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The call of the sea

Friday, 27 June 2014 - 6:55am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Westcoast resident and ex-Merchant Navy Captain, Kamal Chadha recounts his life at sea

Imagine trying to run a car without fuel or no food on the table to feed hungry mouths. While we may believe that money can buy almost anything, do we ever wonder about how oil, food, gas, electronics, cars and other necessities and luxuries arrive at our doorstep?

With endless oceans surrounding and separating countries and continents, it is the seafarers, the proverbial elves, who make our lives easier every day. "Seafarers practically move almost all the modern world's needs," elucidates Westcoast resident and ex-Merchant Navy Captain, Kamal Chadha, "Seafarers are responsible for carrying goods and passengers safely. They navigate the vessel, load the cargo, stow it, secure it, and deliver it to the destination. They also maintain and operate the ship's machinery, while a small catering department keeps them nourished on a modern vessel. Storms, mountainous waves, icebergs and deathly chill winds must be faced with an iron will."

So, what is it that makes a person want to embrace the perilous ways of the sea, we ask? "The part that attracted the teenager in me to seafaring was that this career would not bind me to a desk. Assuredly, there was adventure here. Seafaring has taught me to value physical fitness, not compromise on self-discipline and have a healthy respect for nature. Very importantly, I have learnt not to rush headlong into challenges, but to work my way through them patiently."

One would imagine that after the rough sea have done its work, seafarers can take it easy. Unfortunately, it isn't so. "In recent times, two new threats have arisen. One: the much talked about menace of piracy; now somewhat under control in most parts including around East Africa, but on an alarming upward trend around West Africa. Second: the untoward haste shown by nations to arrest seafarers, and incarcerate them for long periods without sufficient justification, when the concerned nation's territorial waters are polluted or are in danger of being polluted."

Even so, merchant seafarers do offer back-up for the nation's navy when they take up manning of ships that are used to replenish the frontline battle vessels. "Today it is about ensuring that our energy supply continues uninterrupted," adds Chadha.

Presently serving as a MD of a publishing house, Chadha has long been a pioneer in disseminating the message of seafarers among the masses. "Instituting a Seafarer's Day had long been on my mind and I initiated a signature campaign in 2009. We spent a year collecting lakhs of signatures. The first Seafarer's Day was launched on the first Saturday of December 2010, and we organised a Walkathon on the day in Mumbai to mark it. In 2011, however, the International Maritime Organisation, a UN body, declared a 'Day of the Seafarer' of their own. I could have received the news with mixed feelings only. But for obvious reasons, I let my own 'Seafarer's Day go in favour of a more widely recognised Day of the Seafarer."

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