By -

Folks, take a close look at this accompanying photo. It has *Cmde PCB Nair (left) & Cmde SN Singh (right)*, both Navy veterans. And this story connects them.

This year, on 18 Nov, at the splendidly organized Killers Night, I came to be seated next to a 1971 war veteran. Exulting in my newly minted 'retired' status,  I introduced myself to the Gentleman next to me, who seemed like a 'Senior Veteran '. Returning my handshake *he softly said "I am Cmde PCB Nair".*

The name struck a bell somewhere. In an instant it clicked. "So nice to meet you sir. I think you were on INS Kirpan during the 71 war", I replied. Possibly surprised, he permitted half a smile on his face and said "I didn't expect you or many people here to know that". I too smilingly said "Am a Navy history enthusiast sir. And senior friends like Cdr Saigal and others have mentioned your name a few times and it registered. You were the Anti Submarine  Warfare Officer of the ship". "Yes", he replied, "I was also the Officiating Executive Officer, as the Exo was on leave".

Delighted to *have met a Veteran who had seen action close hand*, I greedily listened to him recount his memories as we awaited the Chief Guest. In particular, we spoke in detail about the sad loss of INS Khukri, about what was happening on INS Kirpan and the rescue next day of Khukri survivors by INS Kirpan and INS Katchall. He also spoke about a subsequent Track 2 with Pakistan where his interlocutor was the EXO of PNS Hangor and they reconstructed the incident in detail. More on that in separate piece.

As we sat in companionable silence, he whispered to me softly *"You know one of the guys I had pulled out of water on 10th morning was a Midshipman SN Singh*. He was wet with water and oil slick. It was slippery and difficult to pull him up. I believe he retired as a Cmde. I don't think I met him later. Do you know where he may be now?"

It was my turn to be astonished. *"Sir, the person I greeted on arrival. The one sitting behind us, he is Cmde SN Singh"*.

"Oh, it's a small world but you know I have been out of Navy for long and have not kept in touch" he said. "Sir, I will ensure you both meet right after this event.  *It's an unbelievable occurrence*" I responded.

As the function finished and we dispersed for refreshments  I loudly 'Ahoyed' Cmde SN Singh, someone I have known and respected for long.  I brought him face to face with Cmde PCB Nair and let them do the talking.

*As PCBN introduced himself, SNS let out a cry of recognition*. "Yes Sir, of course I know and recognize you".

Thereafter, they *held hands and stayed silent for about 15 seconds, reminiscing in the unspoken connect that exists only between two fellow warriors*. If their eyes were moist, I would not blame them at all.

*This photo was taken immediately after when they could smile* broadly at this serendipitous meeting. *A million dollar historical moment for me. The rescuer and the survivor in one frame*. Both retired as Commodores in their own time. 

Today, as we remember the poignant *loss of INS Khukri, 51 years ago, on 09 Dec 1971, let us spare a thought for all the 196 who died and 69 who survived* Many of them would have such stories. Most are, possibly, untold. We owe it to them in true spirit of Remembrance to tell their tales.

In gratitude and respect.

*Srikant Kesnur*
09 Dec 22

PS - One of those who passed away in the line of duty on Khukri was *Petty Officer (Std) HR Sharma, the father of my dear friend and coursemate,  Capt Ashok Sharma*. We remain grateful both for his sacrifice and the fine son he gave, who continued his tradition of serving in the Navy.

PS 2 - Cmde Nair took
premature retirement to join as CEO in Essar Group of  companies & later as CEO/ Director of Technip (Paris) owned  companies for a total of 24 yrs. Technip is  World leader in Deep & Ultra  deepwater  hydrocarbon  technologies. Cmde SN Singh had a distinguished career in the Navy Commanding three ships, and heading many of our premier institutions and units. 

Post a Comment


Post a Comment (0)