February 10, 2010

Animal Farm

It seems that I missed all the fun again last year. However, I smell a business opportunity for us out there, so don’t go away just yet.

I came to know only a few days ago that 2009 was the unofficial ‘Year of the Cougar; apparently even Newsweek said so. A ‘‘cougar,’’ for the uninformed, is defined by the website urbandictionary as ‘‘a hot looking woman in her late 30’s to mid 40’s who dates younger men because she is still hot enough to get them.’‘ (Also implied, that the lady is wealthy, or at least well off). Those younger men are called cubs, I kid you not.

Here is the thing. It appears that women got fed up of seeing an ageing Sean Connery running around with the delectable Catherine Zeta Jones, not to speak of the horde of older men with fat wallets and ditto paunches with trophy wives and mistresses in tow. (I, on the other hand, am just envious of Connery and not fed up by Ms Jones at all). Anyway, the older ladies decided to give the men a botoxed tit for tat. Along with the Demi Moore types running around with the boyish what’s his name came a gaggle of cougars looking for younger men. The women started getting older, the age differences with cubs wider. Many cougars were wealthy. Amongst other businesses, cruise lines started targeting them, organising ‘Cougar Cruises’ in early 2009; Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean amongst them. Carnival Cruise lines later dropped out, saying that the media was playing up the cougar cruises as a ‘sex party’ (what did they call them, Carnal Cruises?) and this was tarnishing their presumed pristine image.

Australia recently banned cougar cruises, though that has hardly stopped operators elsewhere. For those interested (or just plain jealous), Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean have two cruises lined up later this year: the Cougar Bahamas Cruise (ex Miami) and the Cougar Mexican Riviera Cruise (ex Los Angeles). As a particular attraction, ‘Miss Cougar Las Vegas’ will sail on one of these cruises, as will ‘The cutest cub in America’. (No, he is not from the zoo). Mind boggling, all this is.

As I said, I missed all the fun, though it would have taken more than botox to make a cub out of this ageing lion. Anyhow, since sex seems to be out, let me switch over to the next best thing: money.

This is my plan. Briefly, I propose to approach the Directorate General of Shipping to seek sanction for rolling out a new course in a Maritime Education and Training institute: the Cub Certificate of Competency (CCC). Simultaneously, I will move that the IMO mandate that no cub work on any cruise ship with immediate effect, unless certified under a new convention, to be called the STCW2011. This convention will address the complete training and certification needs for the Cub Certificate of Competency. In one fell swoop (ok, two), I will thus open a new market for Indians and a new revenue stream for shipmanagement and training establishments both.

Of course, we can have other CoCs. A combined 2nd Mates and Cub certificate (2MCC), for example. Or even a GP Rating Cub Certificate(GPRCC). The possibilities are endless, though some thought will have to go into course content. Additional training in ballroom dancing (or even Salsa) is envisaged, and so is education in personal grooming and etiquette, suave behaviour, rakish demeanour, lighting a lady’s cigarette while looking like a young Clark Gable and training in safe sex at sea. Perhaps we can rope in one of those Bollywood acting schools to ensure well rounded cubs and all.

Obviously this course will have to be marketed differently, but I do not foresee any problems there; quite the contrary, because the course panders to the basic instincts of today’s generation (is it X or Y? I forget), which revolve around making money quickly and without much effort. Planning to quit in five years? We will show you how with the latest seduction techniques guaranteed to loosen cougar wallets. Want to migrate? Seduce a cougar and get a green card free. Become a cub and see the world. Money for nothing and chicks for free (Ok, hens, then).

Of course, every certified cub will have, additionally, all the statutory protection given to existing seafarers (don’t laugh), including the new MLC and STCW conventions. They will be, regardless of any plans cougars may have, even entitled to rest periods to address fatigue. (For those entrants that know that rest periods are a joke, we will tell them that working will be more fun at least.)

The traditionalists amongst us will be shocked, of course. Is this what shipping is coming to, they will say, the training of gigolos? Shush, gentlemen. You did not protest when one of you publicly equated seafarers with prostitutes some time ago; you can’t object too loudly now to cougars, cubs and other such animals.

To be honest, I am still trying to get my arms around (for want of a better phrase) the interesting problem of how to impart practical training to wannabe cubs without making the training institute look like a house of ill repute. However, look at this way: until I finally crack that problem, I will have faculty lining up at my door, solving yet another problem that the industry faces today: the lack of committed trainers.

Training the next generation is hard work, sometimes, but it has its rewards.