Saturday, 18 July 2015

EXO's Blog

LIFE COMES A FULL CIRCLE

         In the wee hours of a January morning in 2003, an enthusiastic and newly passed out cadet from the Naval Academy, disembarked at the busy railway station of Ernakulam. He was coming after spending three tough years in the Naval Academy at Goa training as an ,Officer Cadet’ for the Indian Navy. These three years of rigorous and intense training was to be put to a test, now, at the First Training Squadron (1TS) of Southern Naval Command, Kochi. The six months onboard 1TS as a Cadet were meant to initiate him towards the naval way of life onboard a ship, as a professional and an Officer of the Indian Navy. Little did he know that this busy town of Kerala was about to change his life into a roller coaster ride (quite literally).

         Joining one of the ships as scheduled the uncanny cadet soon found himself wandering about the numerous innocuous alleyways trying to be inquisitive about what was coming his way for the next six months. He had heard a lot from his seniors about how the whole world would come at him hard, as his trainers would run against time to get him trained in the basics of a ship life. He came across the hallowed class room from where a number of his seniors had passed out to become officers in the Indian Navy. Exploring the classroom with awe his eyes fell on a list on the notice board which had his name amongst 30 others. The heading read “First Batch of Cadets for Circumnavigation Voyage of INS Tarangini departing on 24 Jan 03”.

         In 2003 INS Tarangini, Indian Navy’s only sail training ship was to set sail for 18 months on a circumnavigation voyage across the globe. It was to be the first time a ship of the Indian Navy was to set sail for a voyage of such enormity. Cadets of the First Training Squadron were to form part of the crew in batches of 30.  Starting from Kochi the first batch was to travel till Palermo in Italy, visiting the ports of Djibouti, Suez in Egypt and Iraklion in Greece, on the way. So here he was, standing in front of the notice board delving upon the age old saying “Join the Navy and See the world”. Hardly ‘baptised’ into the Navy, he was out to see the world.

         The remaining 10 days saw a flurry of activities towards preparations for the voyage. From preparing the ship for this arduous journey to getting travel documents ready, to getting his uniforms stitched for the ‘Overseas Deployment’, the list was long and time short. Finally the day big day arrived and the majestic tall ship “Slipped” from South Jetty, with the then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Madhavendra Singh flagging her off. The dream had come true his Naval life was well and set truly on its course.

         Twelve years have gone by and lot has changed, both in his Naval life as well as the Navy. The 12 Naval years have seen him serving on eight of the finest warships including one of the aircraft carriers while developing into a Missile and Gunnery warfare specialist. It was towards the end of his specialist tenure onboard a frontline destroyer as the Gunnery Officer that life was about to come a full circle for him. Going through one of the innocuous list which marks the end of one’s life as specialist onboard frontline warships of the Navy he finds his name as the Executive Officer (Second in Command) of the same ship which had marked the beginning of his Naval Carrier, INS Tarangini.

         The carrier of 12 years which had an auspicious beginning onboard the sail training ship flashed past his mind. He had been to at least one foreign port on each and every of the eight ships he had served on. So when he got his appointment he had a feeling that something big was coming his way. And so be it, the surprise turned to reality, for soon he realised that INS Tarangini was to set sail for Lokayan 15 to Europe to take part in various Tall ship events.

         So standing here on the deck of this magnificent ship as the Second in Command, life has now come a full circle for me. To have sailed out with the golden swan on her very first voyage as a cadet and now as the EXO is what I call destiny. Today as we close the shores of United Kingdom to make a port call at Plymouth on a much similar ship to the way the Britishers had come to our country in the 17 th Century, one cannot stop but have a feeling of dejavu. As leaders of men in uniform and as trainers of leaders onboard it seems like a privilege to visit a country from where the Indian Navy inherits most of it’s customs and traditions. For INS Tarangini being designed by Mr Collin Mudie, a British National himself this visit to Plymouth is turning out to be a sort of homecoming. As I travel 17000 miles, across 08 seas, 03 oceans, travelling across 13 countries in 17 ports sailing for 221 days I firmly believe that both of us (The ship and I) will have memories which we shall cherish for long after the end of the voyage.