ORPHANAGE IN NAVAL DOCKYARD MUMBAI

Orphanage in Naval Dockyard, Mumbai; wherein you see Indian Navy ships of all classes and sizes including the aircraft carrier Viraat.

You haven’t seen one? Well, I have. Read on:

As a Lieutenant or Lieutenant Commander you had to do duty in a place (it used to be on the top floor of Fleet Office building) called HDCC (Harbour Defence Control or Coordination Centre); an organisation under the NOIC or Naval Officer-in-Charge. If you had ever done a duty there, you would understand the resemblance of Naval Dockyard to an orphanage.

The boat required to patrol the dockyard waters had its call sign as ‘Baby’ whereas HDCC invariably assumed the call-sign ‘Mother’. In various levels of clandestine threat to Bombay Harbour, as given in the orders, the number of these boats would increase. In case of more than one boat, these were (innovatively?) given callsigns: Baby1, Baby2, Baby3 etc.

(Pic courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org)
(Pic courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org)

The most difficult part of their vigil used to be to keep in touch with HDCC and hence, throughout the night one could hear (if one had an equivalent Punwire communication handset), heart-rending cries of “Mother, this is baby one, over” and “Baby this is mother over”.

Some of these were due to vagaries of radio communication whereas some of these, at times, were not so unintentional. Taste this that was recorded during my watch at HDCC when I was posted in WATT (B) or Weapons Acceptance Trials Team (Bombay):

“Baby this is mother, over”
No response. Only a crackling sound.

Again: “Baby, baby, this is mother, mother, over”
Still no response. More crackling noise.

The HDCC communication sailor now looking at me for effect: “Baby, this is mother, radio check over”
No response. More crackling noise.

Communication sailor about to give up: “Baby, this is mother, nothing heard from you, out”

Loud and clear response from baby: “Mother this is baby, nothing heard from you also, out”

Click sound of switching off the set to “preserve battery”!

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