For a seafarer, the sea is the second home. Not being able to do the things you usually do when at home can make you homesick. Day in and day out, our seafarers have to deal with this situation while at work. FrontM interviewed the First Officer of a Bulk Carrier who is currently in Singapore. According to him, modern communication has been of great help to the fraternity for dealing with homesickness onboard.
Below are the excerpts of the conversation…
To sum it up and also to begin with the words of Christos Tsiolkas “Homesickness hits hardest in the middle of a crowd in a large, alien city”. Whether in the hustle and bustle of a large city or floating in the middle of a vast ocean with loads of work and responsibilities, the feeling is the same. You are not home.
It begins to creep in the moment you get the call to join the vessel. It is like an undercurrent all through the process of packing, saying goodbyes, and during the travel. An undercurrent that never stops.
The work at sea is demanding. It takes discipline and your 100% and it seems that the undercurrent is now at bay but remember it is an undercurrent. It NEVER dissipates.
That night when I was served with a burger for dinner, I could hear my boy say – “Yay, it’s burger time!” At tea-time, when my colleague was complaining of the coffee not being so good, I could hear her say – “You call this coffee?” In the recreation room when we all were watching the game, I could hear my mum say – “Why is it always game time? Give me that remote, I have to watch my show,” and I found myself actually stretching my hand to hand over that remote only to realise that the chair next to was empty.
Who says that it can be kept at bay? It cannot be but hope keeps it all going. The hope of meeting them soon. Every Biryani on the ship is one week less in the waiting period.
Of course, there are other distractions to reduce the undercurrent – the work, the little internet that we have, the port stays, canal transits, bad weather, rough sea, and breakdowns.
Being home-sick is something that is a recurring phenomenon in the life of a seafarer. You don’t try to keep it at bay. You learn to live with it because this is a feeling which boomerangs. The more you want to keep it at bay the more it will come back to you.
One of our best mates and saviours in this regard is technology. It has been making things easier. Once upon a time, there were days of the calling cards, then came mobiles, then the internet, and today you can video call. Even though communication is very limited, it gives you strength – a lot of strength; those moments with family are much needed to keep you going.
There is an IMO app that has made calling easier as it works even on very poor connectivity unlike WhatsApp and other Apps. However, there is always so much scope to make it better. Today, if any of my friends or families have to tell me something, they need to wait for 24-hours for me to come online. I am waiting for the day when my family will be able to call me or message me whenever they want because in life there are moments when that familiar ‘Hello’ heals. I may not be there to hold their hand but at least I can tell them – “I am listening whenever you want me to”.
Technology – Hope you’re listening!