Posted in Book review, True Story, Inspirational

An Unfinished Odyssey – Book Review

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With a lot of pride and joy, I start writing today.  I start writing about a project I was involved in.  I can’t take any credit for the way this book has turned out.  But I will surely take pride in claiming to know the Editor and publisher of this great book.  So I am going to claim pride by proxy.

Rohan may not know this, but after a very long lapse the reason for me to pick up the pen or in my case the keyboard to write was, him asking me to write about my journey through cancer and other medical dramas.  At the time he made this request, my desire and habit for writing was dormant.  That piece of writing was the reason for the birth of my blog.  So I owe a lot to Rohan for igniting that passion again in me.

Rohan is a great writer himself and was a regular cricket columnist for the “Island” newspaper.  He is a well read man with wicked sense humour.  But along with those good qualities he also possessed a very stubborn and ‘never give up’ ‘pain in the rear’ type quality. Which can be pretty annoying, especially if you aren’t too convinced you want to do what he is asking you to do.  However, you finally give in, as you can see he is not going to back down until he gets what he wants.

“An unfinished Odyssey” is the grand production from the above guy. Rohan and my hubby worked for a company called the Ceylon Shipping Corporation.  Amazing establishment in those days.  Rohan was the Chief Engineer and my hubby a Captain. Rohan tirelessly went after many who have sailed on these ships to write their life and stories and made it into this magnificent book.

Rohan asked me to contribute to this book as the only female/supernumerary and I duly obeyed.  It was great to see my name on such a great book.  I wrote a book review and sent it to the Editor of the Sri Lankan “Island” paper.  I was rather chuffed today to find out that it has actually made it into the paper.

The Book Review

An Unfinished Odyssey’ – an Anthology a collection of tales and musings from those who have served for CSC (Ceylon Shipping Corporation), compiled, designed and edited by RohanWijeyaratna.

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 by a bunch of old sea dogs 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 7 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 arelisted as per the progression from the Cargo Ships with oak interiorsfit 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 bequite 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 taleswrapped around them as they reached their final recipients’ hands, and those who brought them to us had a way ofnarrating their tales with passion, pride and style, as amply seen throughoutthe pages of this maritime classic -“An unfinished odyssey”.

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

By Uma Ganesan – who sailed in the capacity of Supernumerary.


 

I humbly urge as many of you to make a purchase.  I don’t make a red cent from the sales nor does Rohan.  He is a visionary.  He is planning to sponsor as many cadets from poor backgrounds.  I think the best form of charity is not just to give some one the money but in fact to pave the way for them to make that money.

For book purchases http://unfinishedodyssey.lk/

My review on the island paper

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=185229

 

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