Written By: Parthasarathi Mahanta Narration: Dr. Amarjyoti Choudhury. Produced By: Mina Mahanta, Indrani Baruah Creative Director: Anupam Mahanta Music: Rupam Talukdar Story Board and Illustration: Hrishikesh Bora Animation: Ratul Dutta, Hrishikesh Bora Composition and VFX: Ratul Dutta Concept, Planning & Direction: Parthasarathi Mahanta Courtesy: @Mon & Pi Media | For more update : Facebook Link: facebook.com/MonChannel22 | Instagram Link: mon_entertainment22
A biographical poem titled ‘Lachit (The Warrior) written by police officer and writer Partha Sarathi Mahanta about Mahavir Lachit Borphukan was released today at Sankardev Kalakshetra. The poem, produced in audio-visual media, was unveiled at the Lachit Diwas celebrations of Tai- Ahom Yuva Parishad by Padmashri Dr. Jogendra Nath Phukan and Commissioner of Police Harmeet Singh. The poem, conceptualized by Partha Sarathi Mahanta, has been recited by noted educationist Dr Amarjyoti Choudhury while accompanying music provided by Rupam Talukdar. The creative director is Anupam Mahanta. The function was attended by Arunachal Pradesh deputy CM Chowna Mein, officers of the Indian Army’s 51 sub- area at Narengi and fans of Lachit Barphukan. The poem is about the life and work of Lachit Barphukan, including his military tactics and brilliant leadership of the Ahom army. The poem has been released as a tribute to the great Ahom general Lachit Barphukan, as part of his 400th birthday celebrations. Assam Govt has organised a 3-day mega event in New Delhi for 17th century’s great Ahom General Lachit Borphukan, best known for leading the Ahom troops which fought and defeated advancing Mughal troops at the Battle of Saraighat in 1671. Through high-profile-celebrations, CM Himanta Biswa Sarma led Assam Govt plans to push for his recognition as a national hero. Week long celebrations in state and elsewhere already began on Nov 18 & will culminate on Nov 25. 3 days of celebrations organised centrally in New Delhi on Nov 23 with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurating the celebrations.”Every Indian Must Know Lachit’s Courage & Valour”, said Sitharaman PM Narendra Modi to attend event on Nov 25. “Lachit’s victory at the Saraighat battle helped to preserve the Ahom kingdom’s independence”, said CM Sarma. ‘Lachit created history by foiling their (Mughal’s) imperialist policy at Saraighat’. Eminent sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik shares his artwork on Twitter. Assam CM thanked Patnaik, calling it a ‘marvel’. A grand memorial at Lachit Barphukan’s maidam in Jorhat district is also coming up. Besides a War Memorial at Alaboi near Guwahati. Also on the cards is a memorial building in Lachit’s honour at National Police Academy, Hyderabad.
Every Hindu felt proud when Rishi Sunak was appointed by King Charles III on 25 October 2022, making him the first Hindu prime minister of officially Christian Great Britain. England was in desperate need of a competent leader and Sunak, a practicing Hindu, came as a saviour. He was the third premier in the space of just seven weeks after Johnson’s partygate exit and Liz Truss’ mini-budget fiasco. He is a proud Hindu who has taken oath of Parliament on the Hindu holy book, the Bhagwad Gita. In 2022 Sunak and his wife celebrated the Hindu festival of Krishna Janmashtami and worshipped a cow at Bhaktivedanta Manor temple.
At the age of 42 years, he became the youngest British prime minister in 210 years history. Earlier he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) from 2020 to 2022.
His grandparents migrated from Gujranwala in modern day Pakistan to East Africa. Sunak spoke out against the racism he faced in his life and how his family struggled while immigrating to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s.
OVERSEAS HINDU HEADS OF STATE BEFORE RISHI SUNAK
Rishi Sunak is the latest in a list of one Hindu woman and Twenty one Hindu men who have been Prime Ministers and Presidents of nine different countries around the world. These countries include 3 from Asia (Fiji, New Zealand and Singapore), 3 from West Indies (Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago), 2 from Europe (Ireland and UK) and 1 from Africa (Mauritius). Seven of them are incumbent Heads of State
AWAKENING HINDU PRIDE
These Heads of State are Proud Hindus
We hope to see them as heads of state one day.
Tulsi Gabbard (31), the first Hindu ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives took her oath of office in 2013 on the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture.
Alok Sharma England’s Member of Parliament took his oath in the House of Commons on the Bhagavad Gita in 2019.
Dr Gaurav Sharma, New Zealand’s Member of Parliament took oath in 2020 in Sanskrit – thereby becoming the first lawmaker in the country to do so.
Basdeo Panday (born 1933) was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago for 6 years from November 1995 till December 2001. He charmed a massive 50,000 person crowd at January’s ‘Puja 2000,’ when he burst into Hanuman Chalisa, a popular Hindu song to Lord Hanuman. “Never before has a Prime Minister even attempted to pray with the Hindu community in such a real and emotional manner. By the second verse the crowd joined in. As the Prime Minister shouted at the end ‘Prem se bolo, Hanuman Ki Jai’ [‘Sing with love, Hail to Hanuman’] the crowd of thousands joined with him in a single voice that would have been heard for miles away…” In 2005, he was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar (born 1952) was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago for 5 years from May 2010 to September 2015. She was the first female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and also of entire Caribbean region (West Indies). She was also country’s first female Attorney General, and Leader of the Opposition, the first woman to chair the Commonwealth of Nations and the first Hindu woman and the first woman of Indian origin to be a prime minister of a country outside of India. In 2012 she surprised everyone when she bent down and touched the feet of President Pratibha Patil after being presented with the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman’ award.
Chandrikapersad Santokhi (born 1959) is the present President of Suriname since July 2020. He took his oath holding Vedas and reciting Hindu Sanskrit shloks and mantras. Santokhi’s inauguration was blessed by several Hindu and Christian religious leaders.
PRAVASI BHARATIYA SAMMAN
Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Overseas Indian Award), is granted by the Government of India to members of the Indian diaspora to honor their contributions to the countries of which they are members. The award was initiated in 2003 by the Vajpayee government.
Ten heads of state have been awarded Pravasi Bharat Samman: Rt. Hon’ble Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Dr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Pravind Jugnauth and. Rajkeswur Purryag (Mauritius) Basdeo Panday and Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad and Tobago), Bharrat Jagdeo and Rabindernauth Ramaotar (Guyana), Mahendra Pal Chaudhry (Fiji) and S. R. Nathan (Singapore). HINDU HEADS OF STATE
22 Hindu Heads of State in 9 countries are:
Sir Shivsagar Ram Gulam (1900–1985) was Prime Minister of Mauritius for 14 years from March 1968 to June 1982. He is widely recognized as Mauritius’ founding father. According to Various streets and public places in Mauritius bear his name. He also figures on every Mauritian Rupee coin and on the highest note tender of Rs 2,000. Monuments to him also stand in the Sir Shivsagar Ram Gulam Botanical Garden in Port Louis, and even in the village of SSR’s ancestor, near Patna, Bihar in India.
Devan Nair (1923–2005) was President of Singapore for 3 years from October 1981 to March 1985. Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability was opened in 2014 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to recognise his contributions to the labour movement.
Lachmipersad Ramdat Misier (1926–2004) was President of Suriname for 5 years from February 1982 January 1988. “He has played a vital role in Suriname’s new democratic gestation. He brought unprecedented developments for the country”, said former president of Suriname Jules Wijdenbosch.
Anerood Jugnauth (1930–2021) was Prime Minister of Mauritius for 18 years and President for 8 years between 1982 and 2017. He was made Queen’s Counsel in 1980, made a member of the Privy Council in 1983 and was knighted in 1988.
Pretaap Radhakishun (1934–2001) was Prime Minister of Suriname for 264 days during 1986 – 1987 period.
Ramsewak Shankar (born 1937) was President of Suriname for 2 years 333 days between 1988 and 1990. His government was overthrown in a bloodless military coup.
Veerasamy Ringadoo (1920–2000) was President of Mauritius for 110 days in 1992. Earlier he was the last governor-general of Mauritius from 1986 to 1992,
Cheddi Jagan (1918–1997) was President of Guyana for 4 years between 1992 and 1997. Cheddi Jagan is widely regarded in Guyana as the Father of the Nation In 1953. President Sam Hinds described Jagan as the “greatest son and patriot that has ever walked this land”. The Cheddi Jagan Research Centre in Georgetown celebrates his life and work. The Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the primary international airport of the country, has been renamed after Jagan.
Basdeo Panday (born 1933) was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago for 6 years from November 1995 till December 2001.
Navinchandra Ramgoolam (born 1947) was Prime Minister of Mauritius for 14 years between 1995 and 2014.
Mahendra Chaudhry (born 1942) was Prime Minister of Fiji for 1 years 8 days from May 1999 to May 2000.
Bharrat Jagdeo (born 1964) was President of Guyana for 12 years from August 1999 to December 2011. At the age of 35, he was one of the youngest heads of state in the world. During his tenure as president, major economic and social reforms were initiated in Guyana. When he relinquished office, Guyana had experienced five consecutive years of strong economic growth, often out-pacing other South American countries.
S. R. Nathan (1924–2016) was President of Singapore for 11 years 364 days from September 1999 to August 2011. In 2018, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), was renamed the S R Nathan School of Human Development (NSHD) to recognise his advocacy of social and community causes. In 2012, the Government of India conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Overseas Indian Award) to Nathan in recognition of his contribution in building closer links between Singapore and India.
Sir Anand Satyanand (born 1944) was the Governor-General of New Zealand for 5 years from 2006 to 2011. This post is equivalent to that of a President. Since returning to private life, Satyanand was Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation for two 2-year terms. He then led the Commonwealth team in observing the National Elections of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. Satyanand received the Rotary International Award of Honour in 2011.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar (born 1952) was Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago for 5 years from May 2010 to September 2015.
Rabindranauth Ramotar (born 1950) was President of Guyana for 3 years from December 2011 to May 2015.
Kailash Purryag (born 1947) was President of Mauritius for 2 years 312 days from July 2012 to May 2015.
Pravind Jugnauth (born 1961) is the present Prime Minister of Mauritius for more than 5 years since January 2017.
Leo Varadkar (born 1979) was Taoiseach or Head of government of Ireland for 3 years from June 2017 to June 2020. Leo Varadkar (son of Dr Ashok Varadkar) has visited India on a number of occasions. He completed his medical internship at KEM Hospital in his father’s childhood city of Mumbai. One of Varadkar’s first acts as Taoiseach or Head of government of Ireland, was to announce a referendum on abortion for 2018.
Prithvirajsing Roopun (born 1959) is the current President of Mauritius since December 2019. 21. Chandrikapersad Santokhi (born 1959) is the present President of Suriname since July 2020.
Rishi Sunak (born 1980) is the present Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 25 October 2022.
Reaction to Rishi Sunak by Indian Muslim Leaders
Indian Muslim leaders have maintained dead silence over inhuman atrocities on fellow Muslims in China. But they were quick to demand that a Burqa and hijab-clad Muslim woman should become Prime Minister of India while making it clear that no Hindu man or woman can ever become Chief Minister of Kashmir as it is a Muslim majority state. London has a Muslim mayor of Pakistan descent. Will the Muslims demand a Hindu or Christian Mayor in Pakistan.
“There are times in a nation’s history when Providence places before it one work, one aim, to which everything else, however high and noble in itself, has to be sacrificed. Such a time has now arrived for our motherland when nothing is dearer than her service, when everything else is to be directed to that end.
If you will study, study for her sake; train yourselves body and mind and soul for her service. You will earn your living that you may live for her sake. You will go abroad to foreign lands that you may bring back knowledge with which you may do service to her.
Work that she may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice. All is contained in that one single advice.”
Excerpt from the talk given at the Bengal National College on August 23, 1907.
Today, Tuesday, 19 Jul 22, marks exactly 40 years from the date, I joined the National Defence Academy (NDA), in Khadakvalsa, near Pune, as a naval cadet. The NDA, as a prestigious tri-services academy, is focused more on initial grooming for a long career in the Armed Forces, and, therefore, introduced one to Service specific subjects – the Navy in my case – only in the final year of our training there. However, with the NDA as the springboard, the rest of my 37 years were spent in the ‘whites’ until my superannuation, recently, on 30 Jun 22. While the Academy deserves a separate essay, today let me focus on the Indian Navy and why I would choose to join it all over again, if I were given half a chance to do so.
Looking back though, my joining the Navy was entirely fortuitous. Like many Indians, I did not have too much acquaintance with the sea and, while belonging to a state in peninsular India (Karnataka), I had my first view of the sea at the Gateway of India, as an eight-year-old. I was terrified of it, though it may seem amusing today considering that the Gateway, mostly, has placid waters through the year. A brief visit to Karwar, many years later, was all that I had to add to my ‘marine exposure’. Consequently, like many of my classmates, at Sainik School Bijapur, I opted for Army as my first choice when filling the form for NDA, in the autumn of 1981. There was also the rather naïve belief that we all, friends and classmates, who together opted for the Army, would stay close to each other for the rest of our lives. That evening, my Father who taught in our school, and who had just returned from a short visit out of town, cursorily asked me, as to what had transpired over the past couple of days. I filled him on the news and, in passing, told him of filling up my NDA form. When queried by him as to what I had opted for, I replied ‘Army’. “Why not Navy?” he asked. Years earlier, when he joined the school as teacher, he was most impressed with the school Principal, a Navy Commander, who cut a sharp figure in his whites and who, apparently, was quite a ‘charismatic’ personality. ‘Not too many from the school join the Navy’, he reasoned and ‘you will do something different’. I was not sure, if I was persuaded by the argument; but in those days, children listened to their parents and, thus, the next day, I went and amended my form, to read ‘Navy’ as first choice. The die was, thus, cast.
Truth be told, I was not too keen on a career in the Armed Forces at all. I fancied careers in law (fed on a vast diet of Perry Mason books), media (as a crusading journalist) and politics (believing that I somehow had it in me to be successful in that field). However, in small town India of those days, there was not much traction for such ideas. Moreover, being a student in Sainik School meant it was blasphemous to entertain such thoughts. Above all, I felt deeply for my father’s expectations – he had been born in poverty and raised in penury and badly wanted that his son become ‘a Class 1 Gazetted Officer with a Sarkari naukri’. Given my good academic background qualifying for NDA and getting the adequate high merit for Navy (considering the limited vacancies) did not pose too much of a problem. What posed problems though were life in NDA and its mental and physical challenges? Consequently, my performance dunked, my confidence ebbed and I somehow managed to just stay afloat and pass out with my course. My stay there had mixed memories – some good, some not so much. It took a tenure as a Divisional Officer, few years later, for me to understand the ‘DNA of NDA’ and the method behind the madness.
It leaves me with a bit of wonder even now, but I was able to recover my mojo, almost magically, on breathing the sea air at Kochi and embarking INS Beas, our Cadets Training ship, in July 1985. From then, it was a long, eventful, fun-filled journey of 37 years until my retirement. Musing about it, the one refrain that comes back to me and which I mentioned in my farewell speech to my colleagues is ‘I would want to join the Navy all over again’ even though mine, was by no means, the perfect or model journey of a naval officer. Incidentally, it is a feeling that many of my friends and other veterans (now that I am in their camp) share. Why is it so? Why do we feel these emotions? Is it just a bit of nostalgia laden syrupy sentimentalism or is it something more? While I will leave it to psychologists to analyse this aspect, let me simply try and break down into some ‘component parts’ why we think this way. It may help readers of ‘Mission Victory’ to either relate to their own set of experiences (for those who have served in uniform) or it may help provide some understanding (for those aspiring to a career in the Whites).
Pride is the first emotion that comes to mind. This operates at several levels. There is pride in wearing uniform and in being recognised for it. The uniform gives one a distinct identity. Of course, there is associated glamour and, even though, I am biased, I think Navy has the smartest uniforms with resplendent white and black outfits and gold in the form of stripes, sword, buttons and other accoutrements. Wearing of uniform is a respectful ritual, the moment one dons it, you tend to stand taller, smarter and tauter. But the pride also goes beyond the mere pomp and show and the preening. The uniform is not a modelling club, it is about a certain association with the larger ethos of the service. The pride is hence about the service itself and the inherent nobility of soldiering. Without any disrespect to any profession, it’s an accepted fact that some like medicine, nursing, teaching, armed forces are regarded as noble and being much more than about merely making a living. Highly professional navies ensure that such ethos seep in, drip by drip, but constantly, into one’s veins. A call to arms in the service of the nation can sometimes be heroic but is always euphoric. Without making it feel like a cliched stereotype, there is a distinct feeling of quiet pride in serving our nation.
As with many people who have served in the Navy, I faced many disappointments and setbacks as part of life and these were taken in stride as best as they could. But I am sure, they or I never had the feeling of ‘what am I doing in life?’ That was a question we never had to worry about. Sociologists may blame it on indoctrination, but when you live in a world where phrases like ‘duty, honour, country, courage, commitment, service’ are part of the lexicon and ethos, you are bound to be affected. Mind you, I am not a ‘triumphal drum beater’ of the standard military vocabulary and as a wannabe academic, I was often uncomfortable with exuberant displays of set catchphrases or choreographed drills. Yet the beauty of Armed Forces and, especially, a thinking service like the Navy, is that it allows one a certain latitude to interpret values and virtues and contextualise them. Therefore, old world values or a desire to live by them do not become unfashionable in the Navy. Thus, the pride is a combination of many factors – some distinct and others inchoate, but one feels the highest sense of purposefulness when doing one’s duty. And that contributes to the joy of working.
High Quality Of Life
Notwithstanding the above, it is also true that humans cannot live on love and fresh air, or honour, alone. One doesn’t need to invoke Maslow or any other management Guru to emphasise the simple point that anyone seeking a career or joining a profession would place a premium on quality of life and material factors such as salary, perks etc. While none of us joining NDA in teenage years thought much of these, it was because we had been told that ‘life in faujis generally good’, whatever that term meant then. In any case, without good material conditions any organization will find it tough to retain its people and, thus, it stands to reason that the government, and indeed, the Armed Forces, will strive to give the best that they can to their personnel. In recent discussions, opinion is divided among many commentators and analysts as to whether our ‘pay, allowances, perks and other hygiene factors’ are good enough and whether we are far behind corporates and other agencies in this regard. That is a debate for some other time and one where I don’t necessarily have the competence to comment.
For my family and I, from what we saw and experienced, the Navy gave us a high quality of life and that’s what mattered. It is often said that people in the services are ‘rich people with no money’ and I guess that makes sense. At the end of day, rich or poor, even in purely financial terms is relative and contextual. Personally speaking, I also believe that in a country like India which has many poor and less privileged and we figure in the top 5 percent, a certain social awareness and conscience is necessary. While we must indeed work and strive and seek riches and prosperity, it cannot be our only purpose in life. Viewed against that perspective, the Navy ensured that we were always materially comfortable and provided the amenities and facilities that allowed wide range of hobbies and sports to be pursued. Dwelling in the best parts of towns, not having to commute long distances for work and getting a chance to indulge in our interests was more important than the bank balance. The pay and allowances were good enough (for me) but any lingering doubts about them were offset by the charm of staying in cantonment areas and military precincts which were clean, green and orderly. The Navy, additionally, gives one the bonus of residing in big cities and coastal towns, which have their own catalogue of attractions. To breathe pure air, to stay close by the sea (or sometimes, as we experienced, in the hills) and to transact business in an efficient environment is a blessing hard to describe. It is true that much more can be done about our living conditions, especially with respect to accommodation, but it is better to view the glass as being half full in this regard.
One of the most important aspects that stems out the good quality of living is that it actually allows an individual to have a clean life – in terms of financial probity at least. Arguably, when you are provided for adequately, the inducements for corruption or the incentives for ‘shortcuts’ for making money are less. Whether this corelation is correct is for experts to judge, but it is indeed true that Armed Forces life is, by and large, free from issues like corruption, bribes, pilfering, money laundering etc in our day-to-day life. It is nobody’s case that our systems are perfect but it is true that our daily lives and most of our transactions are untainted by many of the blemishes and ills that plague society outside. It is a truism that most of us sleep soundly at night, because the seductions and tyrannies of corruption don’t hover around us.
While pride provides us with a sense of purpose and identity and quality of living makes our life comfortable, our memories of service life are made by our experiences. In that respect, Navy has given me a treasure trove of memories. And this is one arena where Armed Forces really score over the rest. For one, there is enough adventure even for those of us not inclined to be adventurous. Be it the act of getting into sea-boats and being lowered at sea, be it crossing the Jackstay or moving from one ship to another in helicopters and landing on tiny decks, be it firing exercises or crawling through tiny spaces to reach the Aft Steering Position (ASP) or climbing high to go onto the Crow’s Nest, be it negotiating heavy seas in small ships or traversing from ship to the beach in small inflatable craft, even an ‘ordinary navyperson’ will have enough hair raising moments and enough to talk about to one’s grandchildren. Conquering or coming to terms with seasickness, vertigo, claustrophobia or many other queasy moments is not easy but you go through them anyway. And after a while, you find at least some experiences giving a high. For most, that’s adventure enough.
There are also other sorts of thrills and beautiful moments that make for life in the navy. I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed some of the most glorious sunrises and sunsets and some spectacular moon rises too, all at sea. The sea provides a vibrant canvas showcasing nature’s beauty and fury across a widely diverse range. The calm seas or the roaring seas are beautiful in their own way just as a moonlit sky and a dark sky are equally magnificent invitations to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Starry nights or stormy ones, blue seas or grey ones, bright days or cloudy ones, dusk or dawn, the seas offer unparalleled vistas. One doesn’t have to be a romantic to be moved by the splendour of the seas and vastness of the oceans, but if you are one like me, then you will be blessed to experience some of the most thrilling moments at sea or by the sea.
Not all experiences need to be adventurous or awesome to be memorable. Sometimes, one is plain lucky. The enormous opportunities to travel in the Navy means that over the many years in service, I have been fortunate to visit more than 20 countries around the world and several exotic places within India including some ‘remote’ corners. The visits and stay abroad gave us a chance to absorb other cultures and systems, see their famous spots and locations, enhanced our exposure and broadened horizons. The visits in different parts of India helped us understand our own country better. While guide books and travel magazines will write in great detail about tourist attractions, life in Fauj gave us unique experiences because of our access and position. Thus, it was humbling seeing our soldiers, up close, at the borders in Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim or Jammu and Kashmir. It was thrilling flying over the Siachen glacier or landing in small amphibious vessels on small islands in the Nicobar group of islands. And there were numerous experiences of these kind.
The exalted position of being a representative of the government also meant that in such visits, especially abroad, one was welcomed with certain respect and given privileges and access that were not available to others. Frequently, this also enabled one to meet authorities in higher echelons of government and private companies. The idea is not to boast about them but underscore how that helped one to get closer look at governance structures, strategic concerns and policy issues and how one was able to meet leaders and statesmen and, how all of that helped my own growth. For example, representing India in international conferences gives one a big high, to have the national flag on one’s desk is a matter of honour that one cherishes and remembers for long. In short, it is the abundance and uniqueness of our experiences that makes life in Navy so memorable and triggers the desire for ‘action replay’.
Great Friends & Super Shipmates
If experiences provide the skeletal framework for our memories, the flesh and blood into that is put in by our friends and acquaintances. And once again, Armed Forces are fortunate in this regard. The inherent need for team work in all our endeavours, the camaraderie engendered by facing difficult situations together and the fact that we just don’t work together but also live together makes for the unique alchemy that defines our relationships. The Navy does not have a regimental system like the Army but the (comparatively) small size of the Navy, makes it possible to imagine the whole of the Navy as a regiment. And, because, ‘you sink or swim together’ on the ship, relationships in the Navy have a different hue.
Naturally, therefore, some of our best friendships and bonds have been built in the Navy. The same holds good for our spouses and children too. Even where there is not necessarily deep friendship, the camaraderie of some association – coursemate, ship mate, squadron mate, same building type, etc – enables bonds to be made which are reliable and stable. In adversity, the Navy mate is both your first port of call and the last resort. And in good times, they are great fun to hang around with – hassle free, non-transactional and, usually, solid.
Serving for as long as 36 years and moving up many senior positions has meant that I have also had the privilege of observing and working with our men – the sailors. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen are the very essence of our services, the heart and soul of the Indian Armed Forces. Simple folk at heart, most of them drawn from India’s villages and small towns, they are, arguably, the best human resource one can ever get. They serve with great sincerity and devotion and with wants/needs that are far more spartan than other sections of society. They give so much and ask for so little. This not only makes our work satisfying and fulfilling, but also enables better sociological understanding.
To quote the great Navy veteran, ship designer and corporate leader Captain Mohan Ram (Retd) who in his book “My Ships Sailed the Seas but I stayed Ashore” paraphrases a Honda Club advertisement to conclude “You meet the nicest people in the Navy”. This is a sentiment we all share, which is one reason we seek people of our ilk. Civil Society uses a phrase called People Like Us (PLU) to describe this phenomenon. However, PLU has a kind of snobbish tinge, advertising exclusivity and elitism. The bonds built in the Navy, on the other hand, are anything but that. We were people thrown together in the crucible. Region, religion, language, caste, creed, financial status does not matter, what matters is the common association of being in the uniform. My Father, long back, very perceptively, told me that “In India, it is only the Armed Forces and Bollywood that reflect the full diversity of our country and its infinite variety”.
Opportunities For Human Resource Development
The combined result of all the factors elucidated above form an excellent ground for what Maslow calls ‘self-actualisation’ needs. In simple words, life in the Navy provides an optimal avenue for us to maximise our own human resource potential. It provides us the ideal platform to be the best version of ourselves. I think it was Paulo Coelho who once said “It’s the possibility of one’s dreams coming true that makes life interesting”. The Navy makes it possible for many of our dreams to come true. I will give examples from my own life not with any trace of immodesty but merely to illustrate how Navy made it possible for a boy from “middle class, mofussil India to experience the most incredible riches”. This would be true for many others too.
Here I invoke author Joseph Conrad who said ‘the highest time-honoured title of the seafaring world is Captain’ to thank the Navy for choosing me to be the Captain (Commanding Officer) of two frontline warships of the Navy. It is, of course, a position one aspires to, as part of seeking growth, upward mobility and recognition within the system. But at the end of it, you realise it’s a privilege, to be able to lead a fine set of people and to be able to do one’s bit at the sharp edge of the fighting force that the Navy is. Experiences of other leadership positions resulted in similar feelings – of humility, and gratefulness for being given opportunities to shape a grand enterprise. One’s own growth, during such appointments, in terms of understanding human behaviour, motivation and concerns of the naval apex is invaluable.
While the Command tenures were important, my entire naval journey was one that constantly enhanced my skill set or knowledge. It was the Navy that facilitated my authorship of many books, it was the Navy that made it possible to acquire many educational qualifications, it was the Navy that encouraged my pursuit of PhD, it was the Navy that further fuelled my passions for history. It is courtesy the service that I had a most memorable diplomatic assignment in East Africa and had exposure to many facets of international relations, foreign cooperation and also some significant events that occurred then such as maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden region. It is because of the Navy, that while being firmly anchored in operations, I could also extend my arms to meet and interact with academics, scholars, think tanks, media-persons, museology experts and a whole range of interesting people who piqued my curiosity and helped me learn more. It is because of the Navy I was able to serve in a variety of tri-service institutions and assignments and get a purple tinge to my white uniform.
If I can misquote the famous author CLR James and borrow from his memorable lines to argue “What do they know of Navy who only Navy Know”, and bring out how important it is for an individual to know much more about the wider world to better understand his own profession. The good thing is that the Navy itself believes in this credo. As an adaptable and agile service that places equal importance both to reflex action and reflection, the Navy provides maximum avenues for ticking several items in one’s bucket list. The Navy as a thinking service places premium on scholarship and gives incentives to creativity. While it may not reflect the external aura or breezy informality of Silicon Valley startups, there is enormous place and respect for innovation, imagination and intelligence in the service.
Above all, the Navy cares. It is possible to argue, at least theoretically, that an upwardly mobile life in the corporate world too may have fetched similar rewards. But does the corporate world score when it comes to caring? I will just give one instance here to emphasise my point. Circumstances worked in such manner that both my father and mother passed away in naval hospitals (a decade apart) when they were staying with me. While the ultimate outcome was decreed by God, the extraordinary care and compassion with which they were treated in naval hospitals throughout their convalescence was touching. My shipmates and other friends coming together to arrange everything from the last rites to paperwork, or before that, visiting my parents and looking after them in our absence from station was very humbling. Above all, my bosses gave me long leave to look after their treatment and post death formalities.
Such acts, in turn, makes one to respond similarly when we are in a position to help or be useful. This creates a virtuous circle of goodness and kindness. Let me emphasise that I am not suggesting that life in navy is all ‘treacle and honey’ full of saintly people. Far from it. In fact, I am suggesting that we are ordinary men with ordinary impulses but it is the creation of an ecosystem like the navy that enables group dynamics to be of high standards and outcomes where the total is more than the sum of its parts.
the good things about the service is endless. The wonderful aspect about this journey is that each of us will have had ‘similarly different’ experiences. The people, locations, chronology, nature of our experiences may be different but the characteristics and conclusions are essentially the same.
To conclude I can do no better than to quote Capt Mohan Ram again “I think the best reason to join the Navy is that one can have great fun. There is an innocence, playfulness and devil care attitude to life in General. We are serious about our work but do not take ourselves seriously. The Navy builds character, gives one resilience and the adaptability to meet any unforeseen emergency. I am what I am largely due to my years in the Navy. Once in the Navy, always in the Navy. Some love affairs never end”.
Life in the Navy completely transforms an individual. Which is why even though I believe (immodestly perhaps) that while I may have made a hot shot lawyer, a successful politician or a rockstar TV anchor, given a chance I would want to join the Navy again.
Cmde Srikant Kesnur (Retd), VSM, PhD (Retd) superannuated recently, on 30 Jun 22, after 36 years in the Navy. An alumnus of NDA (68, D), DSSC (55 th SC) and Naval War College (NHCC 20), the officer is a specialist in Communications and Electronic Warfare. His Naval career saw him command two frontline fleet ships – INS Vindhyagiri and INS Jalashwa, apart from numerous operational, training and staff appointments. He has also been Instructor/Faculty at NDA (Div Offr/AQ), DSSC (DS/HOTT Navy) and NWC (Deputy Commandant and SI). He also did a tour of duty in a diplomatic assignment as our Defence Adviser, in the High Commission of India, Nairobi, Kenya, with East Africa as his area of responsibility. A PhD from Mumbai University, he also holds five other post graduate degrees. He has been the Lead Author/Chief Editor of 11 books/monographs published by the Indian Navy. Prior to his retirement, he was the Director of the Maritime Warfare Centre, Mumbai and also the Officer in Charge, Naval History Project.
The elderly man on the left in this picture can be easily mistaken for a great priest !!! No! He is Dr. C P. Mathew who was the Head of the Oncology Department at Kottayam Medical College and later principal. On the ‘right’ is Brahmashree Suryan Subramanian Bhattathiri.
Dr Mathew was the first oncology professor in Kerala, Head of the Oncology Department at Kottayam Medical College and then the principal. Later when he retired he was a flying doctor and visiting professor of allopathic cancer treatment at universities in more than 50 countries.
At the age of 60, he decided to unlearn everything he had learnt earlier and accepted a _Lada Vaidyan_ (a physician of traditional tribal medical system), whom he met on the street, as his guru.
Then this great doctor saved tens of thousands of cancer patients from death using the neo-pagan Siddha medicine he learned from the late _lada_ guru. Patients he saved include many rejects from the Mayo Clinic in America.
He was an in-depth student on Indian cultural texts, including the Vedas and the Upanishads. What’s more, he received the Upanayana from Suryakaladi Mana, famous for its “Tantric rituals” and spent the rest of his life as a Sanatana Dharma Acharya. Dr Mathew passed away on 20 Oct 2021 at the age of 92. No leading media in Kerala reported his death due to unknown reasons.