Thursday, June 23, 2016

TItanic : First Accounts


There is sorrow on the sea. It cannot be quiet. - Jeremiah 49:23
‘’After the Carpathia had brought the Titanic survivors to New York, he did nothing to banish the tragedy from this thoughts. On the contrary, he spent the succeeding months in correspondence with other survivors, gathering data for his book, ‘’The truth about the Titanic’.
So it was ironic, when Colonel Archibald Gracie, known to the world as the heroic fortunate survivor of one of the most gut-wrenching tragedies in history, succumbed to diabetic coma. More devastating, his last words being,
“We must get them to the boats. We must get them all into the boats.”
Titanic- First Accounts, the narrative of all those who climbed aboard to set sail on the unsinkable, but instead came home to a life of unending trauma and loss. I picked up this book with the hope of understanding how the accident and its aftermath unfolded, but instead ended up literally living the sting of the ordeal through the eyes of those who could not have witnessed it any better. Why, if the modern cinema depiction of Titanic as an ode to love and unrequited loss could move us all to copious tears, this collection of first-hand accounts of the survivors from that fateful night will surely make you cry your soul out. While I love the fictional Jack and Rose for who they were and what they lost, I’d say you come no closer to realising the pain of the tragedy if you don't understand the wounds of the people who actually lived the nightmare.
The book, through its narrative of several witnesses, will talk about its passengers, from the lowly third-class tramp who possibly would never even have dreamed of setting foot on that ship to the mighty John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man onboard the RMS Titanic, as its true heroes and their selflessness as its final ode. What do we make of the worker who selflessly remained faithful to the people, calmly fulfilling his duty of sending out distress signals and communication till his very last breath? Of that guard who stood on the deck threatening to shoot any and every man who would try to jump into a boat meant only for women? And he did shoot. Three of them. Of that old man who would refuse to accept the  privilege of setting sail off with his wife? Or the woman who would not let go of her baby to save her life? Or the orchestra band which continued to play the music till the the moment the ship plunged its way to darkness and death?
Well, these were the real heroes of Titanic. As you read ahead, you will come to the realisation, that there is more to this supposedly ill-fated ship than its tragedy. Titanic hit the iceberg at 11.40 pm. It took its last plunge to fate at 2.20 am. It would be an act of folly if we fail to understand and realise how the people of the ship rose to fight, rising above class rigidity and social norms, in those two odd hours. The fact that they stuck till the very end and managed to obtain closure and sanity in the face of the inevitable gives me goosebumps even as I write about it.
What would you say of the ones who managed to live? The survivors who gave us a glimpse into the last moments of the fall of the ‘unsinkable’? They are fortunate enough to have survived, we say. Tell that to the friend who lived the rest of his life feeling guilty of being the only one to come out alive, to the wife who lost her husband and son over the privilege of being a woman, to the man who stayed put still into a water of cold blue bodies. And the Colonel who managed to defeat the seas but succumbed to a slow and harrowing guilt of being the one among the countless dead. To the world, they are the fortunate lot, but deep within, the guilt of survival gnaws them hollow from inside to the point of never recovering to a new day of hope for the rest of their lives. These feelings and emotions seem to pour out from every word, every conversation, every narrative.
I would tell you to read this book not because I feel that Titanic needs the sympathy.  I would tell you to read this book because it is difficult to understand what we lost with that ship on 14th April 1912 without understanding the consequences of the accident. Titanic created history, without doubt. But not for the reasons it intended to. It lost more than just reputation, it lost those countless lives which had arrived only with the hope of living a dream. Titanic in its last moments struggled for life, but never did its people surrender to the pain of having lost themselves. Instead they went, and they went down with dignity. This is the story that remains. And this is the story to tell. Titanic- First accounts, is a remainder of the people lost, but the memory which failed to dim. Pick this book up if you want to relive those fateful moments aboard the RMS Titanic, when these brave men and women rose above their adversity as the soft prayers of the priest becalmed the frayed nerves, with the lilting ghostly tunes of the orchestra wafting through the cruel winter night of 14 April 1912.    
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