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All aboard the INS Sahyadri

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The Indian diaspora invited on the Indian warship enjoyed the authenticity of ambience and cuisine from back home, reports NIMA MENON
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INS Sahyadri is the third and final addition to the Shivalik class of indigenously-built stealth warships, and was commissioned into the Indian naval fleet on July 21, 2012. While Sahyadri (the benevolent mountains) is the major hill range starting from the north of the Western ghats of India, Shivalik Hills is a mountain range in the Himalayas. Commanded by Captain Sanjay Vatsayan, with 24 officers and 250 sailors aboard, this antisubmarine warfare guided missile stealth Frigate, represented the Indian naval prowess at the International Fleet Review hosted by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in Sydney from October 3-11. A latest addition and the pride of the Indian naval arsenal, INS Sahyadri set sail from Vizag to Sydney and participated in various exercises along with naval ships from other countries.
On October 7, the captain and crew invited prominent members from the Indian diaspora in Sydney aboard the ship for some fauji style entertainment and dinner. The ambience was nostalgic and patriotic.
The evening was also attended by the High Commissioner of India Mr Biren Nanda; the Consulate General of India for Sydney Mr Arun Goel; and veterans from the Indian Defence Forces. Admiral Anil Chopra, Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command addressed the gathering and welcomed the guests. He expressed his joy, and acknowledged the importance of this exercise in improving ties between India and Australia.
“Defence ties and cooperation between the naval forces of India and Australia have developed rapidly since the establishment of a Strategic Partnership between the two countries in 2009,” Mr Nanda said in his speech. “Earlier this year we had the first ever visit by our Defence Minister to Australia. A major outcome of the visit was to institutionalise maritime exercises between the two navies”. He further reiterated India’s dynamic pursuit in building strong ties with the ‘Indian Ocean littorals’. He concluded saying, “India and Australia share a global vision of peace, stability and shared prosperity based on sustainable development. Shared democratic values and commitment to human rights, pluralism, an open society and the rule of law underpin the strategic partnership between our two countries”.
Lieutenant Commander Jamie Watson was the Australian liaison officer aboard this Indian warship, and sailed with them from Fremantle to Sydney. When asked what was the difference in practice between the Indian navy and the Australian navy, he said, “Nothing much, except that I am woken every morning at 5am by the sound of the bugle!” He described his experience and interaction with the Indian naval crew as warm and friendly. He is no stranger to the Indian ways, as he has visited India before in his capacity as naval officer, as well as a tourist.
The captain of the ship, Captain Sanjay Vatsayan, was a host par excellence, making every person welcome in the true Indian and naval tradition. The Indian naval band entertained the guests with some peppy Bollywood numbers, and I had great difficulty restricting my dancing toes from moving onto the dance floor. There was a vibrant bhangra to add that extra zest to the evening.
The soup and the dinner were typical ‘mess’ style. I felt that the taste and texture of the yummy tomato soup, rotis and dhal makani had not changed in 15 years. On enquiring, it was revealed that all the ingredients for the meal, including the chicken had come from Vizag. It was the smell and the taste of the nation one had left behind, but still continues to be part of one’s identity.
The evening culminated very appropriately with the naval band playing Advance Australia Fair followed by Jana Gana Mana. An unforgettable experience, indeed!

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Nima Menon
Love the outdoors and my idea of indoor bliss is a tub of ice cream with a favourite movie or book

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