INS Sindhurakshak tragedy: Kin of 18 sailors hoping against hope

The explosions that blew up INS Sindhurakshak on Wednesday has left the families of the 18 sailors who went down with it torn between hope and reality. Their grieving parents and in some cases, shocked wives, are yet to absorb the fact that the young men may have perished. MiD DAY spoke with the families of four of the missing sailors.

Most reached Mumbai on Wednesday after the Western Naval Command gave them the bad news. They are waiting anxiously to learn more from the rescue operations.

With moist eyes and quivering voices, they are praying for the safe return to land of all the 18 Navy personnel on board the jinxed sub.

Rank: Sailor, Leading Electrical Mechanic (Power)
Joined Navy: 10 years ago

‘I have got my leave sanctioned for 15 days. Anusha (wife, name changed) and I are coming home for Onam. We will have fun, be happy.” These were the last words Liju said to his mother Vimala, a day before the incident. 

Liju Lawrence

His father Thomas and younger brother Biju (27) are in Mumbai, anxiously waiting to hear of any developments in the search mission.

Liju had married Anusha about two months ago, on June 5, in Thiruvanantha-puram, and the couple returned to Mumbai the next day. They were staying at New Navy Nagar.

It was an arranged marriage, and the ring ceremony had happened six months before the wedding.

Thomas said, “We have no clue about my son so far. The Navy officials have said they would let us know as and when they come across any information. The rescue operation is still going on. I hope all 18 of them come back safely. I am worried.”

Thomas said his son completed B Sc (Electronics) from Emanuel college, Thiruvananthapuram and joined the Navy soon after, on August 28, 2003. “His first posting was at the naval base in Kochi, and he pursued higher studies while in Navy. He had recently completed his MBA.” Thomas said.

Said Biju, “Liju had accompanied INS Sindhurakshak to Russia for repairs and had returned with the submarine on April 29, when it reached Mumbai. Soon after, he came to Kerala on a 24-day leave and it was during this period that the date of his marriage was fixed.”

His wife Anusha has a master’s in Computer Applications and hails from the same district. “She is in a state of shock and is inconsolable. Psychologists from INSH Ashvini (Navy hospital) are counselling her regularly. Even her father has come from Kerala,” said Thomas.

“We have not been taken to the spot where the incident happened, nor do we have a clue on how the fire broke out. I will return to Kerala on Friday, since my wife is alone at home, she may be getting worried. I will ask Biju to stay back in Mumbai until we get news about my son,” he said.

Rank: Seaman Grade I
Joined Navy: Four years ago

In the six months that he was away on duty after bidding farewell to his family on February 18, Vikas, the sole breadwinner of the family, made it a point to call them frequently. But, on Wednesday, when the telephone rang, as the family was saying their goodbyes to Vikas’s younger brother Vaishak (17), who was leaving for Bangalore after securing admission to an engineering college, the excitement in the house quickly turned from excitement to anguish.

Vikas E

“The family is going through a severe financial crisis and Vikas’s father recently sold a piece of land from their ancestral property to facilitate Vaishak’s admission. On Wednesday, Vaishak was leaving for Bangalore, when the family received a phone call from Mumbai informing them about the incident, leaving them aghast,” said Murlidharan, a neighbour and family friend.

According to Murlidharan, Vikas joined the Navy four years ago and his first posting was at Vishakapatnam. His father Krishnadas (55), drives an auto rickshaw, mother Valsala (48), is a housewife, and his two siblings Vaishak (17), and Sreevidya (15), are still studying.

“Vikas was the only financial support for his parents. He had rented a house for his parents and siblings, and was paying the monthly rent of Rs 3,000 through his earnings,” said Murlidharan.

Murlidharan said Vikas had come to meet his parents in January and returned to Mumbai in February, and was in constant touch with his parents on the phone. “Before leaving for Mumbai, he expressed a desire to learn martial arts from me during his next visit. We are praying for him and for the other crew members safe return,” said Murlidharan who teaches martial arts.

Rank: Grade II Radio Operator
Joined Navy: Two years ago

He joined the Navy soon after completing his second year in degree college, and was first posted to Vishakhapatnam. He was supporting his parents financially -- father Vishwambaran (46) and mother Sujata (43). He had even made provisions for the education of his younger brother Vinayakan (18).

Vishnu Vishwambaran

Vishnu’s cousin R Rajesh said, “After joining the Navy Vishnu had enrolled for a B Tech and was thinking of pursuing higher studies. He was happy working in the Navy and was very excited about his stint in the submarine. He had visited Kerala on June 1 and returned to Mumbai after a 10-day break.”

The family is not doing well financially, so Vishnu decided to provide financial support to his younger brother to complete his education, and also help his father complete the construction of a house.

On Wednesday, Navy officials from the Western Naval Command informed his father about the explosion and requested him to come to Mumbai soon. Vishwambaran and a relative are in Mumbai, awaiting the news of his whereabouts, said Rajesh.

Rajesh added, “His mother was always against Vishnu joining the Navy, but since he was determined to do so, she had no say. All she knows is that Vishu has met with an accident and is in hospital. We are praying for his wellbeing,” said Rajesh.

Rank: Lieutenant Commander (2nd Commanding Officer on board)
Joined Navy: 17 years ago

Venkat joined the Indian Navy at the young age of 18, soon after his pre-degree course. He joined the services as a sailor and continued his higher studies while in the Navy. He lived with his wife Harani and three-year-old daughter Deepshika at New Navy Nagar, Mumbai.

R Venkitaraj

On August 2, Venkat called up his parents P V Ramakrishanan Potti and mother Vasundara Devi, informing them that he would soon be returning home for a holiday.

“We haven’t heard of him and have only been told that the search operation is on. We are praying for the safety of all 18 crew members,” said his mother Vasundara. His uncle Jayasankar, speaking to MiD DAY from Thiruvanantha-puram, added, “Venkat was a very dynamic and enthusiastic person. He was soon going to become a captain. We are praying for his well-being.” 

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