One doesn’t expect to encounter an aircraft carrier during a stroll down an arterial city street. But this is Cochin, a port city, the commercial hub of the water world called Kerala. Still, I was surprised when I spied this behemoth, looking for all the world like a beached whale, while walking down M.G. Road. This was at the southern end of the road, not far from Atlantis junction. I knew it was a gigantic ship of some kind, but it was the security guard sitting in the yard abutting the road that the ship overlooked who told me it’s the INS Vikrant. The name was familiar. Wasn’t this the aircraft carrier that played a stellar role during hostilities in the Bay of Bengal during the Indo-Pak conflict in Bangladesh in 1971?
As it turned out, no. That aircraft carrier, manufactured by the British, was retired from active service in 1998. The aircraft carrier in the picture above, also called INS Vikrant, will be India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier. It is being built by Cochin Shipyard, which has an excellent track record in ship building and ship repairing, with a long list of international and domestic clients. Construction of the aircraft carrier commenced in 2013, and the above photo shows the carrier lying in the dry dock, awaiting undocking, which was delayed for a few days for technical reasons. Vikrant will be handed over to the navy in 2018.
I learned all this after I got home. As I stood gazing at the aircraft carrier from M.G. Road, I asked the security guard if I could move further into the parking lot and take a photo from there. He said he wasn’t sure, and I decided not to risk it. As long as my feet were planted on M.G. Road, I could claim I was indulging in my hobby of street photography. The moment I walked off the road and moved into what looked like Cochin Shipyard property, I would be at the mercy of any petty-minded official who felt like throwing his weight around. I might even be breaking a rule. In fact, I might be breaking a rule even by taking a pic from M.G. Road. We live in paranoid times. I hastily flagged down a passing auto and got in, the imposing bulk of the aircraft carrier occupying my thoughts all the way home.
A newspaper report: INS Vikrant undocked at Cochin Shipyard
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