Kure,Japan: A sweet memory
People feel ‘homesick’ when they are away from home. For seamen, perhaps, it is a margin between land and sea, cause world is their home.
(Sourced from National Geographic Channel) An ethnic group (in pacific islands) lives on the boat and they reach land at times for some commodities. If they stay longer ashore – they feel sea-sick, specially kids, cause they are born at sea, habituated at sea, land is a strange place for them, as they grow, intensity of sea-sickness reduces (not that sea-sickness caused by rolling/pitching).
These homesick and sea-sick apply to seaman too. A young seaman feels more homesick than an old seaman. I sailed with a Capt, who prefer long sailing, another words, he felt sea-sick while touching ports (port means verity of jobs along with cargo operation and sea means a routine life).
The middle ranked seamen (for example 2/O, 3/E) fall in the transaction category, neither homesick nor sea-sick, but they develop other symptoms like “food-sick”.
1987, I joined foreign company vessel – further away from home and while taking over 3/O’s job from a senior (same nationality) seafarer, he showed me bridge equipments and operations, plus LSA/FFA and opened a huge drawer packed with boxes of biscuits and noodles and advised me to buy more at next available opportunity. Within a week I realized the reason of my senior brother’s contingency food stock plan. And few weeks later I complained to the Captain that the food n cook is no good, I cannot eat. Capt took me to the saloon during lunch time and showed me how people were eating, they were not eating – sucking the food and Capt said, “can you hear….shooth-shooth? ……you cannot complain, food is no good or cook is no good – it’s just not your type. It is not my type either, but I have adjusted myself, so do you – faster you adjust, better for you.”
I did and survived onboard 15 months.
মাছে ভাতে বাঙালি, নাড়ী’র সম্পর্ক উপেক্ষা করা যায় না. Therefore I had been utilizing all opportunity for going ashore and finding some sub-continental restaurant for a deshi-taste like biriany, daal, vorta etc. But not every part of the world offers what we desire. However unavailability could not stop me, ultimately I grew a habit of eating ashore (like many other seamen) whenever ship touched port. Even sometime food is far away from মাছে ভাতে বাঙালি, but it was some sorts of entertainment.
Few years later, once I went in a Japanese restaurant at Kure, Japan. The place is famous for seafood. Some seaside restaurant offer fresh seafood right from the sea aquarium to the plate (thru kitchen ofcourse). The opportunity not to be missed, and at the same time I knew, a meal in Japan is costly and before heading out ensured I had enough cash for a seafood treat. Near the seafood restaurant I met my deck cadet, immediately I thought, do I have enough cash for 2? I sensed, yes, anyway, I just cannot enter a food shop ignoring my cadet, offered to join me. He agreed and we had a delicious meal. End of the meal I tried to escape ordering desert to avoid over-billed than what I had in my pocket, in another word to avoid borrowing money from cadet if I ran short. Surprisingly the restaurant employee brought 2 huge deserts for us and I sensed it would cost not less than 30/40 usd.
However, to stop further supply I asked the employee for bill, the desert was nice (perhaps) but unable to enjoy the taste cause my mind was concentrated with a worry of over-billed, later an old lady came from the kitchen and sat beside the cadet. She started expressing herself in Japanese, neither cadet nor I understood a single word. Later the employee brought teapot and three tiny cups on a tray and poured tea for all 3 of us. I sensed, definitely I would run short of cash to pay the bill – I was submerged with additional worry – whether the cadet had some cash to lend me. I expressed to the employee urge of leaving by showing my wrist-watch and asked her to produce the bill asap. She said, “no bill, you don’t have to pay. Dhozo.” ……….did I hear right????
Later I understood, the cadet look-a-like the old lady’s (restaurant owner) grandson and she couldn’t feed her grandson by exchange of money. Without 2nd thought, immediately I expressed – totally agree. It was like 20 tons off-loaded from a 5-toni truck – a huge relief for me. Later I found myself concentrating and enjoying some emotional sweet moments between a Japanese woman and an Indian Cadet. I forgot, moment ago I showed my wrist-watch to the employee that I had urge to leave.
On the way back to ship, I was a bit ashamed, hesitant at the beginning to take the cadet in and offer a dinner, now I had an expensive dinner free of cost because of my cadet.
The news spread onboard faster than lightning speed. Next day Indian P/Man, Fitter and few other junior officers grabbed the cadet, lifted thru arm-pit and said “chol, tera nani-ki dokan”.
Our OO (oil n ore) ship discharged iron ore at Kure and sailed around midnight. Next morning p/man reported me for day work. I asked him, “you look depressed, tabiat thik hay?”
“Maat puchho saab, etna sare khana order kia, finished, fer order kia, gole tok khaya (upto throat), fer…..old lady, uska (cadet) nani chhutti paar thaa.”