Nani at Sea

April 10, 2024

Author: Zahra Lalani, C Watch, Yale-NUS College


Post line-chase (memorizing all 77 lines on the ship) celebration Ft: Captain Allison, Emily, Megan, Taylor, Hannah, Bri, Aronah, Mya, Liam, Anneka, Amelia, Finn, Zahra, Matt

Ship's Log

Wednesday 10th April 2024

Noon Position (Lat and Long): 40°46.5’S x 160°14.6’W

Ship Heading (degrees): 080T

Ship Speed (knots): 6.8

Taffrail Log (nm): 1389

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan (from 1300 Watch Change): Motor sailing on a
starboard tack at 1000rpms under the four lowers, single reef in the
mains’l, winds ESE

Description of location: 1045nm east of New Zealand!

I want to dedicate today’s blog in honour of you Nani (grandmother), to
celebrate with our family your life on the upcoming two-month anniversary
since your passing and share with them how you still live within me,
inspiring me while I embark on this sailing adventure.

Sleeping on a boat has been a real adjustment, trying to wedge myself as
tightly as possible in my bunk so I don’t go flying every time Bobby C
dances from side to side. Accompanying this somewhat interrupted sleep are a
plethora of wacky dreams. You have always been my dream interpreter, but now
I’ve started to note them down in my journal, contemplating potential hidden
meanings like you taught me to. On the extra restless nights, I glance at
your tasbih (beaded prayer chain) which once hung by your bed and now hangs
by mine, a boost of extra strength to get through the next watch.

When I feel poorly, I dig into my little remedy pouch, your wise words as a
Homeopathic Doctor echoing within me: “Take Arnica” (remedy for bumps –
something I’ve grown to accept as a morning tradition from accidentally
sitting upright in my bunk) or “Drink hot water with honey and haldi”
(turmeric powder) or do yoga, “the best way to nourish the soul.” In the
past, I used to shrug it off “ok achaa (yes) Nani” but now, I’m listening to
your advice more, practising those sun salutations amongst captivating
oceanic landscapes.

The meals on the boat have been stellar, but no food beats your cooking.
Every day, there’s a student steward, and during my rotation, my first
instinct was to sift through one of the cookbooks you authored. For dinner,
we made fish and chips, and I smiled as a momentary flashback of you
teaching me the egg-breadcrumb coating method resurfaced.

While on this ship, there are two different types of watches: Lab and Deck.
During Lab, we do six-minute observations of the wildlife around us during
each sunlight hour. I wish you could have seen the beautiful Hector’s
dolphins, pilot whales, and so many birds around us –maybe you can. I think
of your excitement seeing the Big 5 when we spontaneously ventured to
Nairobi National Park, or our magical sighting of the hoopoe while
meditating in Zanzaman Park in Karachi. I think you’d be especially
captivated by the mighty Albatross. I admire how you expressed all your
appreciation for wildlife from writing and directing several plays like
Conference of the Birds to singing to your treasured African Grey parrot in
Nairobi each morning– Papa, I hope your still giving Kasuku some attention!

During Deck watch, part of the rotation is lookout. The time to stare from
the highest standing point on the ship, twelve nautical miles into the
abyss, solely listening to the sounds of waves for an hour until the next
rotation. I stare at the skies, the clouds, often contemplating the
existence of otherworldly concepts – heaven? These ethereal views of nature
that I witness seem to be the closest depiction to heaven I have heard
about. I find myself reciting salwats and ginans (singing prayers), wishing
you peace and eternal happiness.

When there’s a breathing moment to relax, its often spent in the main salon.
Once while playing rummy, I explained to my friend Sam about the addition of
a poploo (the extra joker you liked to chuck in) but laughed to myself
realising that I have no idea if this is a real rule or just one of Nani’s
quirks, as I never dared to question your card-playing methods. I’m trying
to muster your passion for languages and life-long learning – it’s still
absurd to me how one could know  8+ languages (e.g. English, French,
Kiswahili, Hindi, Spanish, Urdu, Gujrati, Kuuchi) but I’m starting small by
reading the Tahitian posters in the head (bathroom), trying to memorise all
capital cities of the world and simultaneously learning and teaching some
American Sign Language to help raise Deaf awareness amongst the ship crew.

When I miss you, I curl up in my bunk (the curling is partially also to stop
myself being thrown about by the wild swells at night) in your nightie and
savour the perfume you gave me. It’s real a special treat in this world of
showering every third day, also known as after every 4 watches, as time is
really a concept that only works in watches here, not days. Or if I’m a bit
down momentarily questioning why I chose to be so out of my comfort zone
again, I remind myself of your brave, adventurous spirit, from uprooting
your life from India, U.K., and Kenya, to flying a jet or the generous
ground-breaking seva (service) you gave to our community. I strive to carry
your carefree spirit with me.

Before each watch, I like to pop on a different pair of earrings, something
colourful and wacky mimicking the jewellery, loud colours and bright purple
lipstick you boldly wore (no, I have still never seen anyone else wear this
lipstick colour). And whenever I don’t feel like expressing my emotions, I
muster courage thinking how you were so ahead of your time and paved the way
for so many women to gain strength – even taking a course on how to be
assertive (possibly reaching to the point of being too opinionated at
moments? 😉 ) but it reminds me to be open with how I feel and express when
I need help.

There are also so many little funny memories that pop up, it could be so
minute but something like even the mention of a fire alarm being set off, I
chuckled remembering how you and your friends were expelled from school from
setting the alarm off and locking a teacher in the classroom – what a
chaotic life! Or how you loved to trick the grandchildren on April Fools
from one year pretending to hurt your leg so we gave you extra TLC (tender,
love, care) to fully convincing us that you had another sister that we had
never heard of called Jarida.

I wish I could share everything I’m discovering with you, but I believe you
are watching over. I want you to thank you for everything you have taught me
and the rest of our family. We have learnt so much from your zest for
life-long learning, adventure spirit, charity work, and strong personality.

Although intimidated by the idea of not being able to call my mum every day,
especially during this period in the earlier stages of grieving, I am
grateful for this time away from the outside noise that accompanies
technology. In fact, life on the boat has given more time with my thoughts
allowing myself to be present and appreciate my Nani in all her wonderful
element and beauty. The sadness is slowly dissipating, overpowered by
gratitude for her.

To family and friends:

Dear famalam, I hope you are staying strong and finding time to celebrate
Nani in the small moments of the day. I miss you all, am continuously
excited by all the learning and am having a truly awesome adventure – I love
that I have found something which truly pushes me out my comfort zone.

To all my lovely friends, I can’t wait to share with you the little stories
I’m collecting (I hope you’re also writing things down!) and I do now feel I
am entering into my aged era because something as simple as walking feels
like a real effort on a wildly rocking boat and realising that I can have an
8pm bedtime every “local apparent Friday” (every 4 watches) is one of the
most treasured joys.

Zahra Lalani, C Watch, Yale-NUS College

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