Madanjit (S-32,1963) Remembers and Writes

Date: 19- 02- 21


Madanjit (S-32,1963) remembers and writes

Dear Jashanjot,

Sorry, I could not get back to you earlier.
Have been busy with a few things.  Unfortunately, we lost our sister in May after a two-month illness during which she was in and out of ICU.  Her name was Indra.  She was the first girl to enroll at PPS and her house-number was S-33.  I remember we used to cajole her into doing a bharatnatyam dance for the Sutlej House drama programme.

Late Indra Surjit Singh (S-33) the first girl student of the PPS, is the lone girl sitting in the forefront in this picture of the dining hall in 1960.

Our father, Dr. Surjit Singh, was the first Senior Master.  He was on deputation from the Punjab Education Service and his last appointment was Principal, Sports College, Jullundur, from 1972-74. He passed away in Oklahoma City in December 2003.

Dr Surjit Singh PhD, Senior Master of the School, (1960-64) being introduced to YB Chavan, Defence Minister. Waiting Mr Punia, SC Cowell, M.Vodden and Ms Malkani. Mr Tandon in the background.

 I am sending a cheque for Rs. 10,000 for ONA to your address.  Great site- thanks for making it possible.

Regarding the sinking of the Khukri- I was a sub-lieutenant then.  The Fourteenth Frigate Squadron had been dispatched for hunter-killer operations to patrol the northern approaches to Mumbai harbour.  Khukri, Kuthar, Kirpan were proceeding in formation about thirty miles west of Diu Head when Khukri was struck by a torpedo.  It hit  us in the engine-room area, close to the ship’s magazine.  The resulting explosions must have torn some good-sized holes in the ship’s side because we  took on water very fast.  Also, the entire after half of the ship caught fire.  We had lost electrical power within a few seconds of the torpedo hitting us. Captain Mulla gave orders to abandon ship about a minute after we had been hit.  It was a dark night.  Everything had happened very fast and some sailors were standing by the shipside, reluctant to go into the water.  We had not had a chance to lower the boats   or slip the life-rafts.  He urged them to get into the water.  On hindsight, Mulla-sahib assessed the situation rapidly and gave his orders in quick succession.  He had probably run this scenario through his mind a number of times when he planned for various contingencies that the vessel might face.  He knew what to expect if the Khukri took a hit in the engine and boiler-room areas.  I am sure that he had also decided then that he would go down with his vessel if it was stricken.


Madanjit receiving the Nao Sena Medal

                             I left the vessel within half a minute of the order to abandon ship. My side of the ship was already in the water by then.  I just swam into the sea, taking care to see that I did not get entangled in the guard-rails.  I swam away from the ship as fast as I could.  Within two minutes of my leaving the ship, it sank below the waves. Some life-rafts were automatically released from the ship when it sank to a pre-set depth.  I was able to help some of my ship-mates on to these.  We spent the night in an overloaded life-raft.  The next morning, we were picked up by Katchall. We had lost many good and brave men that night, starting with Mulla-sahib.

About my school memories, I remember:
The Headmaster and the  teachers- Mr. Kate, Dr. Surjit Singh, Mr, Cowell, Mr. OP Bhatnagar and Mr. MS Bhatnagar, Mr. Dighe, Mr. Bhardwaj, Mr. Kakkar, Mr. Johri, Mr. Bhandari, Mr. Saxena, Mr. Bhave, Mr. and Mrs. Tandon, Miss Lamba, Mr. Mattoo, Mr. Tankha, Mr. Joginder Singh, Mr. Punia.  We were lucky that PPS had such a great staff!.

The first movie screened at school, on the Guest House lawns.  It was “Chitralekha” and I think we got the original print!  The film ribbon would keep breaking  and the projector would splutter every few minutes.  It must have finished at two in the morning, by which time most of us were fast asleep on the grass!
If you told Zora Singh, the waiter, that the samosas or jalebis he was handing out at tea-time were very good, he would slip you an extra one!
After leaving the Indian Navy, I sailed in the Merchant Navy for eight years.  I then moved to the USA and worked as a realtor.  I am retired now.You had written that your daughters are in the States. I hope you have travel plans for the States.  Please include Norman, Oklahoma in them.
All the best,