By Aashna Charan
For many, INS Viraat (known as HMS HERMES in the Royal Navy) was the second aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy but for me, she was something like a second home. She is known to be the oldest serving aircraft carrier in the world. After nearly 27 years of service to the Royal Navy, she was sold to India and served the latter for nearly 30 years. She was decommissioned on 6th March 2017.
Here is an account of the magnificence and magic of INS Viraat from a fauji brat, who loved the recently decommissioned ship a lot.
It was difficult for many to understand what my attachment to this beautiful ship was, but as the title suggests, it was more than just a ship for me, it gave me so many memories.
THE AMAZING ATTACHMENT
When I was a child, my father worked on the ship as the Air Commander which in simple terms means that not even a leaf moved on the decks without taking permission from dad. Now, something that all fauji families always look forward to are the parties that take place on the ships, we look forward to dressing up and for the kids, meeting their friends and running around the ship playing hide and seek.
Not even the prettiest of the ladies or the handsomest of the officers could ever take away the grandeur and charm of this ship. For me, INS Viraat was the ultimate beauty. While introducing me to uncles and aunties my parents had to struggle to get my attention, for my eyes always wandered off to see the beautiful woodwork of the ship.
A sense of respect would come to us when dad used to take us to see where he works, “Wow! We can see everything from here!” the overly excited and way more young version of me said, I turned to my dad and gave him the same expression that any kid gives his or her parent when they want something “I want to sit on the chair!”. My dad knew the consequence of saying no to his brattish kid and so he picked the 4th standard version of me and put me on the chair. It was the best view I have had my whole life.
The decks were the best, we could run around like crazy kids and the feeling of being on top of a majestic aircraft carrier was just the best as well. Always nagging our fathers to use the “aircraft waala lift” to take us down below was the best, and when they did, we would always have our eyes wide open and an expression of pure happiness on our face!
THE SIX DEGREES OF REALISATION
When word of the decommissioning spread, I didn’t pay attention and went on to live my life as though nothing happened and she will always remain in service. Maybe it was the fact that I never wanted this to happen, maybe I never thought we could ever let go of something so beautiful and strong, so majestic and so graceful, that made me so ignorant about it. But as we all have to let go someday, we let go now.
How this truth hit me like a train? My friend went to Mumbai to witness this event of decommissioning and I got to know through her. At first, the stubborn side of me refused to believe it, but my heart raced and my vision turned blurry, I was crying and I didn’t even know it! I kept the phone and sat for two minutes as all those came back to me, as if they were real. I felt something so similar to heartbreak, but only, this was genuine love.
I immediately called my home and my mother picked up and I told her to give the phone to dad. “Hey Aashi” he said, sounding low for the apparent reason, “I’m sorry” I replied as if I knew why he was so low. I was right. I wasn’t the only one so madly in with her; she gave many more fond memories to those working on it.
THE WRAP UP
The naval flag lowered, the final sailing sailed, the speeches said, the formalities completed, INS Viraat is now decommissioned. All the big shots who once sat on the VIP rows were low, all those officers and sailors who once worked on the ship and got to witness the beauty of the ship were low, all the wives who dressed up in their finest just to catch a glimpse of this fine ship were low. All those children who once played hide in seek in the corridors of this ship, ran around the decks of this ship and loved this ship so ardently were sad.
I still cannot muster up the courage to think about my memories on INS Viraat, it is impossible to be strong enough not to cry. INS Viraat represented the Indian Navy; it was majestic, magnificent, graceful and strong. It now sails into the history of not only the Indian Navy but also the world as one of the oldest aircraft carrier.
For those kids who once played in Viraat, she will always be our favourite ship. She will live on in our memories and our heart.
Image Credits: Google Images
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