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Monday, August 19, 2013

A Call of Duty




‘The boy stood on the burning deck whence all but he had fled’
    The flame that lit the battle’s wreck, Shone round him o’er the dead
……
These lines ringed in my ears many years ago in the English class of the school where this lovely poem ’Casabianca’ written by Felecia Dorothea Hemans was being taught. I remember how I got the goose bumps as meaning of the lines was being explained. Many years later I too stood on the deck of a warship and was oft reminded of the supreme sacrifices of the men like Casabianca and many a war heroes stood for!

I am not sure whether such poems are taught anymore in schools which have air conditioned class rooms and children play more games on their mobile phones or play stations than on the playfields.

The pride of working with fellow men on board man- of- war is difficult to express. There would be times when the sailing would go on for days at sea with no land in sight. The muffled noise of the engines a wake left behind by the propellers of the ship and thundering aircrafts taking off from the ship’s flight deck were companions. A star studded sky was lit up with flares of rockets when the ship exercised on the vast blue expanse. During wee hours I would exercise on the quarter deck or take a walk on the flight deck when there was no action taking place! It was a world different from what I see now. People would only talk about work, families, and girlfriends and not about corruption, scam or scandals, as most of the news was inaccessible. A very simple and straight forward life!

The news of the tragedy of sinking of a Kilo - class diesel electric submarine ‘INS Sindhurakshak ‘ in the premises of Naval dockyard in Mumbai was heart breaking! The tragedy is enormous in terms of the loss of human lives and losing a front line vessel in peacetime. Life is never easy on board these vessels which sail for prolonged periods and there is just about leg room for crew to curl up on a small bunker in the space left after loading all machinery, weapon and sensors and navigation systems on this modern day mechanical shark, capable of sniping at the foes. They are capable of hitting not only the lurking vessels but also the installations on land from the complex missile launchers even when submerged under water. I remember how I would take around enthusiastic visitors to show around the air craft carrier where I was serving and these submarines where my counter parts served, on holidays. The reasons for the disaster would be investigated and lessons learnt would hopefully prevent such incidents in future.


Doing one’s duty without expecting favor has gone out of fashion as the tribe of the greedy, uncouth and corrupt continues to grow. If we delve into the history the number of men or women who withstood against the wrong are few compared to those who readily bent themselves to suit the convenience of others and dereliction of their duties. Recently, one of the eminent bureaucrat stated that ‘if all the people that serve in the government perform their duties, we would never read about the cases of widespread corruption and tragedies that occur all around us due negligence of duties’. This can only happen if the vows taken by those who serve in high places work to stick to them and the system supports them.

PS: I thank all my readers whole hearted for their  support  as this blog completes two years of its existence
2.  Image Kind Courtesy Google

58 comments:

  1. Excellent post Rahul sir, got goosebumps while reading this post. Oh how the selfless sacrifices one end and how the corrupt greedy people on the other end!!! how well have you told about this!!! and I dont think so there is any solution for the worst situation we are in now!
    Either we have to do something about it or just wait for things to change!!!

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    1. Thanks Ramya! Unfortunately the situation seems to be getting worse with every passing day!Hope there is respite from the greed that is causing immense harm!

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  2. Doing one’s duty without expecting favor is looked upon as something weird by many now a days!Vows are just words with no serious pondering.
    Did you maintain a journal while on duty? I would be very inspiring to read about it!
    Congrats on completing two years and keep rocking with your writing!

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    1. Thank you Padmaja!I do not have a journal but have some vivid memories of my time spent in Navy! Would keep sharing experiences if you are keen :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Francesca for being there to support this blog!

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  4. Hi Rahul Ji

    I am making my appearance after a long break. I learnt Casablanca in school too - yes it does bring about the goose bumps. but alas such poems are no longer taught in Indian Schools or any schools anywhere - neither my son nor daughter were taught this poem
    About Sindhu Rakshak disaster it was a real tragedy.Our heart goes out to the families of the sailors. Probably the explosions aboard the submarine was due to callousness & carelessness, indiscipline & inebriation, poor maintenance practices, use of spurious spare parts, not adhering to safety schedules ....... or just a fluke accident ?
    Congratulations on your second blog anniversary ! Keep these wonderful posts coming. Cheers Ram

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    1. Very nice to see you back Rama!The tragedy of losing a submarine is demoralizing and hope the exact reasons for mishap are known. We however tend to forget the past and do not learn anything to avoid recurrence of tragedies in all areas!

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  5. The tragedy was really heart breaking...and the post absolutely reminds us of our duties and responsibilities.. However, unscrupulous ways of people poses a big challenge..

    manjulikapramod.com

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    1. Thank you Manjulika and the only way things can look up in the dismal environment is the sense of duty with dilgence!

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  6. I am sorry, I nor my son have heard about this poem, Casablanca!

    Didn't you feel lonely, being there without a touch of the real world? You, defence people are really great. I feel ashamed to just sit and watch TV when I hear about the submarine accident etc. Lethargy has crept everywhere. Sincerity is nowhere to be seen. Inefficiency has become a disease in our people. Feel sorry for the families.

    We are your fans, Rahulji! Very happy to know that you have crossed two years' mark in Blogging. Congratulations! Keep writing more and more!

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    1. A big thanks Sandhya for the kind support by readers and writers like you that I could continue to write! I too hope that the pall of gloom that envelopes us fades soon to bring in cheer and happiness!

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  7. Congratulations Pa for the 2 year Anniversary of the blog! Wish you many many more years of happy publishing and spreading the joy of reading!

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    1. Thank you Vaidehi:) Will try to keep writing in future too:)

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  8. Great writing. I remember learning that poem too!

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  9. Hi Rahul, that was one of my favorite poems. I still have it somewhere, I must get back to reading some of the most beautiful poems, which I enjoyed when I was young. I keep all the my old books with the intention of reading them sometime, but I have not got around doing it.
    I can understand how tough life must be inside a submarine. it is so cramped and being inside that for days, is indeed too much. My heart goes out to all the people working for the armed forces, for whatever their line, they are all putting their lives at risk for their country. I really wish our rulers would show the respect they deserve
    Congratulations for the 2nd Blog Anniversary.
    I didn't realize that I have completed almost 5 years of blogging.
    If it had not been for my children, constantly encouraging me to start blogging I would never have come so far.
    Well keep writing on interesting topics like you always do.

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    1. Can relate to everything you mentioned Rama , including keeping books aside to read sometime, and being encouraged too write:)A huge thanks to empathize with men in uniform!

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  10. You took me for a walk down memory lanes...I actually went back to reading this poem..Had read it long long ago :) And congrats on your anniversary!

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    1. Yes Divya some of the writings are immortal including this poem:) Thanks a lot for your kind wishes!

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  11. I wonder if the reason for the tragedy will ever be disclosed. Our deepest condolences to families of the men who lost their lives. I remember, during riots in Mumbai it was ultimately the armed forces whose presence restored calm. To see them patrolling the streets was very reassuring. All of Mumbai, including I, were grateful.

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    1. I agree many of these things are not likely to come out but the tragedy is immense! It feels good that at least the common man still has confidence in the Armed Forces!

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  12. Congratulations on your second year in blogging, Rahul.

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  13. Congratulations! Yes, Sindhurakshak tragedy was unfortunate. Beautiful story Sir!

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    1. Thanks a lot Kusum! Hope the lessons learnt would help in preventing similar instances in future!

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  14. Hearty congratulations on your 200th post, Rahul. Enjoyed reading about the lives of proud Nausena, who provide a level of security and comfort that is almost unheard of in civilian's life. Incredible indeed!

    INS Sindhurakshak's case at Mumbai's Naval Dockyards is tragic. Reminds me of a quote :
    "Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners."---Sir Winston Churchill........
    Such are the life diaries...RIP bravehearts ...

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  15. Thanks a lot for those nice words Panchali! The quote of Churchill perfectly describes the state of submariners!Tough life indeed!

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  16. Hi Rahul, I have heard a bout Casablanca, but I was not taught this poem in school. Read about INS Sindhurakshak's case at Mumbai's Naval Dockyards, its tragic and very depressing.

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    1. Hi Rachna, thanks a lot. You may read the poem as Rama has been kind enough to pull it out from the web for you and others who would like to read it! A grim tragedy indeed!

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  17. I am recollecting the poem for all your readers to cherish & enjoy !

    The Boy stood on the burning deck,
    Whence all but him had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
    Shone round him o’er the dead.

    Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
    As born to rule the storm;
    A creature of heroic blood,
    A proud though childlike form.

    The flames rolled on; he would not go
    Without his father’s word;
    That father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.

    He called aloud, "Say, Father, say,
    If yet my task be done!"
    He knew not that the chieftain lay
    Unconscious of his son.

    "Speak, Father!" once again he cried,
    "If I may yet be gone!"
    And but the booming shots replied,
    And fast the flames rolled on.

    Upon his brow he felt their breath,
    And in his waving hair,
    And looked from that lone post of death
    In still yet brave despair,

    And shouted but once more aloud,
    "My father! must I stay?"
    While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
    The wreathing fires made way.

    They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
    They caught the flag on high,
    And streamed above the gallant child,
    Like banners in the sky.

    There came a burst of thunder sound;
    The boy, - Oh! where was he?
    Ask of the winds, that far around
    With fragments strewed the sea,-

    With shroud and mast and pennon fair,
    That well had home their part,-
    But the noblest thing that perished there
    Was that young, faithful heart.

    ps: Taken from the web !

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    1. Thanks a lot Rama for this lovely gesture! I have already told Rachna to read the full text if she and others like in my comment:)

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  18. Another lovely story of yours dear Rahul, you cannot take the Navy out of the man. :)
    xoxoxo ♡

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    1. Thank Dianne! I know it has got into the DNA so it looks difficult no matter how hard I try:)

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  19. Such a beautiful walk down memory lane... and to couple those memories with the pain of a tragic incidence like this... is indeed hard to fathom. Loved the opening lines and of course, the closing lines. Many congratulations on two successful years of blogging, always enjoy reading your posts, sir. Here's wishing you many many more! :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Arti and I consider it a huge blessing to have come across some lovely talented people in the world of blogging!

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  20. I remember Casabianca. Such a touching story. I'm sure you relate to it on a different level.
    I always love hearing your stories from work. Looking forward to many more. :)

    Congrats on the 2 years, Mr. Bhatia. Here's wishing you many, many more years of blogging. :)

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    1. True Divya! My association for long with life at sea keeps taking me back to recollect some instances and am happy to have readers like you who like to read them:) A huge thanks and hope the coming days bring you a lot of happiness!

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  21. Once again a very well expressed post. Congratulations on completing two years of blogging. Please keep writing so that we keep reading such amazing posts! :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Radhika, once more and I would endeavor to keep writing posts that can hold your interest:)

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  22. Yes I remember that poem. Not sure whether they teach these lovely poetry anymore.
    Back in Sri Lanka blogging after six weeks or so.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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    1. Nice to see you back from your trip Asamptha!Yeah, I too wonder if any of this kind of poetry is taught now!

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  23. Congrats Rahul :) I remember a poem from school about a boy in Napolean's army coming to convey something from the battlefield and falling dead after conveying it to him.Your second para reminded me f a dialogue from Tamil movie Indian 'In every other country men take bribes to do something against their duties. Ours is the only country where men take bribes to do their duty' Sad!

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    1. I agree with what you said Jaishree!Sad to see situation getting from bad to worse:(

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  24. it gives me goose-bumps even to imagine what it might have felt had I been on that submarine. but I am sure people on board must have been content that they were on duty when they lived through last seconds of their lives.
    Our life is so oblivious of what happens in defence. we watch cinema. dance to the music beats in disc not knowing that someone somewhere is fighting with all their life and zeal to give us the freedom we have been blessed with..
    an unfortunate tragedy about what happened to the ship and india loosing its real heros.
    congrats on ur success with the blog..
    have been following it for quite sometime now .and everytime I read a post I m left motivate..
    thnx n regards..:)

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    1. Thanks Jemina to express my exact feelings:)Feel very happy with that kind and sweet comment of yours!

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  25. This post took me back to the time when I taught this poem to xith class children.I knew this touching poem by heart. The tragedy of INS Sindurakshas was very moving.Think of the families who lost their near and dear ones. It is really painful.
    Congrats on your achievement.

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    1. How nice, Ushaji that you taught this poem! It was a sad incident !

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  26. Rahul i was reminded of you when i heard this news--yes it is a tragedy-ore so if it was the result of some negligence.
    Thank you Ramakrishnan for recounting that poem for us.

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    1. I am honored indeed with that comment Induji!

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  27. This was bad indeed. But I think this one incident was more of a bad luck thing than something involving corruption. Secondly, I think the crew had a lucky escape in the end since only 18 of them were on board.

    Congrats on completing two years, Rahul ji.

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  28. Grande poesia, e auguri in ritardo!

    http://www.cultureandtrend.com/

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  29. Awww it was intense reading...i do not know how could i missed reading ur blogs earlier but m sure i would be reading all one by one :) Thanks sharing Rahul Sir

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    1. Jasmeet thank you and I look forward to seeing you here more often:)

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