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Man Overboard

Man Overboard
I stood on the deck of S.S. Rajula. As she slowly moved out of Madras harbour, I waved to my grandparents till I could see them no more. I was thrilled to be on board a ship. It was a new experience for me. "Are you travelling alone?" asked the person standing next to me. "Yes, Uncle, I'm going back to my parents in Singapore," I replied.

Man  Overboard 

I   stood  on   the   deck  of   S.S.   Rajula.   As   she slowly  moved out  of  Madras  harbour,  I  waved to my  grandparents  till  I  could  see  them  no  more. I was thrilled to be  on board a ship.  It was a new experience for me.

"Are  you  travelling  alone?"  asked   the   person standing  next  to  me.

"Yes,  Uncle,  I'm  going  back  to  my  parents  in Singapore,"  I  replied.

"What's  your  name?"  he  asked.

"Vasantha,"  I  replied.

I  spent  the  day  exploring  the  ship.   It  looked just like a big house.  There were furnished rooms, a  swimming  pool,  a  room  for  indoor  games,  and a  library.  Yet,  there  was  plenty  of  room  to  11111  around.

The  next  morning  the  passengers  were  seated in  the  dining  hall,   having  breakfast.  The  loud-speaker  spluttered  noisily  and  then  the  captain's voice  came loud and clear.  "Friends we have just

received  a message that a  storm is brewing in the Indian  Ocean.  I  request  all  of  you  to  keep  calm.

Do  not  panic.   Those  who  are  inclined  to  sea- sickness  may  please  stay  in  their  cabins.  Thank you."

There was panic everywhere. An old lady pray-ed  aloud,  "Oh  God!  Have  mercy  on us.  My only son  is waiting for me in Singapore."

A    gentleman    consoled   her,    "Don't    worry, Madam,   it's   only   a  warning.   We  may  not  be affected  at  all."

Another lady, who was  sitting beside me,  look-ed  very ill.  "Not rough  weather!  I'm  already  sea-sick.  A  rough  sea  will  be  the  end  of me!" I could not understand why all the  elders were

so  upset.  I  remembered  the   several   sea   adventures  I  had read.  Excitedly,  I turned to  the elderly  gentleman  sitting  next  to  me.  "Uncle,  won't it be  thrilling  to  face  a  storm  on  board  a  steamer?

Have you ever been on a ship during a storm?" "It  can  be  quite  unpleasant,  you  know,"  he  replied  rather  severely.  "I  remember  a  time  when the ship  on which  I was  travelling ran off  course. We were  wandering on the  ocean for a couple  of days."

I  remembered my class teacher,  an English woman,  telling us in class  one  day,  "When I  crossed the  English  Channel  on  my   way   to   Singapore, there  was  a  big  storm  near  Gibraltar.  The  ship rocked  to  and  fro.  Everything  in  the  cabins  rolled  up  and  down.  Even  the  heavy  pianos  in  the lounge  went  crashing  against  the  walls." This  made  my  imagination  run  wild.  Turning to  'Uncle'  again,  I  said,  "Wouldn't it be fun if the storm  broke   when   we   have   lunch?   Then   the tables, with all the food on them, would run away

from  us.  And the  chairs,  with  us sitting  on them, would be  a  merry-go-round."

Everyone  round  the  table  stared  at me  in  horror.  I thought to myself, 'Oh, these adults, they've no sense of adventure.  How  dull they are!' The  storm  didn't  break,  but  in  the  evening  a strong  wind  started  blowing.  The  ship  rocked  to and  fro,  rocking  and  rolling  to  the  music  of  the wind.  Huge waves  were  dashing  against it.  Even though  the   deck   was   slippery,   I   was   running around.  That's when I noticed Uncle leaning over the  railings.  I  ran  up   to   him,   thinking   he   too, was   enjoying   the   experience.   "Good   morning,

Uncle,  isn't it lovely?"  I asked him. 

But he wasn't well at all.  He was  retching  over the  rails  and looked rather blue  about  the  mouth. I  felt  sorry for him.  "Can  I  be  of  any help?  Shall I  call  the  doctor?'   I  asked  him. 

He  couldn't  reply,  but  only  held  up  his  hand.

As  another  bout  of  retching  shook him  he  leaned over  the  railings.  At  the  same  time  a  huge  wave lashed the  ship.  It  lurched violently  and  the man tumbled  over  the  railings  into  the  wild  sea.  For a  second  I  stood  rooted  to  the  spot.  Then  I  ran like  someone  possessed,   shouting,   "Help!   Help! Man  overboard!  Save  him!"  I  must have  made  a lot  of noise.  I  heard  footsteps  hurrying  even  that early  in  the  morning.

Tears  streaming  down  my  face  and  shouting incoherently,  I  ran full  pelt  into  an  officer. "What's  the  matter?  Why  are  you  making  so much  noise?"  he  asked  in  a  stern  voice,  I  was surprised  to  see  it  was  the  captain.

"Oh  Sir!"  I  blurted  out  in  relief.  "A  man  fell into  the  sea.  Please  save him."

"Where?"  he  asked,  immediately  on  the  alert. 

"There,"  I  said pointing a finger.

He  did  not  wait  for  more  details  but  ran  at once  to  a  room  full  of  officers.  "Man  overboard," he  cried.  "Stop  ship.   Drop   anchor.   Quick!"   His instructions  were  immediately  obeyed.  The  captain  then  raced  to the upper  deck.  I kept trailing behind  him.  "Lower  the  life-boats  and  crew  into the  sea  towards  the  helm,"  he  said.  "There  is  a man   overboard."   Here   again   the   men   quickly obeyed  him.

People   started   crowding   the   deck.   "What's happening?"  somebody  asked me.

Word  soon  went  round.  Everyone  was  tense.

Only an occasional,  "There he is!" could be heard.

Someone  asked,  "Who  is  he?"

Another  replied,  "Don't  know."

Meanwhile  two  life-boats  moved  towards  the man.  I  stood  close  to  the  captain.  In his  anxiety, he  gripped  my  shoulder  tightly  and  I  winced.

"You're hurting me  Sir,"  I  protested.

"I  am  sorry,  my  dear.  The  sea  is  very  rough today.  I hope my men can reach him in time.  My ship  has  never  lost  a  passenger  before,"  he  said crossing   himself.   He   was   watching  the   rescue operations  through  a pair  of binoculars  that hung round his neck.

The  boat  was  too  far  for  me  to  see  what  was happening.   I   tugged   at   the   Captain's   sleeve.

"What  are  they  doing,  Sir?  Have  they  rescued the man?"  I  asked him.

"They've caught him  by  the  arms  and  are pulling  him  towards  the  boat."  He  was  giving  me  a running commentary.  "Oh what bad luck!  A  sudden  current  has  swept  the  man  away  dragging two of the sailors with him." He sounded nervous. 

Just   then   he  noticed   the   passengers   crowding against  the  railings.  "Keep  away  from  those  railings!"   he    shouted.    "We   don't   want   another accident."  The  ship  had  dropped  anchor  but was heaving  up  and  down.

I   borrowed   the   captain's   binoculars.   Now   I could  see  the  rescue  operation  clearly.  The  crew in the rescue boats threw a strong rope to the two sailors  in  the  sea  and  shouted,  "Catch".  Both  of them  were  good  swimmers  and  soon  had  caught hold of the rope. Then, with powerful strokes, they swam  towards  Uncle.  One  of  them  caught  hold of  him,  while  the  other  tied  the  rope  round  his waist.  With  Uncle  between  them  and  the  rope secure, the sailors swam back to the life-boats. The rescue  team  in  the  boats  leaned  over and  heaved the  three  men  into  it.  In  a  jiffy  the  boats  were heading  back  to  the  ship.

"Thank God!"  muttered the captain making the sign of the cross again,  "They've managed to save him."  He  turned  to  the  passengers  thronging  the railings.   "Please   do  not   crowd  round  the   man when  he  is  brought  up.  He  will  need  immediate medical care." Then he saw the ship's doctor standing  with  a  couple  of nurses.  A  stretcher was  also being  brought  close  to  the  railings.

"Doctor!  Is  everything  ready  for  the  patient?" the  captain  asked.

"Aye,  aye,  Captain,"  nodded  the  doctor.

The  captain  moved  away  to  restore  order  on the  ship.  I  edged  close  to  the  doctor  and  asked, "What will you  do  to him,  doctor?  Will he  be all right?"

"Aye,  I  think  so.  All  the  water will have to  be pumped  out  of  him.  He'll  have  to  be  given  artificial  respiration  and  kept  warm."

"How  do  you  pump  the  water  out?"  I  asked.

"We  put  him  on  his  stomach  and  massage  him until  he brings  it  all  up,"  he  replied. 

As  soon  as  the  rescue  team  reached  the  ship,

Uncle  was  placed  on  the  stretcher and rushed to the  hospital  room.  The  captain  then  came  to  me and  said,  "Run  along  now  and  play  with  your friends.  I'm busy,  but will send for you when I'm through.  I  might  even  have  a  surprise  for  you." 

When  he  turned  away,  I  quietly  sneaked  into the  hospital room  to  see what they were  doing to the patient.  Two nurses were scurrying to and fro with trays full of medicines and syringes.  Another was  rushing  off  with  Uncle's  wet  clothes.  I  stopped  her  and  asked  if  Uncle  was  conscious.  "Not yet,"  she replied, "but he's better now.  He should regain  consciousness  in  a  little  while."

The ship was still rolling,  so I couldn't play any games. I went and sat in a cosy chair in the lounge and  started  reading  a  story-book.  I  was  feeling drowsy  and must have  dozed  off.  The next tiling I  knew  was  somebody  saying,  "Wake  up,  child.

You're  Vasantha,  aren't  you?  The  Captain  wants to see you in his cabin."

I  looked up  to see  a  sailor  standing before me.

It  took  me  a  minute  to  recollect  the  rescue  operation  and  the  captain  telling  me,  "I'll  call  you afterwards."

I  followed  the  officer  eagerly.  He  left  me  out side  the  captain's  door,  saying,  "Go  right  inside." I  knocked  and entered.  The captain was  stand ing in  the  middle  of the  room.  When he  saw  me, he  came  forward  and  literally  swept  me  off  my feet.  He  was  still  smiling  when he put  me  down.

"You will have plenty to tell your friends, eh? Now close  your  eyes."

I  did  so.  Seconds  later,  I  heard  him  say,  "See what  I've  got  for  you."

On  opening  my  eyes,  I  saw  a  big  brown  box.

On  it  was  written:


I  took  the  box  and  eagerly  opened  it.   "Oh, what a lovely ship!" I exclaimed.  "Does this really belong  to  me?  Can  I  keep  it?"

Lying  snugly  on  a  velvet  backing  was  a  most beautiful  model  of  the  ship.  On  it  was  inscribed "B.I.S.N.  &  Co.  S.S.  RAJULA."  I  placed  the  box carefully  on  the  table.  Then  I  threw  my  hands round  the  captain  and  hugged  and  kissed  him.

He  patted  my cheek  and  smiled  as  he  saw me lift  the  box  and  walk  happily  out  of  his  room.  I proudly  showed  my  present  to  everyone  I  met.

"See   what   the   Captain   has   given   me.   Isn't  it lovely?"

"Yes,  indeed,"  was  the  unanimous  verdict.

I  was  the happiest person  on board that day.

 .............................. END.......................................

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