Some books we read because we are seeking help. We want to do better in our careers. We want to be happier in our relationships. We want more fulfilment from life.
Some books we read because we want to learn more about a particular subject. Photography. Business.
Some we read because our friends are authors and well, you can’t not read those books.
And then some books we read because Twitter. Literally. Of course it isn’t half as simple as that. The boy is a sailor in the Merchant Navy and the World Maritime Day is celebrated on the 25th of September each year. In that regard, I had written a short piece on the blog about my life with the sailor boy and I had shared the link on Twitter. It got a few RTs and I discovered the Twitter profile of Rose George. I read her tweets and realized she sounded pleasantly knowledgeable about the Merchant Navy more than anyone else I had found on Twitter thus far.
To give you some more context, many of my friends are sailors in the Merchant Navy. We meet sometimes. When they are on land and have hung out with their families enough and are ready to meet non-family. Most of these friends have wives who always get a glazed look in their eyes whenever these boys get together and talk about their profession. I am one of those spouses. Glazed eyes. Bored. Mostly because I don’t quite understand more than half the things they talk about. I have yet to sail with the boy and while nothing will be more educational than that, I was quickly realizing that I needed to learn more about this “Merchant Navy” and how things worked there.
Rose writes about boats and the ocean among other things. When I shared my small blog piece with her, she pointed me to a book she has written. About the Merchant Navy. I was sceptical at first. I wanted to learn more indeed but was worried my eyes would glaze over. I read the summary of the book and it immediately sounded like something I would want to read. It was about Rose traveling on a Maersk ship named Kendall and relating her experiences. While it wasn’t a first hand experience for me, what better than a second hand experience. I love storytelling. The book is called Deep Sea and Foreign Going, Inside shipping, the invisible industry that brings you 90% of everything.
I was excited about this book but wasn’t sure it would be available in India. Luckily Flipkart had it in stock and I chose next day delivery and received the package as promised. I was leaving for a short vacation to the hills and it was perfect timing. I started reading the book and had to deliberately slow down my reading so it would last me the entire vacation! It is a delightful book and I am thrilled Rose pointed me to it.
Throughout the book, I found myself nodding my head. Many things that I had heard in conversations with the sailor boy were now starting to make sense in an interesting way. The crew, the captain, the ship, the open ocean, pirates and the history of the Merchant Navy. Rose shared these in a pleasant, readable, relatable way and I could close my eyes and almost feel like I was there with her. I feel it could have been so much more detailed but I understand not everything on a ship is for public consumption due to security concerns.
I have been investigating how I could tell a similar Merchant Navy story with my photographs. I’m no writer but I would love to one day sail with the sailor boy, with my camera on board and write about my journey. Merchant Navy life isn’t as colourful or glamorous as it is usually imagined to be. Living without the boy for months on end isn’t exactly “glamorous”. It is torture. Information about the Merchant Navy from a layman’s perspective is so scant that I feel alienated. The boy’s ears go blue listening to my painfully detailed stories from the photographer’s arena. He knows almost all there is to know about being a professional photographer. Whereas I know almost nothing about his profession! I reckon he doesn’t really like to talk about it because it is a hard life and conversation around it only makes it seem bleaker.
Rose’s book brought me one step closer to understanding the Merchant Navy world on a Maersk Container ship. The boy sails Oil/Gas ships hence experiences on those will be slightly different. I hope more companies will look at Rose’s work and get her on board – literally – to experience their ships and write a book about it. That is, if Rose would like to repeat the experience. You have one ready customer for such a book already Rose.
I hadn’t even heard about Rose George prior to this interaction on Twitter and am now pleased that I’m no longer as ignorant. I like how she writes and look forward to her blog updates where she shares more about her research. She writes about subjects other than the Merchant Navy as well.
One of the things from the book that gave me a different perspective about Merchant Navy life was where Rose shares the old anecdote about a ship that went down. The small crew survived and when they were huddled together on the lifeboat, the newbie on the crew asked around, “How far is the nearest land from here?” To which the Captain responded, “Two miles. Straight down.”