Updated: May 16
For the past couple of weeks, we had been planning to take the Hope House children on a picnic. Never thought that it would fall on this day (May 14th, 2023) which made it all the more meaningful because many of our children cannot celebrate Mother’s Day.
A high-ranking Naval officer at Rajali Naval Base in Arakkonam agreed to host for a couple of hours. We (six girls, two staff and three Hope House graduates) went to Arakkonam by a train and the Indian Navy’s mini bus was there at the station to pick us up. As we were reaching the base, we could see the high walls with barbed wires atop the walls and as soon as we reached the gate, heavy security donning automatic weapons approached us. There at the gate, it is written in bold letters “Intruders will be shot”. Our host was waiting there for us and he came in to our vehicle and got all the clearances for us to go inside.
There is a total contrast to the life on both sides of the wall. As soon as we went inside, there we saw neatly trimmed trees along the black tar roads and hardly anyone on the roads. Along the same walls that we saw from outside, there lays another layer of fence inside, again with a barbed wire. We understood the importance of national security right away. Our host strictly advised us not to take photos/ videos but only at the designated places.
First, our host took us to show a Boeing aircraft. Our girls are used to seeing the zigzagging of aircrafts over the Hope House and for them to see an aircraft in person took their breath away. I noticed that there are no windows for this aircraft and when I asked our host, he mentioned that it is a reconnaissance plane. Outside, he showed the locations under the wings where the missiles are placed in times of conflict. Before we went inside, we were advised not to touch anything because everything is sensitive. It’s a huge aircraft with a line of wall mounted computers with the operators facing the wall of the aircraft.
Girls were surprised to hear our host explaining that many of the officers who operate those systems are females and they have to go on a duty for a straight 10 to 11 hours at a stretch. Our host was gracious to all the girls to see the cockpit. One girl couldn’t keep her curiosity to herself and asked the host about the number of switches in the cockpit and how a pilot would know which is used for what? With a broad grin, host answered “Well… one has to study hard to learn all those tasks”.
Next, he took us to another hanger to show Chetak helicopters which are used for search and rescue operations. Girls couldn’t visualize the helicopters utility so he showed the pictures. He even allowed them to sit in the helicopter. After this, he took us to the officer’s mess for refreshments where a lot of conversation took place. Girls learned the challenges of working for the armed forces and in return what our country gives to the personnel of armed forces.
Next, we went to air traffic control (ATC). We literally went to the top deck where the officers are monitoring the air traffic on Asia’s longest runway. From there, we could see the hangers we visited earlier. As soon as we came down from the ATC, our host’s lady officer friend who was also in uniform came and met us.
This perhaps was the best moment for our girls because they could see someone like them in the officer’s uniform. She explained to them about Agniveer program, National Defence Academy (NDA), Combined Defence Services (CDS), Officers Training Academy (OTA) and Military Nursing Service (MNS). She also advised the girls to stay fit and follow the exam syllabus to get into the officer rank of armed forces.
Our host was so kind to ensure that we left the campus without any hassles and reached the railway station by 5:00 PM and reached the Hope House by 8:00 PM.
Few girls at the Hope House have been showing great interest in learning General Knowledge and Current Affairs and the lady officer’s advise was a great opportunity to instil and reinforce that confidence in them to enable them to know that what they are learning has career utility.
We left the place with heart full of gratitude to each and everyone of our armed forces that ensure our country’s security and someday hopefully our Hope House children too take up that mantle to become our country’s protectors.