India is all set to bid INS Viraat, the world's longest-serving warship, a final goodbye. Rear Admiral Puruvir Das, Flag Officer Commanding Gujarat Naval Command, who served on board the Centaur-class aircraft carrier in 1996, speaks to CNN-News18 about what has been a very important chapter of his life. Excerpts:
Are you nostalgic to see INS Viraat making its final journey?
All of us are feeling nostalgic as we have gained so much of experience and expertise because of Viraat...It's a moment of transition as we now move on to Vikramaditya and Vikrant...It's a sombre moment for all of us...Thousands of officers have served on board Viraat through all these years...It's been so helpful to us during so many exercises including Operation Vijay and Operation Parakram...We will value this experience and, thus, we cannot forget such an experience.
Many demanded that Viraat be converted into a museum.
I am not part of the central naval command so I am not aware of the details. However, it seems the central government formed an expert committee and the committee has submitted its report. And it seems it is not technically viable, neither is it financially viable to convert Viraat into a museum... The central government has taken its decision in all its wisdom...I'm not privy to the report or decision...
You served on this warship for a year. What memories do you have of Viraat?
When I initially came onto the ship as a young officer, I got lost on it. It is like a floating city and it takes time for anyone to get used to it...The way in which the ship really showed its worth in difficult circumstances, adverse weather conditions... There was an idea of India's power and might on the seas...Fighter jets and helicopters taking off make you realise that it's so flexible and India can reach miles ahead from the sea...Any officer would value the experience of day-night flights taking off this beauty...Because it takes a lot of calibre to understand the functioning of this aircraft carrier...It has so many machineries and so many technicalities...I saw it up close...
If you were allowed to carry one thing from Viraat with you back home, what would you take?
You know on these warships we have these white lifebuoys there all over the place. We throw them into the water to help anyone drowning. If I can lay my hands on one of them, I would like to take it home and keep it in my drawing room.
In a career spanning 30 years, the Admiral, an alumnus of the NDA has held numerous specialist, staff and operational appointments. FOGNA is responsible to the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command for all Naval operations in Gujarat, Daman and Diu Naval Area.