Sep 252010

The regular readers of this blog know that I was a shippie until very recently. Shippie is a term used for a person who work on ship. I worked in the capacity of a marine engineer on five different ships. Following is not my resume. It explains to you the food habits on a normal ship.

My very first ship was with the shipping corporation of India. Before being inducted in the corporation, I had to undergo training for a period of one year under the guidance of very senior marine engineers, with lots of good tales to tell and experiences to share. I never had my mind on studies during the training period, but whenever any instructor recollected any incidence regarding food onboard(on the ship), my eyes would wake and my ears open up. From what they told, I had a general impression that the food onboard was good most of the times. Very rarely would it be bad. Bu it was always abundant and free flowing, considering the long voyages(journey between two ports). And the cooks seemed to be the best of all.

During the tenure of my five ships I had a very mixed view about this.

My very first ship, M.T. Subhedar Joginder Singh PVC, was a crude oil tanker, and being old, most of the voyages were to the Indian coastal ports(Except for that one time when we went to Labuan, Malasiya). So, food getting spoiled, was almost a rare event. But, I do not recollect a single day when all the three meals, were fit for a king. I would always be either a good breakfast, a good lunch, or a good dinner. But never a combination of two goods and one bad, or three goods all together on a single day. Be it diwali, Id, Christmas, or any other festival celebrated in India. The catering department pointed out that this kind of diet was abiding to the INSA-MUI rules, and was a balanced diet. Funny to hear this on ship where you work hard with heavy machinery under extreme conditions.

Here I must interrupt to explain in brief, a funny kind of agreement made between the INSA(Indian National Ship owner’s Association) and the MUI(Maritime union of India), with regards to food(most of the clauses from the entire agreement are very ridiculous, but I stick to food.)

The agreement states the type of meals a seafaring officer will be provided. It goes in length and details to explain the number of official meals, served by stewards, an officer is entitled to. And it does not stop here. The union has even quantified the amount of milk a person can have, in milliliters. And the catering officers stick to it. They have described in details what type of combination of food should be prepared for each meal.

So back to my ship, where we were served slices of cheese after lunch, as a mouth freshener. With only one good meal, we had to decide early in the morning which meal to load ourselves with, and adjust our other meals accordingly. The very first month when I was put up for a night shift along with the fourth engineer, I learned that its a common practice on ships during the night watch, to cook something in the galley(kitchen of the ship). Most of the times, we would boil eggs inside the engine control room itself, using an electric tea kettle. Which was forbidden, so don’t tell my chief engineer. But once I went to the galley, and being interested in cooking and all, and made some scrambled eggs. The next day, I found some chicken legs in the refrigerator. I fried two of them and shared with the other junior engineer. The third day, the refrigerators were locked with a custom made latch onboard. So no more “stealing” supplies from the fridge. For the next six months, we were scrambling eggs which we were supplied for our night shift.

On to the second ship, which I joined at Mumbai port, where picked up supplies for our journey to Iran. From there we were scheduled to go to mohammedia, morocco and the catering officer got some “news” that the ship was supposed to come back to Mumbai from Morocco. So he ordered for the minimum supplies, as he calculated that he could pick up some on the return voyage at the Suez canal transit. Just before arrival to Morocco, it was declared that we would be going to the Angola offshore oil field, and then to Houston. All the calculations went wrong. The catering officer could not pick up supplies from Morocco, due to the exorbitant prices(a slice bread packet for 200 rs and a dozen eggs for 400 rs.). And there were no provisions at Angola offshore field. So we had to cut down on our food varieties during the transit to Houston. A one point at the end of the voyage, we had no bread, almost no milk, no fresh vegetables(salads were stopped from the day the catering officer found that his calculations had gone wrong.) Those were the days when I came to know about chicken giblets. One fine morning, the menu announce that we would be served chicken giblet curry for lunch. I was thrilled since I was about to taste something new, even when we have a food crisis onboard. Only later did I realise that giblets were the spare parts of chicken, which included the toes.I am fortunate enough not to have read chicken giblet curry on any menu card, anywhere, after that day.

On the day of my signoff(when we are relieved from our duties, its called as signing off from the ship) I went for lunch, only to find prawns curry. I started eating it, and mid meal, I asked the chief steward about when he had picked up new supplies with the prawns. He informed that the provisions were from Mumbai, about 8 months, and hundreds of of run/stopped refrigeration operations, old. May be that was the reason I had to stay empty stomach from afternoon till 10 pm when I entered the Cairo airport. Another common thing on both these ships were the mackerel. Very old and dry. Felt like they had been purposely dried to preserve for many months. They stink when fried.

My third ship wasn’t any better, being the same old SCI mentality. In fact, I was a food on that ship, with all the bed bugs sucking out my blood.

Things changed a lot after I moved to a foreign flag ship. This ships, though managed by Indian staff from land, had a very different culture. Though the provision stores were under lock and key, we never went disappointed whenever we requested something to the chief cook, who was the in charge of the entire galley operation under the supervision of the Master(the captain of a ship is called the master. He is the owner of the ship while onboard and is responsible for its proper functioning.) Provisions were picked up just enough for the voyage, and a bit more accounting for any delays. There were fresh provisions every 7-15 days. There was no rule regarding how much milk or juice a person consumed. Also there was an advantage of working with Filipino crew. I could try out various dishes popular to Pinoy(Filipinos). Various kind of soups including pork, meat, shrimps, crab were common. Onboard was the first time I tried crisp fried squid(kalamari in pinoy). Steak was good. And, this was the first time I came across a full fledge party onboard, with barbecue on the poop deck(aft deck, or the deck on the back end of the ship). A pigs head, with apple in its mouth, was roasted almost every time we had a party. Parties didn’t require occasions. A long voyage with calm weather and a jolly captain would suffice. Drinks were free flow. Beer, whisky, rum, vodka, wine…you name it.

Then we had times when we officers, who had some interest in cooking, would take over the galley for one meal. Its would be fun, and the end product would be exciting. Its surprising to know how efficient, men, who have no training in the kitchen, can be in the galley.

Though the times have changed, and its rare to find a ship with the “free flow of good food” culture depicted by our senior instructors at the training institute, I still feel that with the combination of right people on board, the sailing tenure can be a fun. Food wise or otherwise. Tags: ,,
Sep 162010

I was a baby, I had no worry. I crawled on the ground, without any hurry.

As I grew up, my arms grew long. Carrying heavy school bags, my shoulders grew strong.

And before I realised, I took the charge. I had few responsibilities, some small, some large.

But now I feel burdened, and I feel its a mess. I need to do something, to relieve this stress.

Was today the umpteenth time that you felt sad for the poor children you saw on the streets, but couldn’t do much about it? Was today the day when you felt that your stock tips could have made many rich, like you? Did you find out something interesting today, on the technology front, which you wanted to share with someone? Did the recipe you tried today turn out to be good, but none of your friends had the taste to appreciate it? Did you feel frustrated today because the ministry is using your money to fill their personal coffers? Or did you feel like doing something different from what you always do?

Well, blogging is your tool!!

We have lots of things on our mind in our day-to-day life. They might be family troubles, work pressure, financial burdens. Might be the triumphs you can’t share with anyone, cause you have no one to share them with. Many more thoughts fly through our mind through our entire life. With every passing moment, a new thought jumps, which might be totally disconnected from your previous one. Such a flow of disconnected thoughts, bring about a turbulence in our mind. Our mind becomes unstable. Our decision making capabilities deteriorate quickly. And we age faster. Classic signs of stress!!

It is known by practice that opening up ourselves, relieves us of the burdens we carry around. So in past, people would employ writing, to relieve their stress. Many succeeded, but most failed, due to the lack of motivation. Motivation would come by appreciation of ones skills, or acknowledgement in the form of popularity of the creation. And it would all come by readership, which was hard to get in the ages without proper means of mass communication.

But now we have the internet. And we have, like a zillion net users, eager to read something new. And we have a tool called web log or Blog, where we can express ourselves and our feelings. May they be frustration, worry, rage, guilt, embarrassment, fear,love, excitement, triumph, joy,hope or just about any other. They can be expressed in a proper manner. Advice can be taken and given. News can be spread. Creativity can be showcased. Joy can be spread, opinions voiced out. Blogging a big part of life, and a source of income for many, can be a tool that shapes your life, helping you rise out of your own ashes, like the mythical phoenix.

Your thoughts will be poured out, in a more creative form, day by day, and as the reader base increases, so will your confidence. The turbulence in your mind, will turn to a smooth flow of a silent river. And popularity might even earn you something.

So blog to be stress free!!

Sep 112010 Tags: ,

Lord Ganesha, also known as Ganpati Bappa, has come back this year!! The favourite God of the marathi population, is being welcomed at homes in Mumbai and Pune with a pomp, even as I type. Vighnaharta, or the vanquisher of obstacles, brings happiness(hence called sukhakarta) and joy to the hearts of the people. Ganesha, stays for a period ranging from one and a half day to 10 days, when he is worshipped by his devotees. This is the time for all the faral(special delicacies like chiwda, karanji, shankarpali, modak etc.) prepared to please the elephant headed God. At the end of 1oth day, devotees will bid him farewell, with a plea to come back next year, and he is then submerged in the water.

Here you can find the complete details to the beliefs and the origin of the festival.

Check out the photo of the Lalbaugcha Raja(The king of lalbaug).

Lord Ganesha
Aug 292010

I had some trouble getting my internet settings right on Airtel GPRS connections, so I called up the technical support. I selected English as the preferred language thinking that it would be easier to converse. Oh, I wished!! Little did I know that I had selected Indian BPO English, or Inglish(read this as,”language which you get when the BPOs train too hard to get out some heavy US accent out of their employee’s), as the language.

People who have called up the customer care cell of any service provider, would agree with me. Or at the least, the people who believe in the good old unaccented (Indian accented) english would agree. What has happened to the the english taught in our curriculum? Why do the call centre employees drop all the conjunctions from the sentences? Why do they have rabble out in hurry? Why is want to becoming wanna? Are they mistaking it to the US accent? Why can’t they sick to plain old accent which they have by birth, so that we “slow” Indians understand it properly?

India is said to be one of the major hub for BPO operations, with lots of multinationals servicing their customers through call centers located in India, operated by Indians. Do we provide the international clients with the cream of the employees, or is this kind of pathetic, messed up accented language passed on as english to them?

Aug 282010

This happened a few days back. As my monthly travel pass was about to expire, I went to the railway station to get it renewed. To avoid the peak hour rush at the platform level booking office, I chose to use the booking office on the foot over bridge, which people rarely used. There were very few people ahead of me, and few more came after me in the line in sometime. The person at the counter was old, and quite slow, which seemed to be due to his age. People in line ahead of me, were getting restless and and kept on passing comments at his slow speed. Eventually, it was my turn to book my pass. I noticed that his speed, the lack of it rather, was not due to his age, but due to the modern system that he was using to issue the tickets. It was taking him some time with me because he was unable to call up the name of my destination station on the screen, using the short codes used by the computer. He actually didn’t know the short code for my station, because it was out of the way from the regular route, and would have been rarely used by him. People behind me were getting restless and kept on taunting this man. Finally he had had enough of it, and burst out in anger, yelling that they could go to other booking windows if they were in a hurry.

People would see this as the lax attitude of government employees. Many feel that this man, or people like him, do not want to put in enough efforts to learn the job in new way, because of their laziness. Some say that the government should lower the retirement age so that people like him are out of the system, making way for younger generation.

I would say that this man was one of the best ticket issuing person in his days, when they had the old card system. Maybe, he could blindly take out the correct card ticket from the correct shelf for each and every ticket he issued, during those days. But these computer!! He is unable to get the hang of the intimidating user interface, or the QWERTY keyboard. He had never applied for a typing job, never taken a typing course, and now was not the age to speed up. The railways booking system was upgraded, but they couldn’t upgrade the man simply because, he was not upgradable!! He had a job which he did perfectly well till now, but a small machine has rendered him less of use, more of an obstacle in the system.

So what should the person do? Put in more efforts towards learning the system? Believe me, it’s difficult to get older people to learn how to use mobile phones to their fullest potential. Forget the computers. Above that, programmers design the user interfaces, thinking that a scientist would be using it, not a layman.

So should the person leave his job and retire? What about all the financial commitments he has back home? His son has to go to college this year. And his wife is not keeping well. So will his pension meet his needs? People!! This person is a ticket issuer at the railway counter, not the owner of the railways, who can afford luxuries of leaving his job before retirement.

Why not change our attitude towards him? Why not take it a bit easy with him? If we are always in a hurry, which we always are, why not use the other automated systems that the railways have put in place for us?

Think us to be him in a few years. Some crazy scientist invents a gizmo, and the world, the younger generation, accepts it gladly, in lieu of the computers, which we are masters at. Should we be expected to be masters at the new gizmo? Some of us will be able to learn it. Not all of us. It will be something out of the world for us, at that time. Just think of an old man who excitedly tells someone, how a computer popped up his photo on the screen, while we take it for granted, and laugh at this man behind his back. We will be this old man in few years!! Do we want to be laughed at, taunted behind our back, when we grow old? It’s not for the old people to catch up with us. It’s for us to slow down things for them.

Needless to say, I didn’t get my pass at that window. I didn’t complain. How could I, given the circumstances?

Aug 152010

What is India?

  • A nation with cities where Pizza reach faster than police or ambulance.
  • A nation where you get car loan at 8% but education loan at 12%.
  • A nation where the staple diet of people, rice, costs rs. 40 for the cheapest quality, but SIM card is free.
  • A nation where people worship goddess Durga but kill their girl child.
  • A nation where an olympic shooter gets gold and the government announces rs. 1 crore as a reward for a once in a life time achievement. Another shooter dies fighting terrorist, saving thousands of lives while doing so and the government declares the standard “rate” for his life, rs. 1 lakh.

This is my Incredible Independent India.

(Source : SMS)

Aug 142010

This is my contribution for protection of the environment, apart from the huge mango tree which I saved from being hacked down earlier this year. My blog goes green.

There are several initiatives on the internet, which help protect the environment. One of which I came to know yesterday was, by hosting my blog on a particular server which is powered by solar panel. But this one I liked much better. You see the badge on my sidebar. By clicking on it, you go to the website with more information. All you need to do is create a blogpost similar to this one and add a badge in the sidebar as I have done. Then send the link to the email id and they plant a tree for you. This will help neutralise the carbon emmission that your blog host is giving out.

By the way, after completion of this task, no one is stopping you from planting a tree in your own backyard. So why wait. Make you website/blog, carbon neutral.

Aug 132010

Times News Network, reports in its 13th August Mumbai edition of the Times of India that, HC slams state for neglecting PAPs rehabilitation saying that ‘Maoists are born due to govt’s apathy’. I couldn’t find the link to its online edition, but you can check it out on page 13.

It’s kind of good to hear that someone at the top was able to find out the actual reason and make it public. Of course, it’s not always that all Maoists are the neglected lot. Most of the leaders try and gain personal benefits in the name of justice to the affected. But the uneducated, poor people who are really affected, take their words, because there is no one from the side of the government to help them at that moment. These people are the people that the Mumbai high court is talking about.These are the people who turn to unnecessary violence under the influence of few leaders. These are the people who die fighting for their rights.

Just hoping that this message is conveyed properly to the government.

Aug 122010

This might be a bit off taste for a respectable human being. But I feel it necessary.

Thuuuuuu!! Spat the person walking in front of me on the railway platform. If you are residing in developed and clean countries this is something unheard of. But in my country, there are rules governing the civic habits, which are rarely followed. Garbage on the street is a common site in big cities, where garbage management is a problem due to lack of workforce, or may be the lack of the force to work. But spitting is one habit which gets to my nerves, leave me just short of exploding. Just short.

I am reminded of an incident my brother recounted few years back. He, along with some relatives were travelling in jeep. A younger cousin was seated on the front seat. At one point, they smelled a foul stench, something like a dead animal rotting. Everyone covered their noses. But this cousin went a step ahead and spat out of the window, as is a normal “tradition” followed by most of the Indians. And the jeep was travelling at high speed. Naturally, some part of the spit landed on an uncle who was sitting at the back window. So this uncle wondered aloud, “how the hell was his spit going to reduce the stench. All it did was flew back inside and smeared me.”

How is spitting, really supposed to help in anyway in such situations. We in India come across lots of decomposing garbage everyday. And we are sure to come across people who spit at the garbage as they go by. People spit on road. They spit on platforms. They spit in the trains below the seat. They even try to colour the body of the trains by spitting out chewed tobacco. They spit everywhere except in the wash basins in public places.

There are fines against such acts. But the police prefer bribes to fines in such cases. As such is the case, it becomes very difficult to control the dirty act in public places. It feels just “YUCK!!” when you see someone spit near you, or even when you hear it. But where is the end to this.

In places like Singapore, I hear that even if you are not caught at that moment, CCTV cameras will capture your act and you will be fined later on. In such countries, Indians behave civilized. But on their homeland, no one can control them. They are the owners of all the public properties.

A good way to stop this would be giving powers in the hand of public in some way, so that this acts are controlled at the very moment. At present, a normal person who feels this as dirty cannot utter a word against people who mess up in public spaces. But for a long run, proper civic education might help in controlling this habit. But then, is also self conscience that should act for such people.

In the meantime I continue to take detours from the path of the spit of a person walking in front.

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