I got an opportunity to sail with Indian Navy’s INS Tabar, the warship that had destroyed Somali pirate ship in 2008 while saving an Indian merchant ship. This Russian build war machine is anything but ordinary. And the first hand sailing on board this beauty was an experience in itself. To begin with, not everyone gets this opportunity. You need to have a family or a friend as part of the crew of the ship who could invite you to be a part of the “Day at the sea” event. These are exclusive events conducted twice a year by Indian Navy where families of the officers and sailors get to participate in the sailing on board a warship. I was honoured to sail on board INS Tabar.
*This graphic is old but it definitely gives an outline about the warship’s stealth .
Indian Navy values the sacrifices and the contributions of its people and their family members and tries to celebrate the sense of pride with each one of them while arranging such events. I could see so many happy and excited families on board who were awestruck and equally proud when they saw how their near and dear ones performed their duties in safe guarding our country. Indian Navy always tries to encourage its members to do something out of the box, and supports their interests. I had written a blog about Abhilash Tomy, the Indian Navy pilot who had circumnavigated around the world solo on a sail boat. He is the first Indian and second Asian to achieve such a tough and dangerous feat. Time to time, Indian Navy officers keep on participating in sailing competitions around the world. At times, their experiences are no less than the movie of ‘Life of Pi’. You need to hear it to believe it.
The ‘Day at the Sea’ started early for me. I reached the lion’s gate and had to wait for our friend to pick us up. This navy officer is a brilliant boy from my hometown who has worked hard to reach this position. I know him since he was in high school with my sister. We boarded his car around 8 am. He gave us forms to fill. We verified our ID cards at the Lion’s Gate and then went inside one of the most secure areas in our country. It is beautiful inside. Old British era buildings contrast with the new constructions. Young navy officers were jogging, playing basket ball or were at work. It was a Sunday but the campus looked busy as many guests were pouring in. The dock had smaller ships, sail boats, big ships like INS Deepak and in the vicinity we could also see a cruise ship. I think the navy campus gives the best view of ‘Gateway of India’ and Taj Mahal hotel. As photography was not allowed so I can’t show you how these two structures gleamed with the rising sun.
We walked till the dock where INS Tabar was anchored. Along side was INS Deepak which is a much bigger ship. For the first time I saw two life size warships and I can’t tell you I thrilled I was. After necessary security verifications we were asked to board INS Tabar. As I entered the ship with my sister, all the officers present gave us a salute. Its the navy tradition to welcome women on board a ship with a salute. We were zapped but felt very honoured. The smart young officers were welcoming the guests on board with a lot of enthusiam. We were offered breakfast at the officer’s mess and then taken on the top deck. The captain checked the necessary arrangements and ordered to sail the ship at 9 am. After a while the ship sailed out of Mumbai into the Arabian Sea. All together 8 ships sailed out of Mumbai with their guests. Time to time navy exercises were performed like rescue operation of a drowning man with the help of Chetak helicopter, how Kamov helicopter provide signals to the ship for on coming threats or how commandos take charge during attacks. The most thrilling experience was when we sailed side by side INS Ganga to witness how sailors exchange goods and manpower with the help of a rope from one ship to another. We also saw INS Vikrant which is an aircraft carrier. Our friend explained that how ships have different roles; few carry fuel, few aircrafts and few are warships. When they are out in the sea, the whole unit has to work hand in hand and support each other.
The sailors and their families danced on foot thumping Bollywood hits while I devoured every bit of experience being on board a warship. I went inside to see officer chambers. Inside the ship is very hot coupled with smell of diesel. It can make anybody nauseous. Except for few pockets where air conditioning is provided, the ship is like a furnace. The alleys are narrow and dark. Black fire proof overalls and boots are worn before going inside engine room. I also saw torpedos from an arms distance. (To get an idea how a ship looks from inside you can watch first five minutes of the movie Rustom.) The powerful ammunition on board made me realise how much expertise and precision is required to handle such dangerous things. During rough waters the sailors and officers have to be very careful not to slip out of the deck else they might be sucked inside the water and nobody will come to know for a while about their disappearance. ‘Safety first’ is followed all over the ship. At a time the ships can sail from the duration of 10 days to over 3 months in the international waters. My visit on the ship also involved some mouthwatering food prepared by the navy chefs. Being a foodie, I went to see the kitchen. It was neat, well organised and huge. A radio was blaring yesteryear hindi songs while the chefs worked together to prepare lunch for 250 odd guests and regular staff on board. I was mesmerised at their level of coordination and speed. Our friend told us that all these chefs get special training at a school before being inducted into navy.
All the ships got back to Mumbai dock by 6 pm. We bid farewell to the hosts and came back brimming with a lot of pride and knowledge. I will always remember this trip as one of the most exciting trips of my lifetime. Have you been on board a warship? Which one? Do leave your comments below.