The Sailor Parlance

The Black Diary
May 14, 2020
IHM Is A Feeling
June 4, 2020

The Sailor Parlance

“Let’s go to our cabin” – I’d be surprised and wonder where that was,… but that was a long time ago, not anymore! Now I know that’s our room, mine most of the times as dear husband uses his cabin while onboard!

“Shift to the port”….or it could be to “the starboard” some other time. These often used terms for directions that’d make me looking confused ever more. That’s supposed to be the left or the right side. I still can’t get the hang of it; for a person who has to look at the eating hand (the right hand) to check the right or the left side; port and starboard are a bit too much …Greek!
I recently discovered that there’s a term that describes my condition and it’s called the direction dyslexia. I wasn’t too pleased with the discovery though. Can you imagine a Professor describing herself like that. Well the other day I happened to talk about it to some friends in the third person for the obvious reasons. Guess what? I learnt that it wasn’t me alone. There were others who faced very similar challenges! Let me not add bow and stern, for that matter not even aft. Let’s keep our directions to good old Left and Right.

The Captain or the Master is often referred to as the ‘Buddha’, not as in Lord but buddha that’s old in Hindi. I am certain that the maritime world knows what Buddha is! I discovered this term even before hubby told me. Soon after our marriage, when I went back to work a colleague who happened to be a Chief Engineer’s wife called me a Buddhi… I was wondering why and she explained that my hubby was a Buddha in waiting; ready to take command.

Similarly there are the Bada Saab, that’s the Chief engineer, Second Saab is the second engineer, Teen Saab and Chaar Saab for third and fourth engineers respectively. Also Cookie for the Chief Cook , AB for the Able Seamen, Bosun, Batti Saab for the electrical officer and so on. There are different ranks but each having a nickname too! Guess what? All of them are Indian in origin. Look at how our marine brothers have been globetrotters and globe influencers! Isn’t that really powerful? The British might have been credited with creating the modern maritime but we Indians have given what matters the most- the nicknames! What’s in a name they say…. there’s so much more than one can imagine.

Everything you buy worth thousands will only be so many dollars for your sailor! I often laugh at that I ‘d think it to be so expensive if something costed 7 or 8 thousand rupees but for hubby it would only be 100 something Dollars. Perception is different you see!

Leaving aside perception, there are also certain qualities that set the sailors apart. Let’s look at some of them.
The conservationist – Save water! for that matter save everything possible, all resources are to be judiciously used. I can’t even keep the tap on while doing dishes, if hubby is around he’ll come and turn it off anyway. No food will be thrown ever and absolutely no wastage of anything. Let’s not talk about money here, money is just a couple of dollars and they work so hard to earn them, hence the family deserves indulgence! So they don’t save that commodity.

No littering around – Swatch Bharat Abhiyan came into practice now in our country, and government has levied a tax too but we have been living with it ever since. So much so that my kids put chocolate wrappers in their pockets and bring them home if they can’t find a dustbin around.

Safety First – Whatever is attempted has to be done with utmost safety in mind. If there is a doubt that means ‘doubt exists’ and something needs to be done about it! This applies every single time.

Know it all – He is the electrician, plumber, tailor, cook, driver, accountant, housekeeper, doctor so on and so forth. When he is around there’ll never be a need to call anyone as the sailor knows all these jobs, you see he is a jack of all trades. I call mine a Neem Hakim as he has a solution for everything. Your problems will be expressed later but his solution will be laid on the table first.

The spendthrift – They are big spenders. They work so hard and are away from their families for long periods of time so that they can give their dear ones the very best. They rarely spend on themselves though. It’s always for their near and dear ones. That gives them true happiness. What else will you call selfless?

Too trusting – They trust every tele caller and banker who connects with them. These NRIs are called to look at great investment ideas and schemes that’d be too good in the long run. They generally oblige, trusting everything that’s told to them. Our Rupee hasn’t been strong in a long time that could be the reason why the investments don’t look too big ever.

World language – They would have worked with so many nationalities that they can speak quite a few languages. Generally grammar may go for a toss as they are so used to not using proper English or proper sentences for that matter. Just for the ease of making things understandable to all. So that all can comprehend what’s spoken. Imagine Italian, Russian, Filipino, Bangladeshi, Indian, Ukrainian, Chinese or Thai all working as one team. The language needs to be global, …truly!

Ship as the home – When they are on work, the ship is home for the next 4-5 months. So every time you speak the general topic will be concerning weather, port, loading, discharging, crew change, dry dock, port state, vetting, pre- vetting etc. But they’ll love to hear everything from you, all the happenings around you, even the daily chores.

The Routine – Everything is clockwork, the watches, time for meals, sleep or wake up time. No one follows routine like a sailor.

Understanding time zones – The Shippies are just too good when it comes to understanding the weather, time zones, tides across the globe and also identifying the stars and constellations.

Expressive– They are quite the non expressive kinds. For that matter most men are but the sailors score a century here. Thanks to having “all boys” work teams. I guess they just learn to not express and its for others especially the spouse to understand. Their actions will speak for them, they don’t ever depend on words. So if you don’t hear,” Baby I love you” or “I’ve been missing you”. It’s absolutely normal. They mean all of these that’s why they call you using sat phones. Over the period of time you begin to love this particular quality of his.

The beverage love – They love their drinks whatever spirit or alcohol they prefer. It’s a luxury when they are on land. Most shipping companies don’t allow consumption of alcohol while onboard as certain countries have laws against them.

Cosmetics– They understand the importance of beautification and cosmetics. The big lady they live with is extremely demanding. They do the regular cleaning and painting work to keep her in top shape and with all aesthetics in place. Guess the sailor expects his own lady love to be the best! He undoubtedly understands the maintenance part!

The Ladies man– The sailors have been quite popular with ladies from time immemorial. Women have always loved to hear the stories of the seas and their adventures. Not to mention they getting jealous of the mermaids, believed to be every sailor’s fantasy and imagination.

Eye for detail – It is said that women have great eye for detail, I wish to add that the sailors are equally good if not better. They take in details of every little thing. It ‘d be a surprise though when they wouldn’t notice what you wear but will know that the eyeliner on the left eye was thicker than the right one. They are that precise!

Every Queen loves these things about her sailor.
“Without patience, a sailor I would never be.”
~ Lee Allred

PS. Picture courtesy Capt. Rajesh Todiwan and Ms. Ankita Misra

Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Founder Indian Women in Hospitality. She is a Professor, Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and a Blogger. A multiple award winning hospitality professional with a career spanning over two decades; people engagement, training and development are close to her heart. She writes for hospitality journals, online platforms and columns in the local newspapers. Married to a Master Mariner she loves to write on the maritime industry as well as the lives and relationships of the fraternity. She expresses her thoughts on her blog and website,

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