Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Casting Away from Cape Town

As I had feared the ship did not lift its anchor at 7 am. The revised time was 2 pm. Mr Dhar allowed people to go out to the market. The Water Front shopping area and mall were at the walking distance. I was on galley duty along with Saini. Though there was nothing I wanted to buy, but was keen to go out of the ship and walk and walk. He suggested to make only veg pulao for lunch. Surjeet, the cook, was not interested to go out, and he offered to prepare the entire lunch by himself. Half-heartedly I protested, but was happy when he did not relent. Nice munda! Back in the market I again wanted to buy that book: Diamonds, Gold and War: the making of South Africa by Martin Meredith, but then realized that I was not carrying my credit card. Just loitered around aimlessly and came back at 12:30. Surjeet had prepared all lunch by himself; I only helped in preparing salad from fresh vegetables bought yesterday. At 1:45 pm, when I saw Javed Saab still on the ship, I asked if there was further upward revision in ship’s sailing. And yes, now the revised time was 4 pm. I asked if I could walk to the market to buy a book: the shopping mall was just 15 min away. It was possible but I did not wish to go alone. No one agreed to come along. Then seeing my predicament, Javed Saab offered to send me in his car (he has a cab for his stay in Cape Town). Then five other people also got ready. We were advised to return by 3:30, it was already 2:15. No problem. The first book store I visited had the book, but was in soft cover; I thought it would be much cheaper, but it was also at 200 rand as compared to 217 of the hard cover. And the store did not have the hard cover copy. The salesman advised me to the next store in the mall and gave me directions. But he politely refused to enquire on the phone saying he could not talk to his company’s competitors. Went to the next; luckily, this store had the hard cover copy. I asked the salesman for discount. He said his store does not have the policy of offering discount and with a smile asked me why should he give me any. I enumerated four reasons: first because I am asking for a discount, second, because it was my last half hour in this city and I am still at his store; third, I am returning from a five-month long expedition to Antarctica; fourth, I shall give him my autograph.These were all brilliant reasons but, unfortunately, did not cut any ice with the salesman. I though, may be, if it were a salesgirl I would have had a better luck.

On return we found that the revised time to sail was now 5 pm. Finally she left at 6 pm, after a delay of 10 hours. So unpredictability of the journey did not cease to exist with crossing of the Antarctic circle.

Lifting the anchor and sailing away (‘cast away’ is the appropriate term) from the port is no ordinary event. It is quite a ritualistic affair to prevent any untoward event during this period. Port designates a person, Pilot, to come aboard. The ship can not sail until he comes. Two tug-boats pull her to cast away from the port land till a point from where she can turn and move freely. Then the Pilot, who supervises all this from the bridge (navigation deck), comes down and through the ladder, suspended from the ship, rides away in his pilot boat.
For dinner, we had fresh vegetable for salad and veggie. I suggested to make aloo-gobhi differently by stir-frying and putting just some salt (white as well as black) and black pepper only. The idea was accepted, Surjeet also sprinkled some chaat masala. We got compliments. The fresh vegetables had made all the difference.

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