Dear Fellow Loyoleans!
It is my earnest attempt to bring to your attention the knowledge and pleasure our excursions during the 60s to various places gave us. I wish to enlighten you with the most delightful experiences the students of those days had. It is my passionate desire that you should also be my imaginary participants. Now please prepare yourselves to get transposed to those times, just to receive the same experience which your predecessors came across.
One of the most interesting excursions I conducted was our trip to Vizag. So, here we go!
Excursion to Visakhapatnam:
The year was 1962, Mid Summer Month of May and the beginning of the summer vacation of the school for about 45 days. Before the school closed for the vacation, I felt enthused to organize an educational tour to Visakhapatnam and recruited about 12 students, who were equally enthusiastic about it. I recall clearly that Late Sadhan Mishra (Elder Brother of Bejon Mishra), K. C. Cherian, Behram Pastakia, K. R. Ganesh, J. P. Lorenz and A. J. Rao were among them.
Those days the school followed the Calendar year for its academic administration. The School opened in January for a New Year and closed in December with Final Examinations, which determined the promotion of the students to the next grade. December vacation too was about 45 days in duration. This indeed gave lot of recreation and rejuvenation to both faculty and students.
Lawson’s Bay, Dolphin’s Nose Light House, Harbor Tour, Hindusthan Ship Building Yard, and Bheemili Beach were the most fascinating places I included in my plan for our visit. Some of these places were not easily accessible and required permission from their Directors. Besides this an arrangement for proper lodging and boarding was needed for a comfortable stay of at least a week for all the participants. I thought that the best location for lodging was a Hostel on the campus of The Andhra University and Hotel Alankar, which was located in the heart of the city, for dining and it was done accordingly. The arrangement for our stay in the Hostel was made possible with the help of my nephew, Dr. G. L. N. Rao, who was doing research in the Ionosphere Laboratories at that time. The Bay of Bengal offered a magnificent view from the Hostel where we were accommodated and the students had the first hand experience of University Life.
I wrote a letter to Col. Glassup, Director of The Light House and Harbor, requesting him to give us permission to visit the Light House and for a tour of the Harbor in a launch. The Colonel graciously and very promptly sent me his written permission for our visit to those places. I felt very happy and encouraged by this response. So, the first part of my plan was accomplished.
I made a similar request to the Director of The Ship Building Yard too and obtained his written permission. The second part of my plan too was accomplished and my attention was shifted to traveling arrangements.
I went to the Tatanagar Rail Station to make arrangements for reservation of berths. Some one guided me to the A O S (Assistant Operating Superintendent) near the Yard Master’s Office across the tracks. The A O S was a very sincere and duty conscious person. He felt very happy that he could be of some use to us and arranged the reservation of the required number of berths for both forward and return journey in Howrah – Madras Mail. With this arrangement, done very satisfactorily, we are now ready to make the trip.
Some days after we returned from the excursion, I went to the A O S’s office to express my thanks to him. But I was shocked to know that he died in a tragic accident a few days ago. On that day he walked along the tracks for inspection. At that time a speeding train behind him but on a different track, blew the whistle loudly. He was startled and thinking he was in its path, reflexively jumped on to the track used by the train. Instantly he was crushed to death.
Stunned as I was, I just could not believe this news. The Indian Railways lost a devoted officer.
Day 1 in Vizag:
We arrived at Waltair Railway Station (now known as Visakhapatnam) a little earlier than noon. My nephew received us at the station. He arranged the University Bus for our major transports. After settling in our rooms in the hostel thoroughly refreshed and had our lunch, we started our exploration with a visit to the Erskine College of Natural Sciences on the premises of Andhra University first. An entire skeleton of a whale is preserved here. Loyola Biology Museum now has a Lumbar Vertebra of this whale, which I managed to obtain later after 21 years!
In the Afternoon, we walked to the Lawson’s Bay through the University Cricket ground and a gorge leading to the Bay. This is one of the beaches which the residents, visitors and students like very much. The water is crystal clear and placid. We took the whole evening studying the marine life, playing on the beach and picking up pebbles and shells. After this activity, we walked to the Bus Stop, which is very close to our Hostel and went for dinner in a bus. Such vintage buses do not exist any more!
Day 2 in Vizag:
We left for the Dolphin’s Nose Light House in the University Bus in the morning. This is the most exciting part of the excursion for some reasons. In the first place, we were fortunate enough to go to the top of the mountain, climb into the Light House and walk around it, viewing all the time the technical details of its structure and operation. Its reflector is a big circular and triangular glass prism imported from France. To get an idea, just imagine thrice the size of the steering wheel of a car, whose cross section is a Triangle. It revolves twice in a minute, throwing its powerful beam of light as far as 15 miles across the sea.
Another reason for our good fortune was that from 1964 during and after the Indo-Pak War, visitors are no more allowed to go near the campus even and permission to visit this Light House is not granted for security reasons. It became a highly sensitive and protected zone. So we were indeed lucky to see and feel this impressive building. The view of the Bay of Bengal from this vantage point is fantastic and those who set their eyes to see it are indeed very lucky, so are we!
We spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon on its premises and went back to the hostel after lunch. The evening was meant for a stroll and leisure!
Day 3 in Vizag:
We spent the morning strolling within the University campus and left for the Harbor tour after lunch. The officer in charge of our tour received us and made us wait in his office until the launch was ready for us to embark. An interesting incident, which came to my notice later, occurred as we waited in the room. One of the students sat on the officer’s desk in a relaxed mood. An orderly spotted it, went to him and said it was very improper to sit on the desk and asked him to sit on a chair instead. When I knew about it, I spoke to the students that in the South it is considered to be ill manners to sit on the desk and that I should have cautioned them all about it earlier. Any way, we took the incident jovially. Perhaps things may be different there these days and people may not be as sensitive to such behavior. In the mean time, the launch was ready and we had a very thrilling experience of the scenery that it presented to us.
Vizag has a natural harbor. The Dolphin’s Nose Mountain, aptly described as such, jutting far into the sea, provided us a majestic view. The clear blue water was calm as long as we stayed within the zone, but when we entered the sea, some students felt the rocking motion not too comfortable, but they could bear the motion sickness.
Sadhan Mishra was the one who enjoyed this harbor trip very much. He later told me that it would be his dream to join the Merchant Navy after he completed his education. Indeed, he did it, but tragedy struck him after some years of work. He was found dead in the cabin of a ship in which he was working. Sadhan Mishra was working as a Captain on a Oil Tanker owned by Varun Shipping Company of Mumbai, India. He had sailed from Port Antwerp and on way to India while on High Seas, there was a gas leak and while saving the lives of sailors, whom he saved, he laid his life due to over dose of gas poison. This happened on 31st May 1973 and his body was flown down from Port Fortaleza, the nearest port from the accident site to Jamshedpur for the last rites.
Sadhan was a fair, tall and handsome looking boy with a green coat, which he wore on certain occasions, like the Biology Exhibitions. During one of the exhibitions he wanted to be a receptionist. He said, “Sir, Please give me the duty of receiving the guests only (Convent Girls, whom he wanted to impress), but not any other assignment.
I had very entertaining times with Sadhan as my student. Now, whenever I take a boat, I think of him. His brother, Bejon Mishra also proved to be as entertaining in later years. Presently, he is doing great service to the country as a veteran Consumer activist.
Day 4 in Bheemili:
Thoroughly refreshed after delicious breakfast early in the morning, we took a City Bus near the Hostel to go to the R T C Bus Stand (Road Transport Corporation) to catch a bus to Bheemili.
Bheemili or Bheemunipatnam is a serene town north of Visakhapatnam on the east coast. The ride from Vizag to Bheemili was breathtaking, with the scenic, azure Bay of Bengal and its coast covered with the stately Casuarina trees on one side, and lovely Eastern Ghats with evergreen trees on the other side. The joy of riding along this route was further enhanced by the sight of several parrots (actually they are parakeets) and other birds, which flew past from one tree to another. Their sweet squawking sounds were very pleasing to the ears. This peaceful town has been the favorite of many filmmakers and is quite a romantic place. There is a lighthouse, which is as old as the British Empire and stands a mute spectator to the changes around it. Perhaps, it stopped functioning presently. The 24 Km (about 15 Miles) beach road from Vizag to Bheemili is one of the longest beach roads in India. The sun-kissed beaches along the route, strewn with fishermen villages, made our ride very enjoyable. Bheemili is situated at the confluence of river Gosthani and the Bay of Bengal.
Our Bus stop in Bheemili was very near the beach, about five minute walk. We had refreshing tender, sweet and green coconuts to quench our thirst quite often. They were so much engrossed with the white sands, pebbles of the vast beach and the seascape, that the group did not think about lunch until I reminded them and we had it in a hotel not far away. We all went back to the beach for the rest of the day. Behram Pastakia was wading in knee deep water where the river met the sea and collected many marine specimens. I watched him in silence as he stooped several times to inspect the specimens living under the shallow water. Sadhan Mishra took bath in the sea and he later told me that this was the highlight of the tour. Fortunately, the Bheemili beach is one of the safest for swimming, but still I chided him for going that far into the sea. At the end we sat on the beach and began to study all the specimens we collected and discussed about some of the interesting ones. Finally, we took the bus back to Vizag and returned to the hostel after we had dinner in Hotel Alankar. This was a day very well spent and I hope the students remember about it even now.
Day 5 in Vizag:
All set for a visit in the morning after Breakfast to The Hindustan Ship Building Yard, which was founded as Scindia Ship Yard in 1940. Visakhapatnam is credited with the establishment of one of the most significant shipyards in the city. The first president of India - Dr. Rajendra Prasad laid the foundation of the shipyard in 1941. At that time he was Acting Congress President. It is now a Government of India undertaking and renamed as The Hindustan Ship building Ltd. [HSL}, after its Nationalization. It is an efficient shipyard to serve the country’s need for all kinds of navigational purposes. Covering a sprawling area of 46.2 Hectares, the Hindustan Shipyard is equipped with latest technological machines. The shipyard has plasma cutting machines, modern cranes, vigilant cell, welding machines and every other necessary component required to run a modern shipyard. The Ship repairing unit of the shipyard has facilities like water jet cleaning, hydraulic elevators and modern technological machinery needed for building ships.
We submitted the permission document and other related papers to an officer at the gate of the Yard and waited for some time for a tour guide to show us the yard. The most interesting part of this sightseeing was the exploration of a ship that was still under construction. The guide first took us to the Engine Room Deck where the huge engines were assembled and explained to us how they operate. Then we proceeded to the other decks and cabins intended for the crew and passengers, etc. The ship looked like a small city almost ready to sail. It was here in this ship that Sadhan Mishra expressed to me once again his desire to join the Merchant Navy. The guide then took us on a long walk to the other departments of the yard and explained in detail how the machinery was employed in the construction or repair. Finally, he showed us the place from where the ready- to- sail ships would be launched. The first ship to be constructed fully in India after independence was built at the Scindia Shipyard and named Jal Usha. It was launched in 1948 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. We thanked the guide for giving us valuable information and his time and returned to the city for stroll and shopping in preparation for our departure back to Jamshedpur. I hope now that Naval Architecture may be in the view of some students who wish to choose it for their academic career.
Days 6 & 7 in Transit:
We left the hostel after breakfast and caught a city bus to the Waltair Railway Station as cheerfully as we first came here, but sun tanned very much due to the summer sun in Vizag. We boarded the Howrah Mail for our journey back to Tatanagar. When we reached Jamshedpur the next day, some parents were waiting on the platform already and I handed over their sons to them. Thus, a memorable and an exciting excursion came to an end pleasantly and smoothly.
Mr. Arun and Mrs Devi now live in Sacramento, California. Contact them.