Saturday, January 4, 2014
Anchored on High Seas
Wrote this story for a competition. Thought to post it here as well
Alex was sitting at the dockyard, at the very edge of the pier, legs dangling over open waters. The wind blew the tides towards the pier and they crashed with the poles of the pier, splashing Alex’s feet with cool seawater. Alex seemed to be lost in thought, mindlessly throwing pebbles into the water creating ripples. He was distressed, discouraged and depressed.
He was a typical teenager, naughty and mischievous. His family, being fed up of him, had sent him to a boarding school far away from home. He disliked everything about his school- the other students, teachers, classes and even the food. He wished to be back at home, where he was in his element and the ruler of his own realm. He loved his sheltered life at home and wished to always stay there.
He was woken from his reverie by a voice right above his head “Hey there. Are you lost, little one?”
Alex lifted his head to see the inverted face of an old man, with a weather-beaten look and the drawl of a sailor. He replied “In a way, I am, Mate”
The sailor sat down next to him and said “A penny for your thoughts, young hand? You can get whatever is troubling you off your chest.”
Alex smiled ruefully and said “I don’t think anyone can help me. My family doesn’t like me. They sent me to this stupid school far away from them. I hate everything about this place. I want to go back to my home.”
This time, the sailor smiled knowingly. “Ah. So that is what is troubling you. I guess that’s a problem alright.” And the sailor became silent for some time.
The sun was past its high point and soon it would be dusk. It was that time of the day when it’s still light, but the sun is not visible and a good breeze blows. Against this nostalgic backdrop, one could find these 2 figures sitting along the pier, silent and serene.
The sailor broke the poignant silence and asked “You want to hear a story mate? It seems we both have time to kill.” Alex simply nodded, but seemed to cheer up with the prospect of one of those famed stories of the sailors.
The sailor looked towards the horizon and began: There was once a young kid named Nat, who used to live around here. He used to frolic around and cause trouble to the sailors, upsetting their routine or hiding their tools. Yet, he was good and innocent at heart. He wouldn’t wish to cause real harm to anyone. He loved his life and the place, as it was always bustling with activity and new sailors to trouble. He was content.
One day, his father, who was a second mate on one of the ships, came home. He was a big, burly, gruff man, kind but strict as a father should be. He greeted everyone enthusiastically since he had been away for a long time and had not set eyes on his family all that time. After the cheerful welcome, the family sat down for dinner.
Towards the end of dinner, the father rose from his place. Everyone’s eyes were now fixed on him, full of expectation and further happy news. The father cleared his throat, said warm words for the welcome he had received, expressed his happiness at being back with his family. The after a short pause, he said “I have decided that Nat is now old enough to work on a ship. I have already talked to the captain of one of the ships leaving day after tomorrow and he has agreed to take him on as a helping hand. The ship will be at sea for almost 5 months before reaching its destination. Another 5 months to come back. Therefore, we will not be seeing Nat for the next 1 year. I wish Nat fares well, and may there always be wind in his sail.” With that he sat down.
All eyes were now on Nat. Nat looked spellbound and utterly at a loss of words. “Ship....Sea....Away.....family.....joy......sadness......” were a few things going on within his mind. He did not know how to react. Slowly, the panic set it, the fear of leaving home, away from his cherished world, his world turning topsy-turvy in a short span of 1 min.
It was then that everyone started talking at the same time. His mother came up to him with tears in her eyes and hugged him hard, all the while crying and patting his back. All she said afterwards was “I will help you pack.”
It had been 3 weeks since Nat left his family at the pier. He still missed them but he hardly had the time to think about them. The life of a helping hand on the ship was a demanding one. It was rigorous and backbreaking work as well. He had been physically sore for the first 2 weeks on the ship but now the daily routine had set in and the pain was not so much.
Nat had met every sailor, 50 in all, present on the ship and was intrigued by the myriad backgrounds they came from. There were sailors from all parts of the world, from places he had not even heard of. He was determined to find out all he could about the various places. Slowly, Nat forgot his initial apprehension about leaving home and began enjoying the new experiences which came his way due to being the part of the ship crew. From being stuck in the doldrums for days together, to seasickness, to the various languages spoken aboard, to the stories narrated by the sailors of their homeland.
Nat realised that there was so much more to see, hear, learn and experience, that he started to realise how foolish he was to have wanted to stay back home. He learnt the meaning of life and belief as well as knowledge on that ship. Each journey he made, taught him more about life, enhanced his knowledge and strengthened his belief system.
After many years of sailing around when he came back home, he decided to write his memoirs on the high seas. He called his memoirs “Anchored on High Seas”.
With this, the sailor pulled out a small book from his pocket and handed it over to Alex. It was dog eared and smudged with various stains but still in good condition and all the pages were present. The sailor said, “Nat was a friend of mine. He gave me this book before he left for his final voyage. This book has given me a lot of insight into my own life. I hope it helps you the same way as it helped me.”
Saying this, the sailor got up, ruffled the hair of Alex in a friendly manner and left. Alex was still in the world of Nat, on a ship exploring strange new lands.
Alex was back in his room, still lost in thoughts about the life of a sailor and the varied adventures they have. He still held the book in his hand and opened it to some random page. He began reading it and found a lot of florid, vivid descriptions of lands Nat had visited. Along with that, there was also a section on what Nat learnt about life through the life of a sailor. Below are a few chosen extracts Alex found relevant to himself.
Day 105: Today was the 3rd day since we have been stuck at high sea due to no winds. All day long, the crew sits on the deck, staring at the sails, in hopes that it would fill up with wind again and they can proceed. We are literally “Anchored at High Seas”. It has been a good time to talk to the sailors who are otherwise busy. One thing I could figure out from them was that they had utmost Belief in their destiny. They truly believed that they were present right here, on the seas, stuck with no winds for a purpose. Their belief was their Anchor- the Anchor of Life. It was this anchor that kept them sane and provided them solace in times of need and also in times of joy. Hard times only helped to harden their resolve and good times made them believe they were on the right track to their destiny. When asked why they are so devout, they said “If I don’t have this belief, I am lost. I couldn’t wake up in the morning. I couldn’t go through the day. I would have an existential crisis”. Their belief system is the very core of their life, their Anchor which connects the free spirit within them to the materialistic nature of this world. If they do not believe in themselves and their goals, they do not exist. One belief defines them. I learnt from them that man is as man believes. His belief system in something is what drives him forward. It’s the force that continuously pushes him ahead towards his destiny. One sentence from an ancient mariner summed it all up for me. “Look closely at what you believe. Because it encompasses how you live.
Day 710: You do not meet such erudite people often; people of such faith and humility, yet with the wisdom of the world in their eyes, and maturity of the ages in their thinking. It was happenstance that I came in contact with such a person exactly at the time when I was pondering over the questions- “I have seen the world. What should I do now?” It seemed quite useless to keep going places without going anywhere. Yes, I have been to several parts of the world, seen various cultures, but what now? It was at this junction that Mr. Yusuf Ali came in contact with me. He lay down on his divan, with strong Turkish tea to sustain himself while I sat opposite him on a straight backed chair, feeling uncomfortable. I had recently brought back an assignment of precious cargo for this gentleman, and he, taking a liking for me, had requested a quiet chat before I departed.
He looked at me for some time with a penetrating glance, as if searching my soul, and then seemed to have been content with what he found. He let the silence between the 2 of us build. At last, being fed up with this game, I asked “What do you want?” to which he replied “The truth”. It confused me further “Truth, about what?” He replied – “Truth about what you seek”. I blurted out “I seek the truth about Knowledge. What should I use it for?”
Yusuf smiled and nodded. “The fact that you have asked this question shows that you have matured. Like wine stored in a barrel, like a well simmered Iraqi tea. What you seek is not knowledge, but where would you apply this. You seem to be frustrated with this mere gathering of information with no viable use of it. Knowledge is secondary. Your intent is primary. A person, unless he gathers information for a specific use, is now said to be knowledgeable about that use. Without intent of a specific use, knowledge is just information. You are a sailor, you must know about the direction of the winds. That is information. When you know how to change the sails to get the best draft- that is called knowledge.
No one in this world can be knowledgeable about everything. But we can all attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible. The more knowledgeable we are, the more situations in life we can tackle. The more situations we can tackle, the more experienced and successful we are. Knowledge is all about storing the tools of learning in the attic of mind, to be retrieved whenever there is a need for such tools to repair, destroy or build something in this world. Knowledge is your ultimate arsenal. It is the weapon which no one can take away from you, and which you alone know how to control. It can be constructive or destructive depending upon the way you use it.
This encounter changed my perspective on how I viewed knowledge. It was then, that I realised, what I had thought off as knowledge was nothing but information. From today on, I shall seek to be more knowledgeable, than informed.
Day 1879: This is one of my last pieces of writing. I have run out of things to write about. Most people ask me, how your life has been. All I have to say to them is “It has been OK. Nothing to complain about. Could have been worse.” But I have been pondering over this answer I have been giving and have come to some realizations. Life is not what you make out of it, it’s how you take it. Life is not a journey to seek a goal. It is simply a journey. The goals keep changing with the passage of time. The Anchor of Belief and the Thirst for Knowledge are the 2 key factors that propel us forwards to seek newer heights. And thus, life has a very simple definition.
LIFE – Look Inside For Everything
Posted by HELLSLAYER at Saturday, January 04, 2014