The event took place over three decades ago. It reminisces within me every time I think or talk about parents; hence, I decided to add this to my writing.
The short story engulfs a message:
It was 1976, the ship was on a long voyage; Novorossiysk to Bahrain, via the Suez Canal. The life onboard was monotonous: it was a case of keeping watch and attending to day- to- day responsibilities. Nevertheless, the few parties and barbecues held onboard took away the monotony and having a cosmopolitan crew onboard was indeed good.
During those days, being onboard a ship in mid seas, meant news of happening back at home from our own or any other country, was always late! However, any urgent news was sent via radio messages to the ship, by the ship's management.
This story is about the Chief Officer:
The ship was sailing in the Red Sea and was at least five days away from its destination; Bahrain. One afternoon I was having lunch with the Captain and the Chief Officer when the Radio Officer brought a radio message and left it for the captain to read. After he read it, he silently put it in his shirt pocket. This was a little odd as usually he would have told us what the message was about and even possibly had a small discussion while we were at lunch. However in this case, after receiving the message he appeared to be in a hurry to finish and to leave the Mess room. His demeanor intrigued me, and I am sure it was the same with the chief officer too. Anyhow the Captain and I left the mess room at almost the same time. As I was following him in the companion way (stair case) he looked back and told me, "John, come to my office room, now."
When I went in he read the message; it was to inform the Chief Officer that his father had passed away, and his mother wanted to know if he could attend the funeral? It was a very sad moment indeed. Thereafter, he called the Chief Officer in and the Captain signaled me to leave his office room so that he could convey the news privately. After having heard the woeful news the Chief Officer had become hysterical. He had left the Captain's office and had stumbled while leaving. Thereafter, the Captain had accompanied him to the Purser's cabin while he was there the Purser called me, and I rushed in to find that the Chief Officer was breaking down, and was a little out of control.
Under these circumstances, he was relieved from his Navigational duties and the Captain covered up for him.
That evening the Chief Officer after settling down a bit, told us why he was so sad: He said that he fully agreed that we were only temporarily here in this world and at sometime or the other we would have to go. In his father's case, he had worked for the Indian Railway and had been a very high ranking officer before his retirement.
He narrated his story in retrospect of what his father had done for his family.
On the last occasion he saw him in his village, his father had asked him for some money to consult an eye specialist and to buy glasses. He did not give the money straight away considering that there was no immediacy. He thought that he could send the money to him from Bombay, where he was residing. It was at this time that he had to join the ship and had completely forgotten to send the money. Now, he asked "When can I give him that small amount of money he had asked for?" This was the reason which had made him very sad and depressed.
He finally said, "I shall endure this guilt for the rest of my life and will seek redemption. But how can I be redeemed?"
This is a very good lesson for everyone. When your parents are in need and especially when they ask you for help, leave aside everything else and attend to it immediately.
Our Parents have brought us into this world and they have done everything possible for us. In return what could we do for them? That is why in Gods commandments he wrote "Honor thy father and mother."
The next few days following the news of the Chief Officer's father's death, everybody on board was very quiet, the usual music in the Officers saloon in the evenings was not heard
Copyright 2009 John De Silva
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