How besotted and bewitched we all become when we get to see a glimpse of our Bollywood heroes and heroines. Most of us run to get a picture clicked with them to beautify our life’s memory album.
Cricket fever and Bollywood fever have engulfed our country men immensely. No doubt, they deserve this glory and aura around them.
But sometimes in the voyage of life, we come across men, whose life story is far better than a Hindi block buster and whose tales of valour may put a lot of our reel life heroes to oblivion.
One such real life Hero is Cdr Abhilash Tomy, KC, NM, whose grit and determination to pursue his passion of sailing around the globe, had put not only him but India on world reckoning.
There is nothing better for a teacher than to inspire her students with hope and positivity. And when those students get a chance to interact and meet heroes in uniform, the awe on their faces is priceless and to see them appreciate true heroism is an achievement for a teacher.
(Teachers beaming with pride )
Today, was one such day when I felt that an hour of their( students) time away from routine school did them really good. Majority of the times, when students are made to attend and sit through lectures and presentations, as a teacher I have felt it to be a waste of time. 40 minutes of your teaching period gets wasted.
Today, the students were indeed lucky to be a part of an audience for a beautiful and inspiring presentation by none other than the Indian Naval Officer Cdr Abhilash Tomy, who circum navigated the world in 2013 and again participated in Golden Globe Race 2018, and has been a source of immense pride not only to Indian Navy, but to the entire country as well.
( The smiling faces tell it all)
To be talked about in Prime Minister’s Mann ki baat and to be welcomed by the President of the country after the voyage,is an absolute matter of pride.
As a layman, it was such a pleasure to listen to him begin his talk with the history of sailing and the Golden Globe Race which began in the year 1968. His video presentation was very mesmerising. Clippings of the movie ‘The Mercy’ and pictures of sailboats and mention of all the sailors of those times was indeed a pleasure… something different than routine!
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of 68/69 times Golden Global Race and to pay tribute to Sir Robin Knox Johnston,the winner and only finisher of that first non stop circum navigation of the globe, the Golden Globe Race 2018 took place.
18 enterprising sailors from around the world enrolled for this race. Cdr Abhilash Tomy was the only Indian to participate in an expedition of this magnitude, which involved a distance of 30000 miles.
Cdr Tomy narrated the incident of how he had to convince his mother of allowing him to sail and I remembered Kahlil Gibran and his words that time – “Your children are not your own. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”
It is indeed not easy for a parent, especially a mother to let go of her child to follow his/her passion and that too at the mercy of nature, amidst the fury of sea and waves. I am sure Cdr Tomy has great convincing powers!
To represent India on a global platform, and then emerge a winner and that too for a skill which Indians are not known for, is no mean feat.
The children were all ears to his narratives and applauded him every time his wit, humour and style of oration stole their hearts.
The naming of his boat as Thuriya( it originates from Sanskrit, meaning fourth consciousness) and assigning number 5 to it as his date of birth was all so good to hear. The stealing of the barometer incident( as narrated by Cdr Tomy himself) added a kind of humour to the whole brave adventure and one realises that incidents like these add that spicy touch to one’s life, which is so essential for the wheel of life to run smoothly.
Cdr Tomy was the only Asian to take part in that race and his narration of how the Irish turned their national flag from horizontal position to vertical position(both countries have the same colours, only the chakra is missing from the flag of Ireland) to cheer this Indian when he began his race from France also invited a lot of applause from the student audience.
There is no sweeter pleasure for any citizen than to hear his country or country men being applauded on foreign soil.
The rules of the race were tough as the yachts had to be of the same 68′ era with no modern technology, except for safety equipments. So the sailors had nothing but compass and charts to give them company and the moon and sun and planets to help them navigate their path. The race began on July 1, 2018 from a port in France.
Cdr Tomy slept and relaxed for a few days to come out of his exhaustion.( as he mentioned to the audience) The students enjoyed his humourous description of how he would come across merchant ships and how the captain of those ships would pass his message to his wife that all was well at his end.
To be at sea, with no communication with your loved ones , may appear to us as less daunting in nature; but ask the family of such brave hearts and one realises the intensity of such an adventure.
The video clipping of the route they had to undertake made all of us understand the competition in a better way.
And then came the description of the storm and choppy waters of the Indian Ocean and how his boat got capsized. His hanging on the mast and then falling on the yacht, was no less than a visual imagery. Tales of very high waves, white froth all around and the strong storm kept all of us on the edge of our seats.
All of us could feel the pain he must have gone through during those tough 4 to 5 days of his life. As he recalled those moments, by giving in depth details of his physical injury, I, as an individual applauded him for his unflinching faith in his own power and realised that no physical or mental trauma can mar one’s growth, if an individual has will power to come out of it. Self Belief and optimism is the bedrock of all healing.
His back had faced the brunt. He was not able to stand and his knees could not take his weight. His tale of experiencing hicups, then trying to vomit to feel good, his efforts in forcing himself out of his bunk and crawling to fulfill the basic needs was indeed heart touching. One could feel goose bumps, listening to his anecdotes.
Crippled on the bed for days and being a victim of the wrath of choppy waters and coming out of it like a true winner appears more of a protagonist of a Bollywood flick, than a real hero with flesh and blood. To hear him speak his tales of seamanship and how putting knowledge to practical use comes in handy during the tough times, was really motivating.
He talked about ‘ Solidarity at Sea’ and it was nice to see and hear about the rescue efforts made by France and Australia to save one important life.
Indian Naval Ship Satpura got the officer back to his country and the picture of the officer on the gangway spoke a thousand words. He told the children that he came to that ship on a stretcher and he had promised himself that he would come out of the ship walking. That was a perfect example of determination and he proved right that ” Where There is a will, there is a way.”
Multiple fractures in the spine did not deter his spirit of adventure. The love of the sea can be seen, heard and felt in his demeanour.
He did not emerge a winner in that Golden Global Race but for the country and its people He is a true Winner.
His story of survival is no mean story.
It is truly inspiring, to say the least.
The fact that students asked him
some amazing questions about his passion was proof enough that none slept through this talk. To keep such 13 and 14 year old students be glued to their seats with no restlessness, is also creditable.
( Students full of gratitude to have met him )
Ask any teacher how difficult it is to get hold of their attention span for 40 minutes!
The way he answered to their queries and willingly agreed to get clicked with them also reflected his patience; a quality essential in the recipe for success.
Geographically too, I am sure the
students were enriched on coming to know of Les Sables, a port in France, from where the race commenced, of Amsterdam island( unheard of, till date) and of the various sea routes that were shown to them on the big screen.
Vocabulary enrichment definitely
took place with new words like bowsprit and boomkin in their kitty. Knowledge on history of sailing broadened their horizon and last but not the least the usage of scientific and mathematical principles while at sea were also
covered during this lecture.
So, all in all it was a better form of education for the children rather than just sitting in the four walls of the classroom and being engulfed in the cobweb of books and blackboard.
Cdr Abhilash Tomy aptly fits into the description of the famous saying- ” Winners are not people who never fail but people who never quit.”
He is looking forward to the next Golden Globe Race in 2022.
Nothing can stop him from pursuing his dream.
Wish His story is told to more students because there is nothing more inspiring than to hear stories from the horse’s mouth and to be able to meet such real life heroes.
The students of NCS Goa, who heard his narration, were totally impressed with the officer’s sailing prowess. I am sure it provided them the right impetus which is needed for one’s growth and progress.
Cdr Tomy’s expedition, his tragic accident, his will to fight and desire to face the sea again is indeed encouraging and motivating.
As Pele said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing.”
This naval officer reflects success in true spirit!