It has been a fantastic run up to the departure. People have come out in numbers with support. Almost every day I have had friends and strangers drop in with books and icons for the voyage. The more pragmatic ones kept us supplied with cool water, cakes, drinks and what not. My grandfather did his bit from his remote village in sending pickled dry fish. Admira Awati’s wife, and my adopted mother, sent bottles of ghee. Clea almost loaded me up with dehydrated veggies and other stuff to last the entire voyage. DFRL Mysore singularly contributed more than half the food that will be needed for the voyage.
Wishes have come pouring in from everywhere corner of the planet. The overwhelming number of phone calls and messages became too much for me to handle and I had to put up a notice apologising. Gaurav Shinde, who aims to be the first Indian to race around the world in a Clipper boat, had paid visit at Goa. A month later, he sent in his wishes from San Francisco from a sail boat. A young German boy who came aboard at Goa sent his wishes in a hand made postcard asking me to take it around the world and post it back to him when I get back to India. He signed off with a “Jai Hind”. Yet another naval friend, who is on the verge of retirement, called up to tell that it seems like a chapter out of the story books she has read in her childhood. A senior colleague in my office has decided to grow a beard to show solidarity with the project.
Urmimala, a cartographer in her own right, gave expression to her emotions on paper and came up with some fantastic illustrations. She had almost made up her mind to fly down from Delhi and visit the Chatrapati Shivaji Museum to see a miniature model of the boat but was disheartened when she came to know that it had been shifted out since the last PFR. Friends that I have made have started having dreams of the boat with such regularity and lucidity that I fear they must be more concerned for me than they care to admit. Some of my friends have refused to be at the Gateway on the 1st of November because it would cause them too much emotional turmoil to see me off.
Vishal Sharma, who had sailed with us to Malaysia, took leave to come to work on the boat and prepare her, something for which I will always be grateful. The person who proved to be the most important and the most useful also turns out to the be most humble and the most unsung- Leading Seaman Mohammed Izhar Alam. He has singlehandedly kept the boat in good order during my absences and looked after her as if it were his own. Since the time he joined the boat, he has grown tremendously because of all the hard work he has put in. It is as if the term “Man Friday” was coined for him. I could not have asked for a better assistant ever.
Cdr Donde worked to prepare the boat, even harder than he had prepared for his own voyage. Not only did he get his hands greased and dirty, he also doubled up as a manager and staff officer, handling appointments and the much dreaded paper work. Ratnakar left all his business to dedicate almost five working days for the boat and its preparation. Cdr Donde’s mother, Meera, saved nearly a week of my time by sorting out all food that had arrived from different corners of the earth.
This has not been a one man show. I have mentioned only a few names but there are many many more. Those who could not contribute physically have sent in their wishes. It is heartening to note the amount of confidence people have in the boat, the Project and the Indian Navy. Adventure, definitely, is alive in the heart of every Indian.
But from now on, I must walk alone. It will be a solitary passage, but never a lonely one. You will get to hear from me at a lesser frequency than you have been and at times there will be stretches when you might not hear from me at all. In those times, do remember that I am possibly having a very good time!