Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Cruise Mushaira Fiasco

By Saeed Qureshi
This year’s cruise Mushaira organized by Al-Noor international, turned into a nightmare due to what can be explained as the cruise ship’s company’s utter neglect and demonstration of pathetically unprofessional conduct.

The ship was ready to lift anchor and sail off in the Lewisville Lake that goes in curve for about 20 miles and offers a great deal of entertainment and fun to the passengers by way of cruise trips and fishing.

All the passengers and guests had boarded the ship after a great deal of hassle encountered in the scorching heat from the shore to the final step into the ship. They had taken their seats and were waiting for the vassal to move. But to their utter shock it did not move and still remained anchored.

The unbelievable horrible discovery was that the power generating system had gone dysfunctional. As such not only that ship did not embark on its journey of a few hours, the indispensible air-conditioning system and even the fans stopped working. It was mayhem as if hell was let loose.

The passengers waited with their fingers crossed that the ship would start sailing any time. The stuffy atmosphere and the darkness inside were fearsome. The passengers were profusely sweating. They could not clearly see each other, the dinner could not be served orderly and visibly, and the drinkable water was warm.

The children’s plight was woefully miserable. With their parched tongues they could not express their anguish and agony. The infants would not understand as to what was happening around. The toilets were closed as the pumping of water for flush has stopped, the taps ran dry and there was complete mess and disorder in both the upper and lower births.

The organizers and sponsors of the much coveted Mushaira were in a state of paralysis and utter frenzy. They had invited a diverse array of foreign guests and local people, the poets, the celebrities and the notables most of whom had bought tickets to attend this unique function.

The chief guest Gopi Chand Narang had arrived from India to preside over this yearly function. He is one of the most illustrious scholars of literature and poetry and author of seventy books, besides being the recipient of the highest awards for his meritorious services. It was heart-breaking to watch him huddled in a corner without food and water till midnight. Same was the pitiable situation with other poets.
The most agonizing dimension of this ugly episode is that the ship crew did not come forward even once to offer any explanation for this most loathsome dereliction of their responsibility that caused torment to about two hundred individuals including the women and children.
No one came forward to explain as to what has gone wrong and why the ship was still stationary and what could be the substitute for suspension of the toilet facilities turning the ship into a kind of concentration camp with filth spattered all over.

The more pertinent question is that why the ship owners did not check, before the cruise tour, if the ship was technically in good order to sail. The million dollar question is: why no prior inspection was conducted to find out if the ship was technically fine to be used for cruise.

There cannot be any earthly reason or pretext to evade the objection that why all of a sudden the generator went out of order? The fact is that the generator was already dead and nobody checked it before commissioning it for trip in the lake.

Now let us picture another scenario. What If the ship had sailed for a mile or a few miles and was stuck up in the middle of the lake with the pitch darkness and without water and utilities amid the sweltering environment and no way to get out.

How the passengers could be rescued and brought to the shore? Was there a rescue plan to be put in place in such sudden emergencies? There could be a panic and a fright that is so peculiar in such situations, particularly with those afraid of water (hydrophobic).

If the boats had to be marshaled for rescuing the stranded passengers would it not look the waters of Somalia where the pirate hijack the ships. How long it would have taken for the enough number of boats to be around?

But was it not appropriate and in order if another ship would have been ready to replace the dysfunctional one and thus save the much-awaited evening from being spoiled in that callous and most non-challant way? It would be desirable if the company managers take some remedial measures to put some modicum of responsibility, grace and accountability for cruise operations.

It would be instructive for the shipping company to pinpoint the technical staff or managers responsible for this glaring, outright, and bizarre show of inefficiency, negligence and indifference.

In this regard an enquiry should be instituted to find out why the operators and the technical staff failed to provide immaculate and trouble free service to the cruise lovers.

As if to rub salt to the wounds no apology was tendered by any official of the company for such a colossal discomfort and distress that is like a black stigma on the record of the company running this cruise business.

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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