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‘An Unfinished Odyssey’

– An Anthology a collection of tales and musings from those who have served for CSC
(Ceylon Shipping Corporation), compiled, designedand edited by Rohan Wijeyaratna



In the era of eBooks, this book stands as a testament and shows the irreplaceable value of a good hard cover book; a book that you can judge merely by its cover alone. The journey begins from the minute you set eyes on this creation. It is evident the Editor, Designer and ‘Owner’ of this book Rohan, had looked into every minute detail which has gone into making it near perfect. From the posh silky paper to the font style, everything about the book looks simply exquisite. If you are a reader you will be affected by a serious case of "can’t put it down". If you are not a reader, it is a piece of artwork to adorn your bookshelf in the sitting room, to make you look learned.


Like all great ideas the origins of making this book evolved around Rohan’s inspiration lapped up bya bunch of old seadogs who had by then consumed a skinful or two (a sailor’s skinful or two – the amount that leaves most land-dwellers incapacitated). Rohan was perhaps the only one in his senses to understand the enormity of the exercise, which is why we heard from him so often – pleading, cajoling, threatening and insulting in various stages prior to final deliverance. What he has put together are a collection of tales which are near unbelievable. They stand as a true testament to his unrelenting perseverance.


Many of us are inspired into writing our own life stories. We often say to each other that we should make these stories into a book. But very seldom do such wishes turn into reality. I doubt if anyone else would have initiated such a mammoth task; very certain no one could have persevered and produced it with such class as Rohan has.


However, reading about the editor I come to realise that RohanWijeyaratna is no novice when it comes to the literary world, and it is abundantly evident with the outcome of this book. He has been a regular Cricket columnist for "The Island" newspaper for about seven years in addition to his professional work. He was also responsible for the birth of the Newsletter, and he also produced and published as the ‘Journal of the I.Mar.E – Sri Lanka branch (Institute of Marine Engineers)’. Without such journalistic experience and expertise and the inherent art in him, this project might not have been so successful.


The very first page, poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sets the scene perfect.


"Ah! What pleasant vision haunt me, as I gaze upon the Sea…."


The first verse finishes with "all my dreams come back to me."


The last verse finishes with "and the singing of the sailors and the answers from the shore!"


And yes you can’t put it down after that start.


The book gives you a snippet of the history of Sri Lankan Shipping which starts in the late 1960’s and then the tales from individual sailors starting around early 1970’s. Writers from the early era have taken justifiably written with pride in describing their first love – the m.v. ‘Lanka Rani’, which was the first ship they sailed on. The stories are listed as per the progression from the Cargo Ships with oak interiors fit for a Queen to the modern Container ships stripped of its oak finishes, brass fittings, the lace and trimmings.


Just like how Rohan explains, "much like good wine, the stories kept getting better with age and embellishment". It is evident from these stories that this period in their lives was not just in pursuit of a career for these young men (now not so young). As a woman who sailed and didn’t have to work for the privilege I can confirm this part of their career and life was, and will always be quite unforgettable for them.


Like life, these young men met with their fair share of triumphs and trials on each of these voyages. Death of their colleagues (at sea), fire, and very bad injuries were all part of the journey. Movie scenes of "man overboard" was part of their life.There are stories of "Ghosts" on board as well to add to the mystic. One writer explains how "when they ran short of liquor the ghosts were up to mischief". Everything was solved with a good drink, laughter and mateship.


The book illustrates much good humour and witticisms throughout, even in the presence of hardship. It gives you a great appreciation of the "foreign" item you buy off the shelf-be it the most expensive bottle of Grange Shiraz or just some condiments. They’ve all had their fair share of tales wrapped around them as they reached their final recipients’ hands, and those who brought them to us had a way of narrating their tales with passion, pride and style, as amply seen throughout the pages of this maritime classic -"An unfinished odyssey".


I can assure you, it is a great read; worth every penny spent in buying it.


Uma Ganesan – who sailed in the capacity of Supernumerary.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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