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A tour to the Indian Naval Ships anchored off Sankumukam Beach, 1957.

In the third quarter of 1957, a set of three Indian naval vessels (viz.,INS Ganga, INS Yamuna and INS Brahmaputra) made a visit to Trivandrum and anchored off Sankumukam. There was press release saying that the general public including high schoolers could visit the ships for a tour to see first hand, a slice of countrys naval muscle and striking power. Perhaps what Navy had in mind was to do the show and tell to attract teens and young adults to the Indian Navy for a career. Well, as a boy in the early teens I was very thrilled about a visit and tour though the ships. In fact the city schools and others were extended a personal invitation from the Flag officer. One evening, I suggested to my family during the evening supper, (when most of us gathered together), whether or not I could go for a visit of the ships. The immediate response was a no. When I narrated the arrangements by the school for the visit most of the objections vanished. There was no disagreement whatsoever on the part of my brothers or parents. The crucial decision-card anyway was with my eldest brother, Valsan, and he played in my favour. Later after several decades and after my brother Valsans demise after a third heart attack in Aug., 1988 and after my retirement, I redesignated him as Tiger Brother after my reading of a review of a book by Amy Chua (Professor of Law, Yale University). Dr Chua in a nonfiction but controversial best seller discussed how to raise the kids strictly so as to beget the chosen goals in life without any failure. Soon after the release of the book, general American public knick-named Ms. Chua as Tiger mother. More about the Tiger mother at a later time. Now back to the ship tour. My friend and school mate, Rajasekaran (of a one boy one girl family from my own neighbourhood in the pipeline road at Toll junction between Kavadiar and Ambalam mukku) with a super strict dad, for obvious reasons informed his home about our Saturday guided trip to the naval ships. He was denied permission and instead was required to stay back home and do math. My family thought on the other hand that the troupe of school kids, guided by a teacher will line up along the beach front to take a sharp and deep look at the ships and come back home in the evening. So for me permission was nearly for asking. On the contrary, the clever boy himself, Rajasekaran informed parents and sister he will have to go to school on that day to attend an extra class in math and he will be back home only in the evening as the class is arranged as a day long affair. Well, Rajasekaran could thus join the crowd of only boys of about 30 strong led by two teachers. We gathered in the school by about six thirty and then moved over to the road side to catch a bus to Palayam and then to Sankumukam. When we reached by a city bus to Sankumukam beach by 8 O clock in the morning we were surprised by a large crowd, easily say 300 strong kids waiting to catch one of the fishers Canoe arranged by the Navy to ferry us from the shore to ship and back. For some reason I managed to board a canoe with some of my school mates to sail toward the Navy ships. The nearest ship from the shore, told the Canoe men, had a load of kids and that we better go to the next one.

To our luck, the second ship, INS Yamuna, accepted the load of kids. The Canoe was tied firmly to a rope and the kids one by one were literally picked by arm by Naval cadets and kind of offloaded on the deck (an act similar to what policemen do in the Sabarimala Temple during rush hour in the festive season). This operation was extremely carefully carried out to avoid any mishap. Next step was simple and disciplined, as all of us (Canoe mates) had to be in a line and an officer like person told us about the ship like what it is, how old it is and what the Navy does to protect our nation during times of war as well as peace. After say ten minutes of talk we were taken for a guided tour for about say three hours. We were taken to most places except the engine room. We saw the living area, the kitchen, dining area, sleeping berths, and finally the Bridge and the gun battery and the ammunition stock. From the deck there was a uniformed man communicating with his shore based counter part by some sort of systematic arm waving, if you liked. Well the signaling was to regulate the traffic to the vessels. My crowd waited on the deck after the visit and then came a canoe load of kids and after emptying the visitors we were loaded carefully and safely in the Canoe. The Canoe men were told not bring any more kids from the shore as it is late in afternoon. Gladly after the tour we landed on the shore and by about 5 pm I along with our school-mates took a city bus back home but via East Fort. Surprise was some thing like one canoe load (about 30 in number) had to sleep over in the ship, as the Navy declared and refused allow the kids to shore as it was close to night fall. Poor Rajasekaran thus got trapped in the ship, but remember he did inform parents that he was not joining the trip and instead will be in an extra class. When I got back home by about seven in the evening, I kids had to face a barrage of questions and a degree of reprimanding for going to the ship in a canoe. But my plus point was I informed home about what I was doing on that Saturday. The simple minded family perhaps thought that the party of kids will be watching the from the shore and not really make a trip to ship in a canoe. Within say fifteen minutes of my reaching home Rajasekarans dad came rushing to my home to enquire about missing Rajasekaran. I informed that he is sleeping over in the INS Yamuna as the Navy decided not to send the kids back to shore during night. This red-faced man was deeply upset obviously for Rajs double lying. Obviously, the next day early morning Rajs dad went to Sankumukam to fetch Raj. What happened later at home was imaginable. For us the kids in our neighbourhood it was a story time (I was the only one among the lot who saw the ship), Raj had curfew lasting for about ten days. ---------thrivikramji@gmail.com