Why A Goan Stopped Liking His Favourite Goenchi Batatyachi Bhaji and Patol Bhaji
A Leander Class light Cruiser was built for the Royal Navy in 1933 as HMS ACHILLES and commissioned into the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy. It was re named in 1937 as HMNZS ACHILLES. She was returned to the Royal Navy at the end of the Second World War and in 1948 was sold to the Royal Indian Navy to be re commissioned as HMIS DELHI. In 1950 she was renamed INS DELHI and remained in service until decommissioned at Bombay on 30 June 1978.
The ship was commissioned into the Royal Indian Navy on 5 July 1948 under the command of Captain H. N. S. Brown of the Royal Navy. Captain Brown was also serving as Commodore Commanding Indian Naval Squadron (COMINS). She had 17 British officers and petty officers, the rest of the crew being Indian. Commander Ram Das Katari, later the first Indian Naval Chief was her Executive Officer and the senior-most Indian officer, while Lt Commander Sardari Lal Mathradas Nanda was her first Lieutenant. HMIS Delhi arrived at Bombay on 16 September 1948.
One of the arriving commissioning crew was the Ships supply Officer Sub Lt Rodrigues. He had left India some time in March 1947 as a British Subject but now was a proud Indian entering his Independent Country after nearly 18 months.
Becoming a newly minted “ Commission Worthy “ Acting Sub Lt of Supply Branch in pre independence days he had already achieved a sort of a record. Next he had been selected to undergo a six months Supply & Secretariat Course in United Kingdom with the Royal Navy. He should have been back in India by Octob1947. He was late by nearly a year, a yet another record set for the time taken to travel back to Unit from a professional course abroad, but then it was a different Navy those days.
Now, how did Sub Lt Rodrigues manage to establish this record which stands unbroken till date?
Rodrigues had been sent for the course less than two years after the end of WW2. Those days travel by air was reserved only for Naval Captains and above, and even then only when specially warranted. A newly minted ‘commission worthy’ (later called SD list) supply officer promoted from the ranks certainly did not qualify for air travel, even when proceeding out of India for official duties. He had to travel by ship. P & O was way up the ladder in terms of costs and simply unaffordable for a Junior Officer and even Seniors. British India lines (the cheapest shipping line operating) was thus used by the rank and file and even they were expensive, so the general rule of thumb was to wait, and if possible send our officers and men on Royal Indian Navy warships that proceeded frequently to the Mediterranean or the United Kingdom itself for exercises or work up or special refits.
Lt Rodrigues accordingly reached the UK on HMIS JAMUNA Jumna, finished his S&S course some six months later and began looking around for passage back home.
So started his saga. Apparently one of our Hunt class destroyers most probably HMIS RANJIT was supposed to visit Portsmouth. So he waited for two weeks at the Indian High commission in London at the end of which he received News that the ship was not coming to the UK but was expected to visit Malta and then go back to India from there itself. So he managed to get a train cum ferry cum all sorts of transport ticket to reach Malta but unfortunately arrived too late. The ship had sailed back.
Crest fallen, he asked for a ship passage from Malta to India but no… he was told SUTLEJ was expected to stop at Gibraltar. By now having developed his initiative taking abilities to the fullest, he managed a lift on an RAF Dakota and reached Gibraltar waited for a while in Gibraltar for SUTLEJ to arrive. Being a Supply officer. eventually they attached him up with the paymasters office in Gibraltar. After a month it became obvious that Sutlej was not coming. He then tried to get back to the UK but he couldn’t get a travel warrant. The e powers to be said “for gods sake the bugger’s half way to India already no point bringing him back”. So he stayed on for a while with the Paymaster’s Office for some more time.
The number of “I have the honour to state” letters he wrote was now slowly piling up to no avail. Eventually in sheer frustration he took matters into his own hand and managed to hitch a ride on an RAF mail transport (working in the pay and rations office apparently had its perks!!! ) And got back to Portsmouth and then managed to wangle a warrant to London where he landed at the embassy.
“Roddy where the bloody hell have you been ? “ was all he got from our Naval Defence Attaché in London… “I’ve been in Gibraltar” says our newly minted SD stores.
“What the devil were you doing in Gibraltar ?
“I’ve been sending you application after application telling you why and to please get me back ” says my dad.
“Oh bugger that” says the DA “no time for letters in this job… Anyway you are joining the crew of the Achilles as SD stores it’s going to become one of ours shortly…. HMIS Delhi”
And so Lt Rodrigues joined the Commissioning crew of DELHI and almost a year and a half after he had left India for the UK he came back home to India.
Later on he was sent once again to UK in 1956 for commissioning of MYSORE. Though this time Navy kept a close watch and ensured that he came back on board INS MYSORE in Sep 1957.
However one thing surely changed. For the rest of his life he refused to eat potatoes… being in UK right after the end of WW2, strict rationing was still going on. Then being short on money too, living for those months on damn potatoes put him off for the rest of his life……he refused to look at even Batatyachi Bhaji or be it Patol Bhaji
So ends one of the anecdotes of my father during his naval service, which I too joined through the National Defence Academy.