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     Volume 9 Issue 45| November 26, 2010 |


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A journey by launch*


You may have always wondered what it is in a motor vessel, popular as launch, that people throng on it (and even outside it) during their journey to familial and in-law abodes to celebrate Eid. Well, we can, based on first-hand experience, tell you that it is because of the enormous built-in facilities and surprises.

The very name of the vehicle is shrouded in mystery and that adds to the rippling excitement of a voyage whose departure and arrival times are as fluid as the waters on which ply the powered boats. For the considerately named watercrafts do not themselves ever launch, as in take-off; rather, much as a slithering eel, they ease out of the anchorage where they had anchored only in the spirit of boatmanship because the flanking boats had applied pressure from both sides to have them fastened to the quay. Who could imagine such cooperation among business rivals?

The cruise begins with a little game. Watched by hundreds of spectators (and hopefully one or two divers) you are offered to take a challenging walk on a der-feet wooden plank from the quayside to the launch; below is the shimmering (possibly) river water, darkened and thickened by man's industrial progress that adds to the stimulating ambience. The gasp of success that you release on setting foot on board the ship is worth the three times you paid for the ticket.
The launch is an epitome of ergonomics.

Take for instance the deck, from sleeping on which you could never get a backache because only a sheet of cloth separates you from the hard 'bed' made of world class steel. This is one place where body fat helps. You could however suffer knocks and bruises, but bhai you cannot simply have the best of both worlds. Here the leg room is incomparable with any other mode of transport depending on whether you have them facing outwards to the waterway or inwards; the latter can give you discomfort unless you are willing to befriend the passengers in front of you. You see this launch encourages a great community feeling. You should however wear socks for health reasons. Also carry an extra pair for forgetful passengers.

We have been told as children and we are telling our children that jumping on the bed is dangerous. This has been deftly handled by the naval architect in the design of the cabin. You just cannot stand on the bed without banging your head on the hard 'ceiling' made of world class steel. So where is the scope to pursue the unsafe boing-boing? I tell you the situation makes a 1.6m chap feel tall and confident.

The electrical design promotes deep friendship all night long between the occupiers of the two single beds in a cabin. The switch of the fan over one bed is close at hand of the other bed, and vice versa. So every time you need to change the status of the fan, you need to open a dialogue with the other person in the room. In situations like that even your spouse will have to talk with you. One is full of admiration of the depth of thought given in the arrangement of the room to support social interaction.

Sometimes you may find the fan blades exposed and not caged in a wire crate. But that too has a very good reason or two. Apparently it appears to be a hazard, but it is not. There lies the fun. The joy is in lying down. Primarily the airstream is pure from any barrier. Also, the possibility of your head being cut off will compel you to lie down, which brother, allows you complete rest, which you do not take when you are not travelling on a launch. So as you are travelling you are also being given some therapeutic treatment. You lie down very still, very still, you are falling asleep, you do not want to get up, you... zzzz.

There is a television set between the two beds. It intentionally plays such distasteful, unfit-for-watching with your spouse/family/friend video songs/film that you will have to switch the darned thing off. Now that is something you cannot afford at home. You have a TV set but it is switched off. I tell you the feeling is one of blissful contentment. The only sounds are the droning of the motor vessel and the persons asking each other to put on/off the fan.

Out in the veranda you will see people taking deep breaths. This trip is so healthy. The queue in front of the washroom at the end of the corridor is doing likewise. They are preparing to enter the iron box, finish their doable, and emerge; all in one breath. Chest specialists will tell you that such intake of long breaths and releasing in short spurts is very good for the lungs, which should be your very first motivation for taking a journey by launch.

* Pedagogic warning: JSC, SSC, HSC, BA, MA, and BCS examinees should not try to push this essay in their examination





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