Character sketch of Captain Vaz
Captain Derrick Fernandes Vaz. This is his full name. Supposedly the most awesome and formidable of all the nautical surveyors in MMD, Mumbai. He is also seen as one of the most knowledgeable persons around. Very much up-to-date and thorough with the procedures, legislations and ship knowledge. His name has often given scares and sweat to candidates. He is known for asking highly ultra-syllabus questions which are instantly perceived as never-answerable.
Though I myself never had any opportunity of facing him for my oral exams, I have always got intrigued by his charisma after hearing people’s reports of experiences with him. Hence my psycho profiling is based on the same along with just one write-up I have read, written by him, and a couple of encounters I had for other works.
Most of time he puts up those subject questions only for which the candidate appears to be least prepared. For those who emanate a feel of thorough preparations, there are always his ‘bouncers’. Quite a many times he throws his questions as open challenges to the candidate. The candidate is given his self-chosen time to discover the answer of it. The terrified examinee reads this as a display of the examiner’s ‘ego’ but I interpret it as his novae method of teaching the candidate to learn to refer and research.
His sphere of knowledge is seen to enclose almost all categories of vessels, his experiences as vast as his glory. The Ro-ro’s, Gear-less Bulkies, chemicals, Gas carriers, passengers, he is presumed to have worked on all. Thus, the candidates start to get nervous just on being told of seeing him for the orals. He can be expected to question a person regarding anything and everything. The duration of exam has been reported of spreading over several weeks. Candidates are given ‘recalls’ one after another till he delivers his verdict. And even after all his merciless examining, the candidate should not expect any leniency in his fate. Very often they are still failed. Thus they get a reason to call him ‘cruel’ or ‘harassing’ also. I guess Capt Vaz’s effort to generate quality in the candidate is completely overlooked.
However there are contradictions to the aforementioned. I have personal acquaintance with a candidate who was passed after he ‘fought up’ his fifth consecutive failures, all at Capt Vaz’s hand. In his final fight he was passed without any question. Possibly the Capt is not as cruel as he is thought of.
Sometimes he is known to have passed the candidate on showing an attitude. They say it’s because once you give him back, the Captain gives up. But I think this interpretation does not concur a dime with other facts about him, like his vast knowledge. I wonder if can’t be like— the attitude shows up the guy’s communication skills, ability to meet the odds, etc. My close friend Rahul, during his second mate orals, fought with him regarding the obvious and logically acceptable lack of knowledge regarding certain hi-technical matter. Actually it was about the meaning of the chromaticity graph discussed in the Colregs. Rahul, who till this time was decreed to be failing in all three functions, was suddenly awarded them all! In my view, it was clearly because Rahul was able to present his case in a strong manner.
Other person, Mani, was awarded two functions because he made an ‘ego boosting’ statement that ‘Capt Vaz’s questions are not to be answered; they are to be referred’. Capt Vaz’s is said to be flattered with the correctness of it. But where is the question of reading this as an acceptance of the Referral-lessons in a jovial mood? Mani, an IIT-JEE qualifier, in his previous attempts, was asked to derive mathematical proof of certain statement in the Colreg. He sat down to work over it for over an hour and then failed. He called this as his ‘failing question’. I wondered at the purposefulness of the question and thought if the correct answer could be like— put up a brave front that it was out of syllabus as also the professional need. The IITian seems to have taken the question as challenge to his knowledge and skills. In this attempt he was completely failed.
And had he succeeded in deriving the proof, he would have deserved to pass understanding the difficulty level of the question and Mani’s magic in solving it.
The only article that I have read mentioning Capt Vaz was about his preliminary investigation report on Delhi’s Capt Rajan Agarwal’s killing. In his investigations, Capt Vaz has not hesitated in mentioning the shortcomings of the deceased master which led to this act. The report mentions the accused cadets’ intelligence superiority over the deceased master. Master’s improper handling of small disputes with the cadets and invalid cunning measures to discipline the depraved apprentices haven’t escaped unnoticed by Capt Vaz. While Capt Vaz does not dismiss the charge of murder on the cadets, he strives to advise the rest to stay just and better informed with the newer generation of mariners coming up, through his report.
This whole incident throws some more light on the Captain’s fair and impartial observations. Among other things, he is also known to be one of the richest and senior most surveyors around in Mumbai district. Hence, in my opinion, we should least expect him to be bent or biased in his judgments.