10 Years of Merchant Navy Life

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Rishi Kashyap
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10 Years of Merchant Navy Life


Today I completed 10 years in Merchant Navy and it was, is and will always inspire me for better happy life. Let me be true, Merchant navy is a tough life, mariners make lot of sacrifice and they train themselves to be happy in life. So allow me to sit down, grab a cup of coffee and write down what Merchant Navy taught me about life :

  1. Politics
    I am sorry to say but biggest problem which I faced when I joined T S Chanakya was politics. Thankfully my parents never told me that I am hindu or Dhanbadi or Nobilian or Bihari or Indian. I just went to college as a young boy eager to join Merchant Navy. I realized for 1st time that I was a Bihari, in a marine college in India. There was ragging going on, slangs, shouting and negativity in air. Hostel divided not only as seniors and juniors but also as Bihari, UP, Rajasthan, alcohol and others. As I progressed in my training, I realized even duties allotted were biased, spirit of sportsmanship can be ignored for winning, jobs can be set internally, everything could be fixed. The problem of dividing perhaps is inherent with us. I later found most national colleges suffering from stateism and regional colleges from casteism (medical college call it "phylum").

    I also saw group of boys ignoring everything and doing what they loved, Captains who tried their best to end this politics and teachers who were more interested in making us learn than anything else. They made great software, stunning artwork, awesome dancers, national athletes and best humans. I was surrounded by brilliant brains. I also realized that positive people are everywhere, its who you choose to be with !

    Today after 10 years I believe that Life is bigger than those CC (cadet captain) or PGM(President Gold Medal) awards or who won what ! I am glad to find such men for whom no politics, no bias can stop them from what they want to be and do things which would help others, spread happiness and in turn make them happy!

  2. Friendship
    Among this chaos were boys each fed up with this crap. After regular clean-ship getting a cup of tea was a herculean task for new trainee. Successfully going and bringing warm energizing tea in that steel cup to your cabin was no less than traveling all along that dreaded jungle (read corridor) where every tiger (read senior) was ready to tear you apart (read get his cabin cleaned). After such roadies event when all room mates drank tea, we actually felt like "Jago Re Jago Re Jago Reeee". It did not matter which state, caste you belonged 1 cup among whoever was there, cursing seniors and discussing who will be next to bring more tea, how to bunk classes, which movie to see tonight !

    I am glad that I found best friends there. While I had friends before too but it was college where I realized I always ignored my friends for foolish marks and competitions. Its amazing, almost all college friends are still in touch. Friendship can never be quantified, friends may be stupid, idiot and kameene (as they generally are), but we accept them as they are. As one Capt said "Kutte ki dum ho ...sau saal pipe mein dala fir bhi nikalne par tedhi ki tedhi" ....that's why friends rock and relatives shock ;-)

  3. Failures are good
    I failed in IIT & joined Merchant Navy. I could have cried, lamented, frustrated, dropped one more year for "the IIT" or just moved on with life, I chose last option. I failed in 2nd year (got ATKT). While this is true that I was never top ranker but never failed before. Coming from a modest middle class family and from a region where education meant everything, failure meant shooting you with AK 47 for continuously an hour till there are so many holes that you get confused ki "saas kahan se lein aur ....". For my parents it  meant that I have stopped studies and was boozing around. I could hear my mother saying "Bola tha mat bhejo dariya mein, ho gaya na bawra !" (told you not to send him to sea, now he is gone mad!) Of course I cleared ATKT later but there are so many examination in this field that you fail now and then.

    In fact I got so much habituated that just for fun I sat for my Master viva without studying and shamelessly smiled on surveyor's face. I think the best line came from one of my senior "Oral examination is not Kumbh ka mela. Next chance is next month not after 4 years !". While we all laughed but that is whole essence of life, there will always be next chance.

    Merchant Navy taught me never be afraid of failure. In fact this website "www.jahajee.com" is more about my failing attempts than anything else (details some other time). Everybody told that failure is bad, but it is not ! What is bad is not even trying. I realized it early in my life and participated in almost all sports, debates and competition. Yes for sure I became laughingstock but I think I had far better learning college life than others. People laughed when I went for extempore and was unable to blurt a single word, or when I ran a marathon.
    During marathon race I was ahead of the winner just that was one full circle behind ;-). When everyone was laughing then, one voice shouted "Do complete what you are trying" . Match was won by someone else, everybody left the field, but 2 people enjoyed the attempt, me and that senior, I stood last and enjoyed every bit. Always enjoy the journey not the destination.

  4. Wealth management
    I started my professional life early. At 21 when most friends were still studying, I got a decent job. I was having money but note I am talking of wealth! While wealth is always related with lots of money it also means abundance of something. Merchant navy gave me abundant time, new friends, family, money and happiness, none of which is ever enough !

    At 22 I set few goals for me one of which was "Millionaire by 30" and at 29 was thinking what next ? (Detail another day else post will become tome ;-)) Money changes lot of things, some for good, some for bad! I never understood how many things add up to make me wealthy, its not just money ! Sea life taught me to keep a count of things which money CANNOT buy and never loose them.

    Merchant Navy also taught me how to manage funds, I had just 5000 Rs in 2008 in my pocket & bank. I shamelessly stayed in my senior and friends flat coz I was desperate about promotion and needed money to go back home if everything fails again. It was then that I realized it is not about how much you earn it is about how well you manage your earning. I explored other tax saving options, share investments, cut down crap expenses, converted liabilities to assets. It was all great learning experience.

  5. Everything changes
    "Change is the only constant". There is nothing wrong in change. What my goals were at age 22 certainly changed at age 32 and may change again at 42. Things change, priorities change and people change. The problem is in which direction they change !

    I saw many people change, those friends who mattered so much to me changed later. They got selfish and moved on with their life getting more rich and loosing wealth. Initially it was painful but I too moved on and learned to say "NO".

  6. Learn to say NO
    Half of your problem gets solved if you say 1 simple word "NO". I was well supported by my modest middle class values but I also learned to say "NO" and kept myself focused in becoming more wealthy. I wrote Qnet scam or not when the IR was talking of millions and said NO. I said NO to MBA. I learned to say NO to greed. I learned to say NO to get rich quick plans. I learned to say NO to futile things which made no sense to me. Being a Buffet fan I always valued things with the price that I pay and value which I get. I do not believe in brands and still spend on things which would make me happy than on what others are buying.
    As I said before, money can change things for bad too. When you say "NO" to some, you will never be in their good books, you can choose what you want! I saw friends, relatives who changed with money, I lost few and saved few, choice was mine, I learned to say "NO".

  7. Seniority and rank
    In college and on-board I tasted seniority imposed on every junior, killing the very spirit of cooperation ! Cadets who are not encouraged to ask, juniors who are scolded so that he could be kept under control. I always followed whatever seniors ordered and was rebuked by friends for it. The truth is I respected my seniors thinking them to be more knowledgeable/learned than me.

    I also found people with strange ego ! Saying "I do not know" would give them heart attack! There are self proclaimed "BIG BOSS". They can ask you to do frog jumps or chipping, cleaning on-board. Allow me to copy spider-man "With great power comes greater responsibility" How did I cope with such issue ? By following what Mr A P J Kalam told in Wings of FireYou need to be a bit deaf to your seniors and a bit blind to your juniors, if you want to live happily As I progressed in my career in Merchant Navy I tried my best that juniors remain interested in learning and same should apply to me.

    I also saw people living their rank, Hey I am Captain/Chief Engineer, I am IIM passout, I am IAS, I am CEO of so and so company. I found people cursing MMD (Why do you want to join merchant navy) but it is the best experience of life. It taught me "make a proper line, please stay out". Ha ha I am a mere human and do not take yourself so seriously, everything changes ;-)

  8. Freedom
    Whenever people talk about Merchant Navy, they talk about money. Nobody talks about time. When most of my friends were confused between MBA / IAS /  Bank PO, I was among few who continued in Shipping because of time. I see everyone ignoring time but simply said "time is wealth".

    When my friends were leaving shipping they told "money is not everything" and they are right, but today when I meet them most of them talk about package. I have seen people running after package and ignoring time. They work hours after hours thinking more about better salary and less about time.

    Why I value time so much ? Simple more time = more freedom. Not only was I free to read more, learn guitar, table tennis, sketching on board, on shore I was free to learn new things, start my ventures, do vocational courses which I always wanted to do, meet different peoples and grow. I am free to do things I love, including writing this blog and chase my passion.

  9. Know yourself
    At Life in Merchant Navy I told mariners are blessed to be so close to mother nature. There is nothing more peaceful than placid sea, wind crooning through your hair as you walk on bridge-wing gazing picturesque twilight with a cup of hot coffee. You can either curse this silence or enjoy it. During such time I always introspected. When most of my batch-mates were leaving shipping for MBA thinking that MBA will make them happy I was searching what makes me happy without hurting anyone, I was searching who I want to be, what I want to do really, not what others are doing or what others want me to do.

    It amazes me again and again how I see people never investing time on themselves. How people just copy each other thinking that it would make them happy. In India an IITian is treated as HERO, an IIM as SUPERHERO and IAS as GOD, as if they are the happiest people on earth. I have been with such people and most of the times I found them quite confused !

    Comparing yourself with others is biggest harm you can do to yourself ! You are unique ! If you know yourself you will be at peace, you will never compare yourself with others and their package. It will never matter to you what others think about you or what they do. Simply said you will be PURE YOU and no more copy of somebody else.

  10. Be Happy
    Being happy is an art and trust me it can be achieved by anyone. When I was a cadet I was surrounded by very experienced frustrated mariners. There were also great positive jahajees. One of them was super-cool 2nd officer full of mistakes. Always got scolded but always laughed and learned.

    He was the 1st man with whom I actually talked about Merchant navy and life in general and he told me one thing You can choose to be happy or sad, I choose to be happy. I work and learn my job. I know I will not find these captains and C/O later and I know that being happy has nothing to do with my job. He taught me that we blame our job but it is we who should be blamed. How true. !

    I have seen people cursing their life on trifle things, simple problems depresses them. Problems are essential spice giving a purpose to this inherent futile and boring life. Just be happy and you will conquer any problem, truth is you can overcome problems even by being sad but whats harm in being happy ?

    Thank you for reading. It is fun for me to sit and relax thinking how I have changed and grown in these last 10 years thanks to Merchant Navy.
Life and what 10 Years in Merchant Navy taught me

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