This story cannot be certified to be true. I present the facts as I recollect from my memory, with age, in senescence, facts and fiction gets blended. But certain things does not fade, especially when it deals with death. Death is a horrible fellow, it leaves its footprints, like carvings on a rock. If you insult him, it will knock at your door, when you least expect him. Then it is terrifying. Recollections itself becomes horrible.
I was part of the crew for INS Kursura. Cdr Arun Auditto was the designated Commanding Officer. Lt. Cdr JMS Sodhi, the Executive Officer. It was a dynamic combination. They formed with Cmde. K S Subra-manian, and the senior pioneers, a formidable team. They laid the foundation of the Submarine Arm.
Chotu Ram, was a leading Seaman. The submarine was at Riga, a beautiful port, waiting to be commissioned. There was nothing Chotu about Ram, he was powerfully built, he could open the Submarine upper lid, single handed. The Russians could do that, they were built strong. Chotu Ram, came from Bihar, a village Khemta, which nobody knew. Chotu Ram was proud of his village. Chotu Ram was the Khemta’s Wrestling Champion.
Chotu Ram was popular in his village and on-board INS Kursura. He wanted respect and respect in Bihar comes with the power of the ‘Lathi’, a big stick, ultimate respect comes with the Gun. He had only one ambition. An obsession, he wanted the gun.
I was Chotu Ram’s Divisional Officer. A Divisional Officer is a Father, a Brother, and a friend. I was all three combined for him. He had a lot of respect for me, I was his only hope, his dream. I had a talent for getting things done. Especially in matters such as this.
I got it done. I contacted the Russian Liaison Officer Col. Misha. It was simple. Four bottles of Indian Old Monk Rum. One bottle for the sales Manager of the Gun store.
One bottle for Col. Misha’s Boss, who arranged, the necessary paper work. Two bottles for Misha himself. The money was paid, the gun delivered on board PKZ, our Depot Ship.
I presented the gleaming Gun, to Chotu Ram, Chotu Ram hugged me. I felt my chest crushed. The intensity of his feelings were such. He knelt down, and touched his head on my toes. As Lord Hanuman would have touched Lord Ram’s feet. Swearing eternal loyalty.
Tears were flowing down his cheeks. That is how dreams get fulfilled.
After commissioning, and the long passage, INS Kursura returned to Visakhapatnam.
The lavender street. The foul smell. Half the city had thatched roofing. The stink hits you before the Train, reaches Waltair Station. A million flies swarming the platform.
The war of 1971 came, we all felt detached from war, and the war was fought far away, both on the western front and what was called East Pakistan. We did security round Etc.
PNS GHAZI, landed at Visakhapatnam, with a bang. An explosion that shattered the window panes of the buildings on the beach front. Chotu Ram, had become a Petty Officer, I was transferred to INS Virbahu, I was a Lieutenant then.
It was the fishermen, who picked the floating Life jackets, and presented them to Admiral Krishnan, The indomitable C in C. of The Eastern Naval Command. Admiral Krishnan, became a hero, a celebrity. He broke a thousand Coconuts at The Ganesh Temple, Upland Corner. A thanks giving. I broke one coconut at the same temple, when I took over Command of INS Karanj.
Chotu Ram was a member of the Naval Diving Team, which located the sunken submarine.
The Diving Team, eventually got the Submarine hatch opened, using Explosives.
Chotu Ram was an expert Diver. What he told me cannot be forgotten even after 46 years.
It will never be. You too will not forget after reading this.
Chotu Ram was given the task to collect Documents, log books, charts all vital to understand the mystery of GHAZI. Most of the recovered documents are preserved in the Naval Museum. Chotu Ram, had the underwater torch. As he entered the Control Room, searching for material, he saw a dead body floating towards him. Suspended, bulged out eyes, the lips torn and hanging. Chotu Ram pushed it away. He was searching for Documents, charts and books.
When he turned around, the same body was blocking his passage. Chotu Ram could not move. He flashed his torch. He saw something shining in the dead man’s hand. The swollen hand grotesque, with the skin peeled away. Strangely he saw the hand lift. A medal extended towards him. Chotu Ram grabbed the medal and quickly surfaced with the charts.
That night, Chotu Ram, had a drink at the Fleet Canteen. He had the Medal in his pocket.
He came to me the next day, called me into Virbahu Library, there was no one there.
Chotu Ram confessed his crime. He said ‘ Sirjee, maine medal choree ki’,(‘Sir I have stolen a medal.’) Chotu had such intensity, such fear, I could comprehend nothing.
I said ‘Kiska(whose)’.
Chotu Ram ‘Wo medal, dead body ke hath me tha Ghazi ka dead body, (It was in the hand of the dead body of Ghazi’). It still did not register anything to me. I just looked at him.
Chotu Ram sat down, his legs were unable to bear his weight. Having assembled his strength, he got up, and told me the entire story. He dramatically pulled out the Medal from his pocket and gave it to me. ‘Sirjee eh aap rakh lo, means Sir you keep this’
It was a white metal Medal, there were Arabic script, a name and number. ‘Sirjee aap rakh lo, Sir you keep this’. There was fear in his eyes. He was sweating, he again sat on the ground, holding his head. What he told me was shocking. Chotu Ram, had a dream. The Dead man, came alive.
It was Chotu Ram who was now floating inside the Sunken Submarine looking for the Medal. He was saying, ‘I will find the Medal for you. You should send the medal to my daughter Ayesha, my only girl’. The dead man ‘ Ye mera yaadgar hoga, meri pyari Ayesha. Means this would be my memory for my sweet daughter Ayesha’. Chotu Ram ‘ mai dar gaya, bahut dar gaya, Means I got scared, horribly scared’.
‘Sirjee mai pahali bar pishab nikal gaya, Sir I pissed in the bed, first time’.
Chotu Ram ‘Sirjee Wo murda bola, Saree zindagi Bhar, mai u heen latakta rahoonga’( The dead body said, I will float for the rest of my life inside the sunken submarine”.)
Chotu Ram ‘ Sabjee, ab mai kya karoon, Means Sir, what should I do?’
I returned the Medal. I said. ‘Let me think about it’.
Chotu Ram got up relieved. He had that confidence in me. A confidence of a man who trusts you. A powerful feeling, a bond, ineffable, it cannot be described in words. It has to be felt. I was suddenly transferred to Bombay. I could not meet Chotu Ram. When I returned to Visakhapatnam, Chotu Ram had left the Navy. Now when I am writing the story, the incident of Chotu Ram, the floating dead body extending the Medal, to be sent to his daughter Ayesha, looks incredible, unbelievable.
Was it Chotu Rams hallucination, his apprehension, the medal was true. I had held the Medal in my hand. It was a Pakistani medal. A whit metallic medal with Arabic inscriptions.
Chotu Ram’s, dream came true, when he picked up the vertical double barrel Gun.
This story is an excerpt from the book called Mystic Kerala and Sinking of PNS Ghazi which is about to be launched by Commodore M V Suresh. The release ceremony of the book is at Vishakapatnam on 06th Dec 2017.