A sea of emotions

The Master Mariner
by Nina Sood. Stellar Om Books.
Pages 256. Rs 225.

IT’S a touching personal tribute of a wife to her husband and a lesson for all that we should count our blessings. Nina Sood travels with her husband not only across the smooth waters, but also on his tough journey through cancer. This novel has been written in a simple language, for it is a story of her life, nay, their lives.

The memories come at random, as she tries to figure out the changes that the disease made in their lives. Her mind seems to be in a state of flux and at times one feels she is short of words. The memories are many and words are just not enough.

Nina admits that without her husband, she has found writing the novel daunting. She could not turn to her husband, Krishan, for clarification, so his friends guided her. Yet her desire to put his adventurous life on paper kept her going. With her writing about the life of a sailor, the novel
has to be interesting.

As an "outsider", she reacts to the quaint life or a sailor in the same way as anyone else. No technical jargon, no old wives tales, her story takes into account all the nitty-gritty of things that are common to a sailor, but queer to a man standing on solid ground. The story moves on two planes—one where Nina talks of the sailor’s life and the experiences of her husband on the ship and the other where she traces the setting of the dreaded disease.

Cancer affected Nina’s husband not only physically but also psychologically. The first part is interesting, where one can feel the joy and the mystery that come with life on the ship. The second part tugs at one’s heart and the reader feels helpless. The reader can feel Nina’s loss as she comes to terms with not only her husband’s condition but also with the death of their son in the prime of his youth.

The going has been tough for the family and the writer has tried to share her personal thoughts with the reader. The reader may not look at her pain sympathetically, as things which are important to her may not be too close to the heart for someone else. Some of the situations she describes are common to every household and, thus, need not have been written in detail.

A sailor’s life is interesting, no doubt, and one is eager to know how they live on the ship. Nina has written how life is on the ship and also when it is in the harbour. The loading and unloading, the endless wait for clearance and the busy ports have been described.

She does get nostalgic and her tone becomes conversational, as she has a dialogue with her husband’s memories. The novel has been an emotional journey for the writer and one can only accompany her.