85. Open Sea Routine

First full day out on the ocean and with the Golden Gate’s disappearance into the now east, so to had to go my thoughts of what’s to come.  Well, at least on hold in the back of my mind.

It was time to go full steam ahead in the expected routine of my job which has only slightly varied from when we were at docks.  The transition was smooth enough as far as I was concerned, demonstrating to the CS I knew my assignments very well.

After breakfast our Chief Steward calls a meeting of kitchen staff, chef included.  “Things change a little now that we’re out to sea, you’ll find the law is different than when we were at dock.  Trash of any kind and especially cigarette butts will never be disposed overboard, is that clear?  There is a proper place for everything and I do mean everything!”

He went on, “It’s now time to get dressed up real warm ’cause we’re gonna stock the deep freeze and the main refrigerators.”  Coats, beanies and gloves were provided and we quickly bundled up.

The supplies that were loaded prior now had to be put away in orderly fashion; items must be readily available.  Bottled water, juices, milk, meats, veggies, etc., no hassles and wasted time trying to locate anything.

“Consider one of the engine room guys coming into the kitchen for a drink or snack, they shouldn’t have to waste time searching for anything in the refrigerators, so organization is always priority,” the CS spoke as he pointed out where to place the various items.

The boxes were opened, the large freezer and fridge shelves were stocked and the empties were broke down flat, bundled and placed in the holding spot.  At the next port they’d be removed.  The dry pantry was handled the same way minus the coats, gloves and beanies of course!

3rd day – our Chief Steward calls everybody to gather.  We would now receive instructions for handling a case of emergency.  An alarm was sounded. “Line up on deck and wait for the 1st or 2nd Officer’s instructions.”  

In each of our cabins there was a life jacket for every individual.  “Do not stop to put it on.  Grab it and get topside asap!  You can put it on as you go or once you are up on deck.   We will do this drill every third day.”  

I realized quick enough we’d be eating real good on this ship.  You say you feel like having a pork chop, the kitchen obliged by sending out a hot plate with about a half a dozen of ‘em!  There was no chance of anyone dining alone because someone would catch a whiff and be beside you in no time flat, sharing in the delights.

Away from the kitchen CS had the linen closet key so I always had to ask for that; seems like we had greater concerns than to worry about linens disappearing – oh well.  At least three times a week I’d change out the sheets and towels I used, all of us being responsible for our own.

Making certain the Skipper’s quarters were always clean and amply stocked with the necessities for his comfort was another factor of my duties; remember he was my personal assignment.

Daily routine breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Once in a while the Skipper would make casual conversation with me.  I was the only Hindu person on board his ship and he asked me if I was actually from India.  I shared with him the short version of being born and raised in the Fiji Islands.  He was kind enough and for his liking, our Captain soon nicknamed me ‘Fiji’.

Coming out from one of the cabins, Nancy Sinatra’s hit single, “These Boots Are Made For Walking” sounded throughout the corridor -other tunes too but that one several times a day.  

Two of the deckhands, a middle-aged man and his son from the southeastern U.S. were the occupants of that cabin and this seemed be their favorite song.  It didn’t take long for that tune to stick like flypaper in my brain and to this day, it surfaces at the funniest of times.

My break after the lunch service was always a breeze, kickin’ it on the aft deck.  Often I’d get to see various fish leaping from the water and capturing my attention.  Otherwise I gave in to a sea of thoughts.  And in the evenings I anticipated with great pleasure, the sunset.

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These Boots Are Made For Walkingreleased in November of 1965 and was written by Lee Hazelwood.  By the end of January, 1966 it had topped the charts taking over the  #1 spot in both the U.S. and the U.K.  Cinema utilized the song in Full Metal Jacket, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and most recently in Ocean’s 8, just to name a few.

 

13. Meet Gary

I am now about 3 weeks into my unexpected shore leave and doing my best to adjust.  It was the not knowing …isn’t that the way of things?  Has Sonia received my letter and did the guys find the time to return to the club; did they all meet up? did she ask about me?  what did they say to her and how did she react?  Oh it was all I could do to distract myself from these haunting thoughts.

One of my family members was having a birthday and there was to be a party in our home that evening.  It wasn’t uncommon for the rest of us to invite someone we wanted to share our celebrations with.  My little sister invited one of her favorite classmates over for the evening’s affair.  Her name was **Noori and at this time, she was seventeen.

Noori’s gift to give was a delightful Indian birthday song and wow, what music came out of her!  Without any instrumental accompaniment to her clear, beautiful voice, every word rang like crystal.  I felt as though a professional singer, an excellent one at that, had graced us and I could see that everyone else was as taken as I was.

Afterwards I complimented her as others did too of course, and I asked her where she learned to sing so wonderfully.  Noori laughed and answered, “I’m a bathroom singer.  And when it’s really cold, I just sing my heart out!”

‘You know I’m a pretty good singer too.’  I told her.  I explained briefly that I sang nearly every night to my family.  As I lay in bed after we all said good night, I began to sing with all my heart.  And with my softer songs, most of them would often fall asleep.

I loved to sing, I had a good voice and I knew all the latest songs.  In the morning I was always told how much they loved listening to me sing!  Quite often I was given their requests too.  I found singing to be a good release; oh it was all great fun!  I had come a long way from ‘baa baa white sheep, have you anything for me to eat?’

Anyhow that birthday evening was really a good time for all.  It was dark and late by the time the partying had come to a close and so my brother walked Noori home.  It didn’t take me long to realize how happy I was that she had come.

Well she must’ve really enjoyed herself as well for she was back at our house the next weekend.  Noori helped my sister-in-law prepare lunch for the family.  As I was going about whatever business I had around the house I took notice that she appeared to be looking out for me, perhaps taking note of what I was doing; curious I suppose.

You see I kept looking her way too all the while trying to do it inconspicuously if that was even possible in this not-so-very-big house.  Well this was kind of fun and as the days and weeks went by I sensed her fondness of the family as well as their growing tenderness towards her.  Okay.  I took pleasure in her presence too; what can I say?  She was a delight!

I guess the time had to come when one of her younger brothers would feel obliged to make his presence known.  And what better opportunity than that being every time I walked past their home -which actually was unavoidable when one has to get to town from my spot on the island- an invitation for aggressive behavior I suppose.

Their home was a big house up on the hill, perfect with large picture windows and so they could see all the comings and goings on the main road below.  This included me walking down the street minding my own business.

But I also came to discover that if Noori was at home and she figured it was about the time I might be present, she’d look out the window for me.  This had to be the fuel for his challenge: as I knew it, their family was strict Muslim and mine of course was Hindu.  A no-go and a reason for a hot-headed adolescent male to assert his brotherly duty.

He’d yell at me from his window up there, “Leave my sister alone or I’ll come down there and beat you up!”  One day I guess he had had enough of just hollering out the window so he hid behind a tree on the main road, waited for me and as I approached he jumped out in front of me.

We exchanged a few punches, almost comical.  Then one of the older brothers who must’ve passed by one of the big open windows of the house noticed the scrimmage below and yelled out to his brother to get back home immediately!  He ran off right away.

After that day our paths crossed a few more times again and of course he tried to intimidate me and I always told him the same thing; his sister comes to my home not to see me but because she is good friends with my little sister.

For whatever is written in the stars, Noori continued to frequent my house.  It was like a second home to her I think.  I say this due to her actions; she’d go around the house helping everyone in any way she could.  Naturally this bonded her with us – her constant presence and her conduct to be counted among her beautiful qualities.

A funny thing was that she began to call me Gary.  So I had to ask, ‘Why are you calling me Gary?’  She replied, “I like that name very much.”  Noori further explained that she had read a book and the character which left a favorable impression in her mind was named Gary and so she wanted to call me Gary.

She added, “A little secret between the two of us and no one will know I am referring to you!”  I think she likes me.

Time waits for no one and now it is 1954.  Remember Hemma?  Well her family is feeling the need of pressuring my family to commit me into marriage with their daughter; this based on a previous discussion that had already taken place while I was gallivanting around the Pacific Ocean.  And they even said they thought it should happen by May of that year.

How about that for life-altering measures?  Here I go again; I was just getting into a comfortable place with Noori, what an annoying problem!

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**Noori is of course a fictitious name once again, yet for a very real person in this account of the Little Blue Masala’s life.  I’ll insert here that all the names (save for Gary, that is accurate) are fictitious but all the characters themselves are true to life.

7. Diamonds & Lumber – part 3

The next evening we did not return.  I think the cold (which was very new to me) made us feel a bit tired.  Now the 3rd night, my friends and I agreed to go back and so we all got cleaned up real nice and took a cab to the club as it was perhaps a couple of miles away from the port.

Once we entered my eyes began searching the room for this lovely girl.  I soon realized I felt disappointment as I thought perhaps she was there and I just couldn’t recognize her. The guys and I sat down and had ordered some drinks.

It was nearly an hour later when I sensed I should look up to the entrance door and there she was, coming in with her sisters.  I suddenly felt myself completely relax.

They grabbed an open table nearby and I knew right away she too was looking for me, I just knew it because she smiled big and pretty the moment her eyes met mine.  She was clearly happy that I was there. Now I waited …

A song played on as they settled into the evening.  The next song I felt was absolutely right and with that I stood up and went over to her table, walking around the other girls to approach her.  I said hello and asked her if she’d like to have this dance with me.

I could tell she quickly shot a glance to all of her companions as if asking permission but it was only a couple of seconds and she popped right up, giddy as a schoolgirl gets! We headed to the floor.

It was a slow dance (lucky me!) and we placed ourselves at a gentle distance.  We moved in rhythm with one another as the music swayed us and spoke many words to further acquaint ourselves.

In the expanse of this dance, I learned her name, Sonia and all those girls she was with were her sisters, they were born there in Canada, their mother was French, their father was from Punjab and she was going to school.

She inquired about me and I filled her in with as much detail as she could take and she wanted to know everything about me; all of which completely flattered me of course! When the music stopped we were still holding on to one another, a little closer now, and still talking as though we were the only people in the room.

We walked back to her table and her sisters encouraged me to join them.  She then took the cue from them and began introducing me.  I sat down with Sonia and we all fell into comfortable conversation, mainly they asked me to talk about myself; when did I come to Canada, how long was I going to stay, etc.

Sonia and I shared one more dance that evening as we mostly all did a lot of talking at the table. My friends too had their own entertainment going on, they danced and had a good time as well.

It was getting late, we had to get back to the ship and the girls admitted they too had to get home.  They asked if I’d be back tomorrow evening but I couldn’t promise.  I knew that more than anything I wanted to see her again.

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