She sat heavily on the sofa. Her round shapeless body made her smile. Well almost there! 9 months over now. Lt. Ajit her young husband had promised that they would together welcome their firstborn. So he should be home soon she thought. The bell rang and in walked Lt. Vijay to check on her. It was his duty to see that all was well with the families. To help them with anything they needed. The navy was one big family. Normally the person left behind took charge of this duty voluntarily.
She looked at him a little anxiously. He seemed a little uneasy though he talked very cheerfully. She had been noticing this since last couple of days. So how are you today ? He asked her . She told him that she was feeling uneasy since a couple of days. As though something was amiss. Wasn’t there a storm on the southern coast. Would that delay the ship’s program. But Lt. Vijay assured her not to worry. Everything was under control. Even after he left the uneasiness wouldn’t leave her.
Next morning Lt vijay came rather early. He was elated and happy. He came in . Thank the lord all is well he said. Last three days were so stressful. Why she asked what happened. And this is what he told her
Lt. Ajit was an acting executive officer that is second in command of the ship. His ship was a black swan class sloop HMIS Jumna( U21) used by the Royal Indian Navy during the World war II. Later after India became a republic it joined the Indian Navy as a survey ship. It was a stately old lady that worked diligently. After finishing their work at Cochin they left the port to return to Bombay. Those days the only means of communication was the wireless . Somehow they missed geting an important message in time. It was a warning about an imminent storm. No sailing for the next three days the signal said and had warned about a huge storm that was likely to hit .
Unaware of the weather forecast, ship sailed into the Arabian sea as per the schedule hoping to reach Goa after one and half days. Suddenly the the sky became dark as the clouds thickened. The winds roared and the sea became choppy. Mountain waves lashed furiously at the ship. First the crew tried to get out of the storm but it was caught in the very eye of the storm. Initially every body rushed to empty the decks of the water left by these fierce waves. But slowly men started becoming desperate. Vomitting and cursing. This continued for nearly 24 hours. One by one the members of the crew got desolate and coming out of this predicament safe seemed difficult. It was then decided to issue life jackets to everyone. They were short of three jackets. Young Lt. Ajit opted to do without one as two other brave men.
The ship struggled valiantly. So did the three men. Lt. Ajay was on the bridge keeping watch . Since it was impossible to stand with the heavy rolling and pitching he had tied himself to the Compass pelorus . He continued to steer the ship futilely. The sea battered the ship relentlessly. It seemed in no mood to subside. On the shores there was an alert issued and they were waiting and praying . The deteriorating conditions made any rescue attempt risky.
After 56 hours the storm abated and the sea was calm and serene . The ship was brought into the harbour. The tired gallant Officer and sailors went into their cabins dehydrated and fell into a deep slumber. Rest of the crew and the navy were grateful that the three intrepid men and the Gritty old lady had brought each and every person home safely.
Later the three men were commended for their valour. For Lt. Ajay however he was happy to have been able to keep his promise and be home in time to receive the newborn.