A Cruise of Happiness

A Cruise of Happiness

The tribal children of Yeoor Village could not have imagined a more enjoyable and satisfying Diwali gift. On Tuesday November 9, volunteers from city-based NGO Sevadham took a busload of tribal kids, aged 5 to 14, for a visit to INS Vikrant, the first aircraft carrier of Indian Navy, which is now a floating museum anchored off the Gateway of India in Mumbai. INS Vikrant was decommissioned on January 31, 1997.

The trip was jointly organised by Sevadham and the Thane Unit of the Council of Catholic Women of India. Pushpa Kadam, a social worker from Sevadham, had to leave home at 4.30 am from her home at Nerul in order to reach Yeoor in time to take the 55 tribal kids and two women volunteers from the village to the Tiger Gate. This is the third such trip that Sevadham has organised for children. Last year a group of mentally challenged children from St John’s Special School had explored fighter carrier and before that, it was a group of street children had got lucky.

Before they went on board the vessel, the children had no clue what was waiting for them. They probably thought it was just a picnic where they would have fun. But the INS Vikrant turned out to be a pure delight. From the moment the tribal children entered the ship, they could hardly contain their excitement. They had never seen anything so gigantic. Born and brought up in a village environment, the ship structure was a shock to the kids, who shouted in amazement, "This boat is so big!" Soon, they were taken around the ship and were shown the different decks of vessel. The children learnt about the vital role that INS Vikrant had played in the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and why it had been nicknamed "The War Heroine of 1971". The children also discovered how the Indian Naval officers lived onboard warships and how they ran their ships. Besides that they learnt about fighter jets, missiles, torpedoes and bombs. In short, they learnt about how the Naval forces defend their country.

After the two-hour or so of exploration of the ship, the children were taken to the navy office in Colaba, where they had snacks (Biscuits, cake and soft drinks) before being treated to a magic show. The children were completely bowled over by the magician’s acts who performed every trick in the book. When the magician produced pigeons out of nowhere, the children clapped in absolute delight and wonder. After the magic show, the children had a relishing lunch. Before   they left, every child got a small gift package containing a pencil, an eraser, chocolates, a balloon, and a whistle. They kids savoured every moment of this breathtaking trip to India’s glorious first aircraft carrier.

"Later, so many children thanked us for the wonderful experience, which they know their parents cannot give them. They were thrilled and very happy indeed," says Kadam. The 55 children may have never imagined that something could be so big till they actually saw it. We may never be able to understand what they felt and experienced. But we know for sure that the experience was special for them. And who knows, one of them may have silently decided to grow up, join the Navy to serve the nation.

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