Chandrashekhar Raut is a student of literature and a freelancer. Literature is his field of writing.
LIFE IS A VOYAGE
The storm approaches....
It was a smoggy day. The ship was shaking to and fro dangerously. It was cracking as if it was going to wreck soon. Dangerous tides were hitting hard at the edges of it. The wind was blowing wildly as though it would send the ship flying. The curtain was fluttering terribly and it was felt that it would be torn into pieces at once. It was impossible to stand on the deck without any support; those who were walking across the surface were finding it difficult to balance themselves and were fumbling. All these were the signs of an approaching storm.
The captain was firing quick rounds of orders at his crew members. His men were running here and there to act accordingly. The captain had decided to place the anchor on the spot until the storm retreated. As per the orders of the captain the anchor was dropped. The entire crew members performed their respective duties skilfully and silently.
Everybody was prepared to deal with the imminent storm. All preparations were made. Apart from the watchmen all other crew members got together in the cabin of the captain. The dinner was served in the cabin. Everyone ate whole-heartedly. At the end, they sat together and drinks were served. It was when they burst into a conversation. Everyone was telling how courageously he had faced a terrible storm earlier. They were exchanging their thrilling stories about their sea-journeys.
The Captain speaks..
While the talks were at its full swing, the captain was silent. He was listening every story curiously. Watching their captain tongue-tied, the men requested him to share his experiences. But the captain was reluctant to speak. Nevertheless, the crew members persisted and pressed him to tell them something about his voyages. At last, he succumbed to their pleadings and began his speech.
The captain gave his account as follow: ‘I began my career as a cabin boy. I was fourteen when I first embarked on a journey. It was a large ship well-know at that time, named- ‘the Fairy’. It was so big that it appeared like a palace of a lord. It was a passenger ship taking people across the Pacific Ocean. It had a huge crew. There were about fifty members serving on the board.’
‘I was very happy to see such a big ship. I had not seen any huge ship till then. It was for me a dream coming true. I had an aspiration since my childhood to be a crew member of a big ship. I dreamed of going on a sea voyage across the Pacific Ocean; to land on the other continent; to touch the soil of the other world. And, that was the beginning of realization of my dreams.’
‘My uncle was a sailor. He had sailed all his life. He died at the sea as well. He left the home to become a crew member when he was a fifteen years old teenager. His father was against his decision to sail. So, my uncle ran away. He was a courageous man. He faced many troubles in his sea journeys. He sailed across the world. He saw the entire world.
He landed on strange islands; saw odd people; fought with pirates; fall in their prisons; was abandoned on lonely islands; survived sea-wrecks; earned huge fortune and throw it away in gambling. He lived a life of a vagabond. He liked adventures. And what could be more thrilling than being a sea-traveller. At last he met a fitting end. He died in a sea-wreck.’
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known;
— Alfred Tennyson
The voyage begins....
‘My uncle would visit us once a year. Every time he would bring precious gifts for me from different parts of the world. He would tell me interesting stories about his sea adventures; the different people he saw; the strange lands he visited. It inspired me to be a sea traveller. I decided to become a great sailor like my uncle. When I told my father about my intention he was very angry. He was very angry with my uncle. He abused my uncle for spoiling me. He asked my uncle never to visit his home again. My uncle kissed my forehead and left the place at once. After that day no more was heard about him. At last, we got the news that my uncle lost his life when his ship had drowned. I was very unhappy to hear about my uncle’s death. I wept the whole night. This incident firmed my decision to become a sailor.’
‘I was waiting for a favourable chance. One night I left my home. I entered in a sea port and got myself admitted as a cabin boy. The stories told by my uncle were useful for me in my career as a sailor. Initially, I was a bit nervous and afraid. But in course of time I got experience of the sea travel. Soon, I became an assistant of the captain. The wisdom shared by the captain, Sir Henry, was the essence of my success as a captain. He told me that the ship was the deity of a captain. I followed his words and today I found myself as a successful sailor.’
The Pirate attack
‘Once I was on my journey for Africa. I was the captain of a big merchandise ship, the Fortune. Thirty men were under me to take care of the ship. They were all experts in their respective fields. The ship was filled with clothes meant for selling in the African market.’
‘The weather was perfect at that time for a sea tour. Favourable wind was blowing in the direction of our destination which made it easier for our ship to roll forth. The sky was clear. The bright sun shone in the blue heaven above.’
‘This was the most romantic atmosphere for sea lover like me. One morning I was taking my tea with my assistants on the deck, when one of the watchmen came rushing to us. He had become breathless by fear. No sooner did he reach me than shrieked loudly ‘pirates! Sir! Pirates!’ I asked him to calm down. When he breathed a while and got himself settled down a little bit, he informed that he just saw a pirate ship rushing towards them at a galloping speed.’
‘We went immediately at the watching tower and were shocked to see a large pirate ship coming nearer us like the wind. There were large numbers of pirates ready with all sorts of weapons to attack us.’
‘I ordered my men to take their weapons and position themselves in order to protect the ship. There was very little time before the pirates started the attack. They hit us with the cannon. This attack made my men to lose their morale. In a moment the pirates landed on our ship with the ropes. Soon most of my men were killed. Others were injured. I was taken as a captive. They killed the injured men brutally. I was kept as a prisoner in a cell.’
‘The pirates were heavy men. They wore clothes which were weird and had odd ornaments all over their body. They spoke a language which was strange and seemed as if they were quarrelling. For several days I was in the cell before they left me alone on an uninhabited island.
Fighting for survival!
I could see my ship loaded with clothes being carried away by the pirates. I could see it disappearing into the wide Blue Ocean. I was helpless; unable to do anything. I remembered Captain Henry’s words- ‘the ship is the deity of a captain!’
I felt intensely that I should make a suicide. After all what’s the use of surviving when you had lost your men as well as the ship. It was my utter failure. But, at the next moment, I reassured myself that I was a captain. I was born to fight; to conquer the overpowering ocean; not to give up at any cost but to face the death like a brave man. Had the pirates killed me that would have been a glory for me, but making a suicide would be nothing but a cowardly act. It was my duty to face challenges lying before me. So, I parted with the thought of committing a suicide and decided to go ahead with the challenges which were lying before me on this lonely island.
I recalled my uncle’s story that how he had survived on an uninhabited island after being left alone there. I had kept in the pouch of my mind safely all the tricks he had used to live there. First off, I learned how to kindle a fire by striking pebbles on each other. I was fortunate enough to find a cave which protected me from the hostile weather and wild beasts. Nearby, I searched out a stream abounded with fishes and crabs. Thus, it was useful for me in meeting my needs of food and drink. With a pointed stick, like a sphere, I was easily able to hunt down fishes and crabs.’
‘I would wake up early in the morning and finishing my daily routine, would go to the seashore. I would light a fire there so that it would signal any ship which might be passing by. I would wait desperately the whole day to find a ship which could rescue me. For days I had been waiting thus. At a time I was on the verge of losing all my hopes of getting back in the human world. I was eager to see a human being; to touch him; to speak with him; to enjoy the food and drink; to share all the pleasures and pains of a human life. I had been fed up with the lonely life on that island living among beasts; sharing their habitation and listening them I had started believing myself as a wild creature. I had been praying God sincerely.
Fortunately God heard my prayers. One day I was following my daily routine when the smoke whirling up in the sky did its job. A passenger ship was passing along the island. The cloud of smoke was seen by the guards on board and they sent boats. I was retrieve. While on the board of the ship I was feeling as if I had been in the heaven!
On board a haunted ship....
‘I didn’t mean to frighten you! But, trust me I have seen a ghost!’ said the captain. ‘I had just become the captain of a small passenger ship. It was presently bought by my new employer. It was my first journey as a captain. So far I had been working as an assistant of a captain. But, it was my ambition to be the captain of a ship.’
‘The journey commenced. The ship rolled ahead swiftly. The atmosphere was perfect. The crew members were in their high spirits. But a few days later an unfortunate incident happened. And it spoilt all the pleasure of the tour. The staffs of the kitchen complained that they had seen a ghost passing through the corridor adjoining the passenger- rooms, which led to the dining room at the one end. The other end ran up to the deck. The kitchen was attached to the dining room.’
‘They described the incident as follow. It was late in the night. It was the time to close the kitchen. Everyone had finished their dinner. The kitchen staffs had also dined. And, they were preparing to rest. It was then that they saw a figure passing slowly across the passage in front of the rooms of the passengers. They watched the person assuming him to be a thief and planned to catch him red-handedly. But, they could not figure him out in the dim light which shone out of the night lamps in the corridor. Before they could lay hands on him the figure disappeared in the faintness of the night. They said they were convinced that it was a ghost.’
‘Though this account of the men shocked me, I never believed a word of what they had said and dismissed it as an after effect of over drinking. They persisted on their statement but I was firm not to accept it. I was sure that the ghost was the fancy of the mind and under the spell of wine mind got wings.’
But I had to give a serious thought to this ghost story when a delegation of passengers came to meet me.
On the next morning, when I was preparing for the day’s work, my personal servant came and informed me that some passengers wanted to see me. I asked him to bring them in at once.
A gentleman, Mr. David, was heading the delegation. He was a man of fine features; well dressed; wearing a spectacle; clean shaven and had elegant manners. I welcomed my guests and ordered tea for them. Mr. David began the conversation.
He said, ‘Mr. Captain, we are here in connection with a serious matter. We are all respected people. I am a man of reason and don’t believe in superstitions. But what I have seen last night could not be explained otherwise but forces me to acknowledge what my fellow travellers believe. I declare that this ship is haunted!’
‘Haunted!’ retorted I. ‘It’s impossible! Ghosts don’t exist. They are but creation of the mind.’ I added.
‘Are you prepared to lose your dollar!’ asked Mr. David.
‘Which dollar?’ I inquired in a puzzle.
‘We will bet one dollar. If I could prove that there is presence of the ghost on the board, you will lose your dollar. We will wait tonight in the dining room and find out what’s the matter.’
I accepted the deal.
‘We got together in the dining room at 8 pm. We were four persons in the team; Mr. David and his close friend, Mr. James; and my assistant and I myself. We kept the entire crusade completely secret. We ate the dinner together discussing the pros and cons about how to hunt down the ghost; and sat down till all other men finished their meal and went away to sleep. I ordered the kitchen staffs to shut down it and go to take rest.’
‘Time was passing slowly and with each strike of the moment, our hearts were beating heavily. Though I was not afraid as I was sure that such a thing never existed at all, but other members of my team were apparently frightened. My assistant was in fact sweating and shivering. It was enough to make me smothered in my heart.’
‘All our eyes were fixed on the corridor in front of us. A sense of excitement was running through my body. At exactly 12 noon, as was described, I saw a faint figure gliding through the passage-way. It was a final blow to me. I was speechless and standstill, sitting glued on my chair like all others. We had forgotten all our planning. And did nothing but watched what was happening before us with wide open eyes. Within a few moments, the figure disappeared in front of the door of room no. 100! Fortunately the room was unoccupied.'
‘Next morning, I ordered to seal the room. And I issued a warning not to loathe about the room late in the night. I called a meeting with all the passengers and the staffs. And I requested them not to spin the matter further so as to create a panic.’
‘Later it came to know that the ship was really haunted and it was the ghost of the ex-owner’s son. He had committed a suicide after he had broken off from his girl-friend. In this way, we passed the tour under the shadow of the fright. After that I never set my foot on the ship again. And, I was sure neither would any on board have dared to be among the passengers of that ship again!’
Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
A sailor's philosophy
‘My uncle was my inspiration to be a sailor. He devoted all his life to the sea. The sea gave him the livelihood, name and fortune. And, at the end it took away his life as well.’
‘One might rightly think what he gained out of a vagabond’s life. Would he not have lived a better life as an ordinary fellow like my father?’
‘Certainly, he would have lived longer, had he lived a common man’s life. He was a clever fellow and hard working as well. He could have made fortune and lived a happy life on the ground. But he was a free bird of limitless sky. He could not confine himself in the cage of the home. The whole wide world, the limitless sky, the boundless waters was his dwelling place.’
‘He had the unsatisfying desire to travel; to see new lands; to face troubles; to live a life full of adventures; to experience death at each corner; He could not allow himself to be a cool guy sitting in front of a hearth praying God for averting a trouble. Instead, he was a burning fellow, full of fire, thanking God for all the troubles that he faced during the course of life and was grateful to Him for the courage that He had given him to bear them bravely.’
‘And what pleasure he might have derived out of such a vagabond’s life? He alone could tell that. One could not guess about his happiness or miseries. Through life-long travel and wandering across the world he had gained a vast vision which had the power to rise above the narrow outlook of a common man. Our shallow measures of happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and pain, profit and loss seemed meaningless to him. He had gained the wisdom to know the truth. He had learned the ultimate lesson that all the pleasures and pains were passing.
One should bear them with equanimity of mind. One who could bear heat and cold, storm and rain, hunger and thirst, as a sailor had to go through, would live a happy life no matter how hostile the conditions he faced; how great misfortunes he had to endure. He would win the battle of life and that too cheerfully. That was the philosophy of the sailor!’
The storm retreats
‘The storm arrived. With all its strength it tried its best to break the ship. But my ship was as strong as my will. It was only capable to cause little damage here and there. All my men, under my firm leadership, were well prepared to meet eyes with the storm. My story had incited a spirit of manliness in them.’
‘The storm was defeated. After some time of rough weather we saw the stars peeping out of the cover of black clouds!’
‘Soon, weather was fine for our journey ahead. The anchor was lifted up. And the ship resumed its voyage!’
Reaching the shore
The world is like a sea. Our life is a voyage. Each man is a sailor. He is in fact the captain of his own ship. The sea hides in its bosom precious stones and it also drowns us. We have to embark on the voyage no matter how reluctant we are; how prepared or unprepared; afraid or eager; each one has to go on this journey mandatorily.
Some go on it grudgingly; others enjoy it; a few make fortunes; many lose their lives; there is storms; rough weather; cold and rain; and there is also bright sunshine and so is starry blue sky!
One faces troubles and also experiences joy and excitement.
One who can stay on; can bear all pains, will at the end reach the shore!!!
© 2021 Chandrasekhar Rajendra Raut