NEVER FORGET OUR MARTYRS
From that session on the last day of the Jaipur literature festival till now, I have been thinking of it. It was a cold rainy day. Having attended a session at the front lawn venue, I went in for an early lunch being tempted by the post lunch session ‘Spice: History of a Temptation’. But I suddenly found myself attending another session. It so happened that at lunch, the author of the book ‘We, the Drowned’ Carsten Jensen, sitting close by, invited me to his session. The session ‘We, the Drowned: Writing the Sea’ was inspired by the title of his highly reviewed novel. I attended his session on the infinite landscape of the sea, which was fascinating. Jensen had called himself the captain of the ship while researching on his subject. According to maritime custom and tradition, the captain goes down with the ship. So, during the question hour time, I jokingly asked him if he had drown too, while researching for his book “we, the Drowned’. A very experienced Navy man in the audience addressed my question saying the tradition of captain going down with the sinking sea was no longer applicable. Suddenly, I was reminded of Captain Mulla, who created a history in post independent India, as the only captain to have gone down with his ship that drowned. Mulla’s sacrifice kept on haunting me from that day. Couple of days later, an executive of a leading hotel asked me if I had attended the Jaipur Literature Festival and that brought back the session ‘We the Drowned’ in our conversation. I spoke about Captain Mulla to which he seemed to have absolutely no clue. It was his reaction that made me think if we have forgotten the valorous deeds of our war heroes. Why don’t we remember the deeds of those who lost their future for our present, I wondered. Since that conversation, I was inspired to know more about Captain Mulla. Initially, I thought Mulla was a Muslim. Later, I found, his real name was Mahendra Nath Mulla. Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla was an officer of the Indian Navy and the Captain of the INS Khukri, who died when his ship sank during the 1971 war. During the 1971 Indo-pak War, Mulla was commanding a task force of two ships, which formed part of the Western Fleet. The task force was assigned the task of hunting and destroying enemy submarines in the North Arabian Sea. At 20:50 hours on December 9, 1971, his vessel, INS Khukri, was hit by torpedoes fired by an enemy submarine, about 64 kilometres off Diu. Mulla issued orders for the ship to be abandoned because it was sinking. He gave his own life-saving equipment to a sailor. Having directed many of his men as possible to leave the sinking ship, he went back to the bridge to see what further rescue operations could be performed. He was last seen going down with his ship. The incident had occurred just about forty two years ago. We need to know more about people like him. It is about time to pay real tributes to such martyrs by making these real stories part of school curriculum, to motivate the youth to join the defence services and inculcate patriotism in our people. Carsten had thanked me for asking the question on sinking ship, but now I thank him for inviting me to his session to tell yet another story on the mammoth sacrifices of our nation heroes.
Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla