Hong Kong 1 December 1975 It was probably the coldest Hong Kong had ever been in the last hundred years. The days were mostly overcast and, on the rare occasion when they managed to reach the earth, the rays from the sun were too weak to cast shadows. The temperature seldom dipped below two or three degrees Celsius, but it was the wind chill factor that was the real killer. The nights were especially cruel with both the wind and cold playing havoc.
On top of that, a tropical cyclone or two hit the shores of Hong Kong once a week, rippling through the tall buildings.
Knowing the shitty weather in England, I had avoided London and chosen to come here instead. Not a very smart move. Arrived here in September, checked into Kowloon’s Mariner’s Club, promising myself that I would get a cheap apartmen somewhere as soon as I enrolled in the Nautical College so I could cook for myself at least once a day and save some money. Unfortunately, my resolve went the same way promises and resolutions usually do-I was still living at the club.
In the three months that I had been here, I hadn’t made a single friend-hadn’t really tried, to be honest. I have been a loner most of my life. A friend, or an acquaintance even, meant some bullshit, then beer, going out. I had had
How I had mnaged to stay here though, I wonder.
I had had neither the time for all that, nor the money. The guy who sold milk packets at Chungking Mansions behind the club; Rita, the girl at McDonald’s who mechanically served my order of burger and chips, complete with a milkshake, her name prominently displayed on her even more prominent chest; and the moron at the Multani restaurant in Chungking Mansions, who regularly plonked in front of me tea in a cup with a broken handle, pretty surely unwashed too, were the only three people I smiled at, and I think they smiled back too. Interactions with other acquaintances resulted in frowns,mostly on their part.
Like the captain at the Sheraton’s Front Lounge that I frequented to read free newspapers every day; and the steward who cleaned my room, no. 22-what was his name? I called him John. When I first arrived, John had smiled sweetly enough, showing me his yellow-stained teeth.
But as the days passed and the books in my suitcase started tumbling out, the lines that usually crinkled around his eyes when he smiled started spreading anxiously across his wide forehead. The sight of both the beds in the room, the windowsill, the table and the floor cluttered with books, notebooks, empty milk packets, half-eaten food trays on a regular basis only deepened the furrows on his brow. He never got a tip yet he had determinedly cleaned up this mess every day for the past three months . . . and I had unleashed it all over again just as regularly. I had seen him muttering to himself lately while cleaning up, cursing probably, or maybe it was a holy Chinese verse. Felt like asking him many times. Never did.
Room no. 22 had one single window. Right behind the club, there was an open area where I used to see a young girl hanging clothes to dry, daily between nine and ten in the morning. About thirty feet away stood another building with its dirty behind towards us. All the windows that I could see were always closed.
About the book
Anant, a young Indian seaman sets out on a hazardous voyage from Hong Kong aboard the M.T. Aiwa Maru-a blacklisted vessel that has been banned from sailing. Although wary of the risks involved in his new assignment, he is mesmerized by the ship. But the terrors of the open sea are not the only perils that beset the multiracial crew of the Aiwa Maru. With the arrival of the Second Engineer’s beautiful young wife Ujjwala, Anant finds himself irresistibly drawn to her even as matters aboard this bewitching vessel spin dangerously out of control. A cult novel in the original Marathi, Aiwa Maru is a dark and thrilling tale of passion, greed, obsession and adventure.
About the author
Anant Samant was born on 12 August 1952 in Arnala, a tiny village near Mumbai. After completing high school he got a diploma in hotel management and catering technology from ICTAN, Mumbai. He worked in various hotels and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation.
He joined the Merchant Navy, worked as a chief steward and navigating officer on tankers, container carriers, bulk carriers, livestock carriers, cargo vessels.
His literature shocked Marathi readers with its bold style and the never-seen-before world it invoked.
His first novel M.T. Aiwa Maru was like a fresh wind gushing in to feed the hunger of younger generations.
It was immensely acclaimed and won many prizes too. Even after 20 years it is a bestseller and the only novel of its kind in Marathi literature.
Anant Samant has won the Maharashtra Rajya Puraskar four times, the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad thrice, as well as the Yashwantrao Chavan Mukta Vidyapith, the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh and Na. Si. Phadke Puraskar, among many others.
About The Translator
Prashant Pethe was born in Pune and went out to sea at the age of 18, right after high school. Before he went out to sea, a teacher from school tried to dissuade him from doing so by giving him M.T. Aiwa Maru to read. Reading the novel only strengthened Prashant’s determination to become a seaman. During his time out at sea he could neverA forget Aiwa Maru. His desire to ensure that more people read this novel compelled him to finally translate it.
Prashant has also produced a couple of Marathi movies in 2007 and 2008.
Both movies, Valu: The Wild Bull and The Damned Rain, were very successful locally as well as internationally.