July 2010, I was heading to my home after completing a year of my PreSea training and I was supposed to join a ship for my further training known as onboard training for a deck officer, it would be of 18 months, divided into two 9-9 months’ sailings. After which, 6 months training in marine school then a small session of examinations, Only after completion of all this I could be a fully fledged Officer in charge of the watch(O.O.W) in Merchant Navy, Yeah! It sounds easy Na? Like I figured it all out and still too young for it. Well, wait a minute and read what I am going to tell you.
In our seamen fraternity we came to know that someone somewhere quits navy because it’s too hard out there to work in the sea or without something they can’t miss to sail, but my friends, this story is totally opposite of all the conceptions. There are a lot of incidents which actually drift you away from usual life, loosing yourself, into sea, on a ship. So, with no further delay let’s hear it.
A month passed after my arrival to home from training school, I was excited and pumped up that soon I’ll be on a ship and sailing around the world, earning in $$$ (ding!!). I was literally doing nothing except posting pictures on facebook, in that charismatic white uniform from my training days and passing out parade etc., it was going good. Then I came across a girl’s profile on facebook, we started chatting, exchanged our numbers and started talking on phone, ended up dating and finally became a couple. Yeah facebook! I assume, it was more because of the charm of that white uniform rather than me. (You’ll know why I am saying this)
Months passed but no call from my company which sponsored me, to join the ship. Slowly pressure was building up around me as my friends and family started asking questions, my mom also enquired once what is happening? , why am I still at home after all of this (Training, etc.). I was silently listening to everyone and everything and was still calm because of the two reasons. First, I knew my company will call, If not today then tomorrow, Second, my girl shared all that pressure with me, I mean, with her by my side I felt I’d conquer the world(…). It was never difficult to share problems and to ease off the situation. But it didn’t take much time for situations to change with her too. After some more days, she (my Gf) also asked me that are you really going to join? Mom said “I guess you like being at home and not working”, that hurt a lot. I did some thought processing, and reached to the conclusion that maybe I was not acting the way I should’ve, but then I decided to take lead and went out to visit the company office. They said the same thing that we have you in a line and we’ll call you when it’s required. I couldn’t force them. But I thought, in the meanwhile, I can go around and join any other company. I was too furious and adamant that I decided to join just any ship and get of the present situation. I just ran away. That was the biggest mistake till now!!
I was offered to join a ship from a contact which I came across in my recent quest to elope from land and it worked out. I was supposed to join from Tehran, Iran, everybody was happy with the news; I am leaving, well, let it be. Inside I was trying to convince myself to stay calm it’s going to be alright just leave for now. I was so much in hurry that I forgot to check the details of the company, the ship, its sailing etc etc etc. Another big mistake!
Everything happened in a blink and when I came back to senses I found myself on the seaport waiting for the paper work to complete to join my ship. I heard that the ship is ready to sail and is waiting for me to board. In half an hour I was standing at the gangway (ladder to climb on the ship) it was a little dark out there and I was tired so someone took my bag and ordered me to follow him and be Careful. I did the same. Our walk ended in a dim light cabin of two beds, I couldn’t see that guy’s face to recognize whether he was from Iran or from India. Well, I was ordered to take rest as I was not hungry and refused to eat.
It was my first morning and as I was ordered to wake up and get ready after breakfast until 8 am. I did the same. Did whatever I was asked to do the rest of the day and then again I found myself in bed thinking about the ship, the work I did today, the crew and comparing all these details to the information and teachings I was given in my training days and to those experience stories narrated to us by our teaching staff captains and chief engineers, what I figured out was this. The ship was old and like water truck carrying cement from Iran to Iraq only which is 7-9 days task back to Iran. I mean if we load the cement sacks in three day it takes us one day to reach Iraq and offload in 4 days then back to Iran again. The crew was 12 in number including me, 1 Pakistani,4 Indians,2 Bangladeshi and 5 were Iranian. Captain was a Pakistani, defense navy retired, had no control over the crew or events on the ship, he was there just to drive that truck,, I know, hard to believe but it’s the truth, all the orders were given from the E.T.O, electro techno officer, who happened to be the brother of the M.D of my company, and was the only Iranian to speak in English. We were not allowed to go out on the jetty and forget about going out of the port.
In some days I figured out that I’m stuck in an illegal ship which is running under the shield of anarchy in Iran and Iraq. Whatever be the reason but I was there and facing it big time. Some time on that small voyage we get to hear loud noise of shots fired and choppers roaming in that area of Iraq. It was hell out there. It was just the time which was passed to gather this information, from myself and from fellow Indians, I forgot but they got here the same way I did. Pressure and lack of patience. Had I be patient, ignoring all of that kept my calm and I would be at my home or may be called by my company (a real company).
I was too stressed, somewhat broken inside, the work I was doing there was just not the thing. I was feeling pity over me. Although I was in network for a call but I couldn’t because we were not allowed to call. My phone was taken away. First time when I called home by using a common mobile phone given to Indians and Bengali together it was almost a month since my joining. I felt like crying for the first time and to tell everything to my mom and girlfriend and tell them that I want to quit and comeback. But I didn’t, on that call I behaved as if everything is perfect. The reason behind it was that I wanted to fight, be patient and to get out of here with some sailing experience and join my old company again.
After some three months of that reckless period and some of the instances which happened to us, there came a day when I decided to go back and the day was, in Iraq where we supposed to offload cargo. It was a rainy day and cranes left the cargo on the jetty not on the trucks so that I can be transferred to where the heck it was supposed to. Then it started raining heavily and by heavily I mean like with thunders and furious winds. Suddenly that E.T.O brother of M.D called us all and ordered us to keep those sacks inside the empty truck so that we can leave early. We all looked at each other’s faces but couldn’t say NO. I don’t know about others but I felt as if I’m a construction labourman. Somehow I finished that task, killing my self esteem, and moved on to cast off from there.
Next day I was done, situations mentioned above is just an idea of that ship and friends, it was still the best ship on that port, there were other ships on the same route, carrying the same cargo but with crew from India, Iran and Bangladesh. Don’t know about others but Indians were either be fooled like me or they were dummy mariners who came to earn more money from their earnings in India.
Well, I was so depressed that I decided to leave sea life and work as a common man on the land. I still remember that call when I first explained the entire situation to my girlfriend, I thought it would be better; I’ll feel a bit relaxed and will carry on further. She forwarded all that to my mother and everyone panicked with whatever I have been facing there. They stood with me and favored my decision to come back. After some problems and some more days, I signed off and came back to my home. I lost 15 Kg of weight and lost 3 tones of skin color, many small and big scars were there on my body as if I returned from some battle field. Well that was not my concern.
After a week or so, I found myself in a new situation; I got two options, either to quit sea life and look for another career option or to join my old company back after checking all the details of the ship etc. Both options were difficult to execute as all I ever wanted was to sail but that was now a shattered dream because of my first and possibly last sailing and the first option would be like a fresh start, a new beginning. On the other hand, my girlfriend who really helped me after knowing the truth of that ship and before that too was anxious about my job, my future, our future.
After trying some of the career options suggested by relatives and friends, I encountered that the main test of my patience is about to come, I was declared as a Quitter, lost in dilemma, what to do now?! And then something happened which shook me from deep within condition of my house and family become unexplainable and my girlfriend who was acting like a shield, Left me. Actually she ditched me for some other guy who was an aspirant for defense pilot. Don’t know why, but I was lost now, completely lost, broken, dead broken.
But they say scars on the body describe how hard you fought, and the true fighter is the one who fight even when he cannot. Had responsibility of my family, my dreams, I still don’t know what happened in those ‘Dark Days’ as I have named them but I shook off the heat, and decided to join sea life again. It was like do or die situation, not with dreams of having a lavish ship and all that which I dreamt of before joining the first ship but to get away from whatever is happening around me, to try one more time, to give one more chance to my destiny and find that whether I am a winner or a looser.
I did, and here I am a second officer. Yeah, the same Officer of the Watch in a well known company, sailing around the world and getting paid in…yes $$$$(ding!!) and that girl friend, well you know….!!
Moral: Don’t let adverse situations shake your faith. Sometimes a wrong turn takes you to the right place.