Seafaring provides a canvas of multiple hues on a domain that is inherently dynamic even as it is acknowledged as the core channel of life and equilibrium on our planet. November 2021 represented that spectrum on a personal note and commemoration as a nation. Globally, COP26 saw the Conference President Alok Sharma in tears after two weeks of intense focus, captured in the outcome document’s opening line, “We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”
As an Indian Naval Veteran and student of maritime geopolitics, 26 November came as a date reflecting opposite ends of a spectrum. It was a commemoration, expressing pride, at how the Indian Constitution evolved and was adopted that day in 1949. It has also, since 2008, been a rude reminder of the same nation being held at ransom for three days by 10 men who got off a boat on a fishing stretch in the very heart of the financial megapolis of Mumbai. Amidst countless events that repeated declarations of “we condemn,” I was honoured to join with Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman, Observer Research Foundation and Prof Aravind Yelery of Peking University at the Sir Pherozeshah Mehta Bhavan and Research Center, University of Mumbai, to reflect and cast a forward looking vision of resilience and readiness especially on the maritime security canvas.
The month provided reflection of my own sea passage across life. Incidentally, the American festival of Thanksgiving this year was two days earlier! My reflections lead me to express gratitude for being a Citizen of Constitutional India who relished blessing after blessing in three segments of education, seafaring and the navy. It was a voyage of learning through quality formal school education across schools in Allahabad (now Prayagraj) and Agra. The pilots (or teachers) of that continuing voyage started with my parents (from Malappuram & Chengannur in Kerala) to countless guides across my life in mercantile marine and last 34 years in the Indian Navy. Learnings from them were capped by personal mentors from Gateway Ministries International family and a host of distinguished men and women from many walks of life. A young seminarian taught me to confidently go on stage at the age of seven. A ninety year old maritime legend gave me the freedom to become a vision carrier over the last six years at Maritime History Society. In between, the joy of learning from nature, from events, from successes and from setbacks was enabled by many encouragers, especially over the last 34 years in navy whites. Salinity is now not just in the blood, it has unearthed a treasure trove of experience from marine navigation, conceptualizing and conducting wargames while witnessing tactical situations to strategic engagements across the ocean atlas.
Sea as the source of life, is expressed by scientists, litterateurs, theologians, and salty headed seafarers like this newly blooded naval veteran. The ocean space beckons its voyagers to be lifelong students across multi-disciplinary segments and imbibe the heart of navigating with a passage plan. At sea, every morning emerged as a dawn of hope and uniqueness, shedding what transpired earlier. Amidst the emerging techno-cyber churns of global storms, I believe that India is surging forward to a new dawn. I thus find the confidence to stay forward focused.
As I close this reflection I am humbled to have launched an initiative, on 21 November 2021, for knowledge influence, growth strategies and life navigation. With the support of friends and supporters, there is a fresh zeal for my team and I to be change makers, who will add value to many others and be skippers of their voyage of significance. Do stay engaged at www.johnsonodakkal.com and collaborate for a new beginning!