Sinbad, The Sailor
Jeena stepped out of the huge ship, amidst shouts and cheers. On realising that the welcome was for him he felt embarrassed, and a shy smile crossed his face. People lifted him on their shoulders and danced around, cheering his name.
“Jeena, the saviour! Jeena the brave-heart! Three cheers to Jeena, hip, hip hurray!” the shouts went up in unison. Jeena indeed deserved all this heroic welcome because he, alone, had been instrumental in getting all of the fifty four sailors back home, safe. Everyone, including the sailors themselves, had given all hopes of their safe return; so it was a moment of unbelievable joy for each one of them.
Jeena, a mere nineteen-year-old, had wanted to be a sailor since he was all of ten. He lived in a remote village on the banks of a mighty river that came gushing down the Himalayas and then meandered around a bit on the plains, making it home to many crocodiles. Sudden disappearance of people would be noticed through some times of the year, and that would be attributed to the hungry crocodiles. People generally avoided going to that part of the village. Jeena was always a courageous soul. He feared nothing. He and his younger brother Cheena would roam around the whole village all day, with their cattle. They had a dog named Shera who, as befitted his name, was a ferocious creature.
One day, a troupe of travelling artists came to their village. The troupe was travelling from one village to another, enacting different performances. That day, in the village, they enacted a play on the story of ‘Sinbad The Sailor’. After the performance they also showed a film on Sinbad. The film had a huge impact on the young and fearless mind of Jeena. He decided then and there that he would become a sailor. He spoke to the members of the troupe, enquiring about how he could become one. One of the members was particularly happy to see such curiosity and determination in Jeena, and he sort of guided him by giving him all relevant information. Ten years was too young an age for such an ambitious dream, he explained. One needed to be at least eighteen years of age, he told him. Jeena had to wait eight years to fulfil his dream, he thought.
One bright morning Jeena, along with Cheena and their cattle, and accompanied by Shera, set out on their daily explorations. Wandering aimlessly, unintentionally, they reached the part of the village that generally was avoided by people. Jeena climbed a tree and settled on its branch for a short nap. Cheena wasn’t too keen on a nap, so he kept playing with Shera. Suddenly Shera stopped, and looked alert. He had upped his ears and was looking searchingly all around. Cheena, taking the cue from Shera, went ahead trying to see what the supposed danger was all about. Shera started barking as Cheena ran towards the river to look what was agitating Shera. Shera’s barking woke Jeena, and seeing Cheena run towards the river, he gave out a shout to stop him.
“ Cheena, stop! You are not supposed to go near the river. It is not safe.”
“ It’s okay, Jeena. I am being careful. I just want to see what is making Shera behave like this,” shouted Cheena back.
“No, stop Cheena. Stop, I say,” ordered Jeena, just as he saw a huge and frightening mouth opening up, and drawing Cheena into the water. Jeena was on the ground in no time and, along with Shera, rushed towards the river. The big head of the crocodile, indicating it to be an enormous one, could be seen just below the surface of the water. Cheena was struggling to be freed. Jeena frantically looked around. His eyes settled on a hoe lying under a tree. Without thinking twice he picked it up, and charged towards the monster-like creature in the water. He hit it as hard as he could, and kept on hitting it again and again. The crocodile got ruffled and splashed and turned towards Jeena. Jeena never gave up, and his repeated hitting with the hoe injured the crocodile badly, and he let go of Cheena. Shera immediately jumped into the river and dragged Cheena out as Jeena kept on hitting the crocodile, which was trying to duck inside the water, till it died. The water had turned blood red. Cheena was bleeding profusely from his legs. Jeena carried him back home, and it was indeed a miraculous escape for Cheena from the jaws of sure death. The villagers showered accolades on Jeena for his bravery, but Jeena was only satisfied that he had been able to save his brother.
As soon as Jeena turned eighteen, he went to Mumbai and joined a ship as a sailor. His eagerness to learn and his agility, helped him get selected for the same. Now Jeena set out on his first voyage. It was an oil tanker that carried crude oil. It was to be a three-month sail and Jeena’s excitement knew no bounds. In no time, he was learning all that he could. He would keep visiting all quarters and watch the functioning. He was never ever tired of work and with his sharp mind and pleasant nature, he easily won the hearts of the seniors.
They had been travelling for almost two months now, and had touched about twelve countries. They were now in the continent of Africa and from here they were supposed to return to India. One night, when majority of the crew members were asleep, Jeena was sitting on the deck enjoying the breeze and watching the ocean. He heard some noise below and on listening carefully, he could make out that something was amiss. He ran down the deck and out of nowhere came gun-wielding men, who confronted him. Pirates had attacked the ship and before anyone could react, they were all overpowered and brought down to one place, with their hands and feet tied. The pirates ransacked the ship, looted it, and then made the sailors climb down to boats waiting for them. They were blindfolded and were ferried for around two hours, when they could hear the sound of beating of drums. They were made to step out of the boat and, walking through muck, they reached land where they were made to sit on the bare ground. One of the sailors whispered to Jeena that they were probably being held for ransom. If the ransom was not paid, they could be killed.
The sailors were made to stay there for one full week and were given food, barely to survive. Hearing their frequent, agitated shouts, they could make out that the ransom plan was not working.They had to live in the open, under some rocks, and various nocturnal creatures would visit them at night. Giant-sized rodents would daringly nibble on their toes, and would run all over their bodies. After seven days had passed in that torture, with bodies bleeding from various bites and injuries, blindfolded, they were pushed on to boats and after ferrying for about twelve hours they were all asked to get off. It was slush and murk till the waist and with the blindfold now removed they could see an island, close by. It was full of swamps and as they all trouped towards it, they screamed in horror when they saw crocodiles lying all over. So it was a crocodile-infested island and they all would be left there to be their food, thought Jeena. The ransom had not worked at all! He was not too sure if his country had washed its hands off its countrymen in this time of need. It was not the time to think about that, thought Jeena. He had to save himself, and everyone else.
With hands and feet now free, Jeena’s mind was racing in search of ideas. He realised that all the sailors were Indian, and they understood Hindi, unlike the pirates. So he, in a calm voice, told everyone to very submissively move towards the boats and then suddenly, with all their might, attack the pirates, who could easily be outnumbered. The plan was to take the pirates by surprise and snatch as many weapons as possible, from them. The plan worked out well, as the pirates had never dreamt that the sailors would show such great courage! Jeena was the first to get hold of a gun and, firing from it right away, he inspired the others to act fast. Everyone did so, to save their dear lives, and soon all the pirates were captured and with their hands and feet tied, they were pushed on to the island. The sailors, holding on to the long branches hanging over the ocean, got on to the top of the trees and sat safe on the highest branches.
After this respite from the crocodiles the problem was, how to get back to the shore! Again, Jeena came up with a plan.
“We need to take off our clothes and tie them to the top most branch of the tree that we are sitting on. That may catch the eye of some ship passing by, and then we could be rescued.”
No one had any other idea to counter this so, very soon, many pieces of cloth started fluttering from the tree tops of the island. They had nothing to eat or drink. Jeena kept the spirits high by talking, even singing, from time to time. The people were losing hope. After two days, they were finally spotted by a ship. The Indian government was also reaching out in all possible ways to look for the missing sailors, so it had sent messages to many ships, in and around the place that they could identify from their conversation with the pirates. The ship arrived near the island and boats were sent out to get the sailors to the ship. All of them were rescued and now they had reached their country, in a naval ship. Jeena had really been the beacon of light and hope that could get all the fifty four sailors back home, safe and sound, to their families.