Lessons from the sea for a landlocked city

Bangalore being a land locked city, many are not aware as to what the Indian Navy is all about. In fact the role and responsibility of the navy is not very clear to the majority of the nation. I still remember an incident, which happened way back in the early seventies when I was coming by train on annual leave to Bangalore. A fellow passenger asked me where I was working, I told him "I work in the Indian Navy". He gave my answer a very serious thought and after much reflection he said, "You people must be getting fish cheap?" – that sums up the understanding of the general public. With this backdrop, I have attempted to explain in elementary terms the meaning of the Indian Navy to the citizens of Bangalore.

Missile boat launching Surface to Surface Missile somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Pic Courtesy: Author

On December 3rd 1971 in a radio broadcast shortly before midnight, the then Prime Minister, Smt Indira Gandhi, addressed the nation. She said "I have no doubt that by the united will of the people, the wanton and unprovoked aggression of Pakistan should be decisively and finally repelled…..aggression must be met and the people of India will meet it with fortitude , determination, discipline and utmost unity….." In response to the call of the nation, the Indian Navy had planned a most audacious and daring attack in the history of naval warfare ‘Operation Trident’.

I wish to pay homage to a college mate – B G Vasuki- a young Sub Lieutenant and a smart and efficient naval officer. He was the second in command of a Patrol Vessel, INS Ajit. The ship sailed from Port Blair in April 1971 on an operational mission prior to the war. During the passage, the ship encountered a very severe storm and extremely rough seas. Being a small vessel the crew found it exceedingly difficult to counter the ravaging storm. In the ensuing battle against nature, the ship was mercilessly tossed and thrown about in the open sea, which resulted in flooding. The crew battled bravely to keep the ship afloat. In spite of all efforts the ship sank in the Bay of Bengal taking away our very own ‘Dear Vasuki ‘. Some of the survivors later on told me that BG being a good swimmer had given his own life jacket to a sailor. The courage required to make such a magnanimous gesture, especially when facing certain death is an act of supreme sacrifice and highest bravery. BG was and an Officer and a Gentleman’ in the truest sense.

The plan required ingenuity, perfect timing and absolute emphasis on surprise. On the night of 4th December 1971 a Task Group consisting of three missile boats escorted by Frigates, stealthily approached the Makaran coast. At about 22.15 hours, the three missile boats carried out a very successful attack on Pakistani naval ships and Karachi harbour. In all, three enemy ships sank that night. Many more were to follow as the war progressed. Each year on the 4th of December, the Indian Navy celebrates Navy Day" to commemorate our courageous attack on the Pakistani ships and harbour.

Even though we grew up far away from the ocean and salt spray, more than a dozen of us from National College Basavanagudi – Bangalore, joined the Indian Navy in the late sixties.

For more information on Navy Day, please read Capt. Prabhakar’s account here.

The Indian Navy has a small presence in Bangalore. The city plays host to more than 200 retired naval officers. All of us meet once a quarter under the aegis of the ‘Navy Foundation Bangalore Chapter" to discuss topics of maritime interest, rub shoulders with each other and go down memory lane. 

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