Sunday, 26 April 2015

Arranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

-Brian Mendonça

If you were sailing on 15 April on the Titanic you would probably have gone down with the others. At 02.20 a.m. give or take a few hours, the biggest ocean liner afloat stuck an iceberg and sank. She was on her maiden voyage from Southampton in England, to New York. She had been sailing for 5 days since she left on 10 April with stops at Cherbourg (France) across the English Channel, and Cobh in Southern Ireland (11 April). The year would be 1912.

Cunard’s Carpathia which responded to an SOS on a Marconi radio, picked up only 705 passengers from the lifeboats on the icy Atlantic of the 2224 souls on the Titanic. Ironic, since as ship builders go, Cunard was the sworn competitor of the White Star Line which made Titanic. The water was -4 degrees below freezing point.

It would have been just another day last week if BBC had not announced on the morn of the 15th that a few deckchairs which were on the Titanic were now up for sale. For a few hundred thousand pounds, that is.

The case of the sinking of the Titanic is often cited by mothers (mine for certain) who hold it as an example of God’s vengeance – for didn’t someone say, ‘Even God cannot sink this ship!’? As the ship was sinking the band played, ‘Nearer My God, to Thee,’; others exercised in the gym, still others played cards.  These scenes have been immortalized in Titanic (1997) the film by James Cameron starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio.

I suggested a solemn candlelight dinner on 15th night but was only met with incredulous looks in the kitchen. But seriously, why is the sinking of the Titanic one of the world’s most memorialized disasters?

The sad outcome of the sinking of the Titanic has spawned an idiom. ‘To arrange the deckchairs on the Titanic’ means to perform an action which, though well-meaning, will not change the outcome of a situation.

The ship’s remains have been sighted off the coast of Newfoundland just a little beyond Long Island the New England of USA. She was that close to New York, her destination.

Disaster tourism seems to have had a field day with people flocking on to the Balmoral for the Titanic Memorial Cruise, 100 years after it went down. The ship also traced the original voyage.  There were also services in Belfast where the ship was made, and in Southampton.

Many a Goan has been on a ship abroad or works on one.  Russel Rebello (32) perished in the Costa Concordia last year. Unlike the captain of the Concordia who fled the cruise ship, smiling Russel went back to the ship. Russel was not content to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. He saved the lives of as many as he could on the Concordia. Sometimes you can change your destiny and those of others – just by moving a deck chair.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 19 April 2015

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