surrounding at their own pace and time I finally managed to do so too. Almost turning a blind eye to the number of hazards these men are subject to we unconsciously pray for their safety and well-being each time they wave a goodbye and sometimes each time they step out of the cabin to go on their missions of the unending operations.
Piracy attacks and distress calls, fall on decks and cold burns due to gas were things I heard about and forgot. As they say until it strikes your close one or simply an acquaintance, one just doesn’t realise the blow of it. Only when I heard of the mishap on a vessel did I realize what a close call it was. While the heavy compensation that the company will shower on the families of the dead sailors, who will account for the unending grief that will loom over their homes? The lively smile of one of the AB’s who died fails
to recede from in front of my eyes. His voice while he made us laugh in parties and his word to word mouthing of lyrics during our antakshari (musical game) sessions on board the last ship rings through my head even now. If only they had done something right, if only they had taken safety measures, if only…..! I guess
the “If only’s” have no end. Mishaps happen and accidents occur all of a sudden to make us realize of the importance of each breath we take… And yet forget to thank God for all that we have…
Article by: Devyani Bisht