49. Sailing,‚Äč ‚ÄčSailing‚Äč ‚ÄčUpon‚Äč ‚Äčthe‚Äč ‚ÄčOcean‚Äč ‚ÄčBlue

And once the P&O Liner Orsova has got herself directional, we look back to barely see specks of people at the docks and really only the coastline is in view.

The haunting Isa Lei is but a faded hum joining in the ever so faint lull of the engines as my mind and the ship tap into the Koro Sea Рwe have left Viti Levu and all those I love so dearly in the Fiji Islands.

I stood on deck awhile longer taking in the deep ocean blue; I know¬†this was allowing all my thoughts and actions to settle in. ¬†After a¬†little while and a lot of sea spray in the face –love that! I went back¬†inside, slowly walking to my cabin.

Sitting on my bed -one of 2- I look across to the other one taking notice of a suitcase, a coat I think and another bag.  Smiling to myself I hoped my cabin mate would be of the female species.  It’s all really very silly I know Рthis was not a coed dormitory after all, ha ha!

What? Okay enough daydreaming. I take a moment to unpack my suitcase.  No one showed yet so I thought it wise to find the dining room and I may as well get busy checking out the local scene.

I approached the purser‚Äôs desk for the evening‚Äôs schedule. ¬†She¬†naturally was only too glad to share all the lovely details about the SS¬†Orsova. ‚ÄúOur dining room is one deck below. ¬†I would recommend that¬†you go down now, if you‚Äôre not doing anything else and familiarise¬†yourself with your mealtime accommodations.‚ÄĚ

The lady then asked if I was comfortable in my cabin and if I had met¬†my cabin mate. ¬†‚ÄėNot yet!‚Äô ¬†Thinking again about my earlier thoughts¬†with a slight smirk, she must‚Äôve caught it; she looked up my cabin¬†mate‚Äôs name in her book and told me.

This time without another thought I laughed out loud for she gave me¬†the name of a man; a man with a given-Christian first name and an¬†Indian surname. ¬†ūüĒĪ My daydream balloon was popped!

I found the dining room. Right away I was able to connect with the dining room captain who briefed me politely on how it all worked.  There was always two seatings early/later for meals and my table would remain the same throughout my time on board.

There were four chairs and only two of us assigned to this table¬†although free to move about if invited to another. ¬†I see how this¬†works, two available seats if we should find someone to invite to our¬†table. ¬†Us? ¬†The other dining chair being my cabin mate … okay, makes¬†sense.

It was probably a bit past six in the evening and I thought it good to stroll about for a little while, not that I needed to work up an appetite or anything.  I explored my surroundings some more and of course still had hopes of seeing where the ladies might mingle.

Yes, what can I say? ¬†This was a semi-important quest for me; can‚Äôt¬†help it, I enjoy their company. ¬†I know what you‚Äôre thinking … don‚Äôt¬†worry, Noori is still sitting heavy on my heart and will be there for a¬†very long time. ¬†One in a million no doubt about it.

Goodness! It’s 7 o’clock and I should return to the dining room; 1st seating it will be.  All this questing was making me hungry.  The dining room’s aroma led me right to my table.

I am the only one and I take a seat.  A larger-than-life menu is handed to me and my drink request taken.  A young man approaches with a beaming smile.

I return the smile and he states, ‚ÄúYou must be my cabin mate.‚ÄĚ ¬†I¬†reached out to introduce myself, we shook hands and he tells me his¬†name which I already knew, ‚ÄúJoseph.‚ÄĚ and after seating himself, ‚ÄúI¬†sure am hungry!‚ÄĚ ¬†Already something in common, nice.

And this is one of the many things I love about shipboard dining,¬†there‚Äôs no wasting time on the waitstaff part. ¬†It wasn’t long before we two¬†young lads were enjoying an excellent meal and mutual conversation.

Joseph and I parted company after dinner.  I wanted to see if I’d find something of interest.  Truthfully I cannot recall neither what I had for that first dinner or what I chose to do that night.

I do know I enjoyed breathing in fresh salty air and sort of slipping into a peaceful, half-conscious state.  ✨ Are the stars out above the sea going to keep me aligned?

What I really wanted was to stroll the deck with someone, catch a movie, a show or dance a little, you know what I’m saying.  It sure would’ve been nice if that someone was Noori.

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You know back then a ship was my transportation -prior to that, my employment- not a leisurely cruise for the sake of a vacation. ¬†ūüĆŹ¬†I‚Äôve been on a few extensive and leisurely cruises in¬†my life since and apart from how the times and services have changed, being on board a luxury liner¬†or freighter, yacht or speedboat, ferry or any boat really, the joy for me remains the same;‚Äč ‚Äčit‚Äôs‚Äč ‚Äčthe¬†open‚Äč ‚Äčsea‚Äč.

It‚Äôs the endless horizon, some of the freshest possible air to fill my lungs with, the constant spray¬†of the salt water, ūüź¨¬†the giants of the sea ūüź≥¬†occasionally accompanying our vessel, the starry sky of¬†night and the twilight of a new morning. ¬†I feel the cobwebs of my mind clearing out and if even¬†momentarily, like I can do anything.

6. ūü§∑ūüŹĹ‚Äć‚ôāÔłŹ Tailoring My Way Off the Island – part 1

I was 17 years of age when, with the goal of getting accepted on the SS Lakemba freighter ship, I set off to get certified as a waiter in order to be considered for employment.  That was a good starting point.

I acquired employment in the personal home of one of Morris Hedstrom’s department+ store owners. The household chef was our family friend and so brought me into the fold. ¬†The Mr. & Mrs. had a wonderful estate there in Suva and it was definitely a great place to learn the service trade.

I perfected formal service with the frequent business meetings held there in the home.  These often included luncheons, cocktail hour and many a dinner presented in precise style.  Equally important were the slightly informal meals (yet still proper to be sure) when serving their warm and wonderful family of four.

ūüö≤ I would ride a bicycle from home everyday, talk about fit and trim! ¬†There was no classroom environment here; it was immediate ‚Äėhands-on‚Äô training. ¬†I maintained employment as a waiter in this private home for about 6 months, learning everything there is to know regarding formal dining room service.

With my father gone and my brother fully running the household, I always shared my salary with him, with the family ‚Äď pounds and shillings, it was my contribution. ūüí∑

This kind Mr. & Mrs. who employed me knew that I would be a temporary part of their household staff; I was there to be trained so I could work on the ships and yet we equally grew fond of one another, working together very well.

The family was more than happy to give this 17-year young man a chance and make certain I learned well.  With the very full business responsibilities of the Mr., the Mrs. ran the household beautifully and I could see all the employees loved working for her.

The time had come for me to move forward.  The Mr. had a beautiful document of reference drafted up for me on Morris Hedstrom’s letterhead, providing this to me upon my departure from the position; albeit with a heavy heart unquestionably on both sides.

I left the job feeling ready as ever to board my first ship as a full-time staff member.  Well laugh if you will, it’s okay because I didn’t discover right away that I also had to be eighteen years of age at the least, in order to work where travel into foreign countries was a must.   That part was sort of missed.

Here’s the way I handled things at that time; you tell me I have do that or learn the how and why of a thing or I must get this, then that’s what I would do as just another step to my advancement.  The age requirement simply hadn’t come up at that point.  Oh brother!

So to keep me employed my maternal uncle helped me get a job as a tailoring apprentice within a Gujarat family owned store called C & A Kalyan, Ladies Tailor, phone #758, while waiting to turn of legal age in order to work aboard a ship. ¬†I actually tailored so well I found myself making dresses for the Fiji governor’s wife & daughter; point of interest!

My time with fabrics and all that fun ran about a year’s stretch; I did enjoy being able to create that way but not as content as I could be and not always patiently awaiting my break that would carry me out to sea; gotta go – I need to go!

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+  a retail organization serving the Fiji Islands since 1868

Good morning really; it’s now 2:45a – ugh! it’s been a real long night but fortunately I get my new computer (at long last) this coming week!! ¬† So it would seem that I missed Sunday night post time (again), ‚ÄúMissed it by that much!‚ÄĚ -as one of my childhood favorite secret agents, Maxwell Smart always used to say. ¬†LOL

I want to say thank you for returning to the story and keeping the faith in the Little Blue Masala! ¬†Have a great week ahead and the very best of the holiday season –which ever ones those may be for you– to you and yours!