Anybody know how Goan crew on cruiseliners are dying in droves??
What is the cause of death of so many young men?
A few years ago while flying from Goa to Bombay, I got into a casual
conversation with my neighbour who happened to be a shippie. This is his
Hailing from Candolim, he worked earlier as a Roomboy at Taj Fort Aguada.
The job was seasonal from October to April coinciding with the peak foreign
tourist arrivals. Thereafter he was laid off with no compensation.He heard
from other shippies about the Caribbean Cruises and the grand pay and so
decided to apply for a job. He was called for an interview which he
attended at his own expense and was selected for the job.
He joined the cruise at Miami at his own cost. He was made to sign a
contract to work for 9 months with no holidays, including Sundays, no
off-days, no leave. Working hours were of 16 hours per day. The base salary
was low and the bulk was variable pay mainly made up of tips/ incentives.
In a good month, the gross salary could go up to Rs 150,000. With food free
and on the house, this was pure savings.
Life aboard the Cruise Liner was tough. He had to clean and tidy up 30
rooms every day, twice, spread over two decks. Many of the passengers were
filthy rich, selfish, arrogant and demanding. Any mistake or error would
result in a complaint made against him, for which a part of his incentives
would be deducted. He was on beck and call all day long. He had to pander
to the whims and fancies of the passengers who would ask him to clean and
tidy up their rooms at odd times. And so he had to go back and forth
without rest. He was trained to accept that the customer was always right,
even when he was wrong, and so had to endure their temper tantrums.
His sole companions were fellow goans who worked in the kitchen. Fed up of
eating the same rich food daily, his fellow goans would rustle up some goan
homemade stuff which they enjoyed and relished.
Emotionally and psychologically he was scarred with no family member close
by in whom he could confide or share his troubles or difficulties. With no
break even for a single day, even when the ship berthed at a port, it was
nothing short of slave working conditions. He could not even go to Church
to hear Mass during his period of contract.
He had to keep his employers and passengers in good humour at all times as
otherwise his contract would not get renewed after he enjoyed his break.
After working for a few years and enduring the hardships, he got married
and constructed a big, beautiful house in Candolim, and in the process
exhausted all his savings.
Just then misfortune struck. While climbing down the stairs aboard the
ship, he missed a step and came tumbling down, in the process breaking the
bone of his leg. He was given first aid and laid up in bed as there was no
Orthopedic doctor on board. On reaching port after some days, he was taken
to a doctor. The doctor attended to him and he was back on the ship. During
the days when he was invalid, he received no wages. Once he was back on his
feet, he realised that the surgery was not done properly. The bones were
not set right and he was left with one leg short and a permanent limp. This
made his work more difficult as now his speed and mobility was restricted.
On completion of his contract, he flew down to India and immediately went
to consult an Orthopedic surgeon.
Unfortunately, by then the bones had set permanently, and the Orthopedic
surgeon could do nothing. He was left scarred for life with a limp. In this
condition he found it very difficult to work, but had no choice as his wife
was now pregnant with their first child and he had little savings. So back
he was on the ship living a life which he now hated. With no skills or
education he was left with little choice.
This is the kind of life shippies on cruise liners lead. Is it any wonder
that many of them commit suicide?