Coimbatore: India’s sailing superstar Cdr Abhilash Tomy’s tryst with the tides began at a very young age. When his friends played with toys, little Tomy was locked on to the sea, experimenting the art of sailing, floating and swimming.
When Onmanorama caught up with his father Lt Cdr Valliara Chacko Tomy (retd), 66, and mother Valsamma Tomy, 60, now settled in Kandanadu near Ernakulam, they shared many fascinating stories of their sailor son.
“We were staying at Southern Naval Command’s Officer’s Accommodation at Katari Bagh (Willingdon Island in Kochi) and Abhilash was in class 2 then. The Sailing Club was close by and he often used to wear the life jacket and jump into the backwaters,” says Chacko, who served the Indian Navy for 40 years.
Having joined the Navy at the age of 15, through a Boys’ Entry route then (which has been discontinued), the veteran naval officer says that he never stooped Cdr Tomy from chasing his dreams.
“I am not for or against what my children want to do as long as they are cruising on the right path. Since I was in the Navy, I was not very concerned about Abhilash’s early exploits at the sea,” says his father, who is from Kuttanad.
Strong bonding with sea
Cdr Tomy’s mother Valsamma said the family had a very strong bonding with the sea, which could have propelled her son’s dreams, before she narrated another story of her adventurous son.
“We were in Karanja (Uran district of then Bombay) and Abhilash was in class 6. It was high tide and I was on the terrace collecting clothes and suddenly saw him floating in the sea. I could see a large platform made out of thermocol which he used as a base to float. I was really worried and remember having told him to be careful with his exploits at sea,” she says.
She said whatever Cdr Tomy wanted from home for the current circumnavigation mission was made and sent. “His needs were very limited and we prepared dried fish, prawns and banana chips,” she adds.
The family says Cdr Tomy virtually remained incommunicado, barring once, during his last mission aboard INSV Mhadei (Sagar Parikrama-2) in 2012.
“I used to get updates from his blog and was curious to know the progress. He surprised us with a call on our wedding anniversary (January 26) and spoke for few minutes,” recalls Chacko.
Sailors don’t fear
When asked about any fears they have with Lt Cdr going to be sailing solo for the next 300-plus days, the proud father said: “We sailors don’t know what fear is. We are born to sail. But our relatives are all very apprehensive.”
He hoped the current mission would spread more awareness among people on the opportunities Indian Navy offers to its men and women. “I feel there has to be more awareness among the public as his is just not a simple sailing expedition. Abhilash’s mission must inspire younger generation so that they too will bring glory to the nation,” says Chacko.
Wedded to sea
The family is planning nothing special ahead of the race, barring the usual prayers for his safety. Abhilash’s younger brother Aneesh Tomy is settled in Australia.
“We want God’s blessings for his mission. We will be praying for him every day,” he adds.
Cdr Tomy will turn 40 when he will hit the shore next year, with millions of his followers praying that he set another record. And, his relatives and close friends probably are waiting to see another event of his life – not at sea, but on land - his marriage.
“Whenever people ask us we direct them to Abhilash because he will have to take a call on his marriage. I keep telling people that Abhilash is wedded to the sea,” chuckles his father.
For now, Cdr Tomy is in deep love with Thuriya – his companion at sea for the 30,000-mile Golden Globe Race (GGR) starting at 3.30 pm (IST) on July 1 from Les Sables d'Olonne in western France. After all, he is escaping from the lawlessness of the land, with Thuriya as the partner. Sometimes being a boat is bold and beautiful!
As reported earlier, Onmanorama will be getting you all updates on Cdr Tomy’s GGR mission and you could also follow our reports by searching the hashtag: #TrackingTomyNThuriya.
Also read: This Indian Navy sailor holds secrets of all seas
(The writer is an independent aerospace, defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)