Pics: Umesh Marpalli
Daijiworld Media Network - Udupi (HB)
Udupi, Aug 15: Independence Day is an occasion to remember all those who have served the nation and set an example of patriotism with their dedication and commitment towards the country. While it is everyone's duty to remember the sacrifices of all those who fought for the country's freedom, it is also imperative to recognize those who rendered their selfless service in protecting the nation and ensuring that its citizens spent peaceful days and nights.
On this Independence Day, daijiworld interviewed one such son of the soil from Moodbelle here, who served the Indian Navy for 35 years before retiring 21 years ago.
Meet Commodore Jerome Castelino VSM from Moodubelle, who presently leads a quiet and comfortable life in his native village with his wife Rose Celine.
Active in the Indian Navy from 1953 to 1988, Commodore Jerome Castelino has the distinction of having served on all types of warships including India’s first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant and has visited 27 foreign countries during his service in the Indian Navy.
Commodore Castelino was the first naval sailor in the Indian Navy to attain the rank of Commodore and the only one from Karnataka state to attain this senior rank. He is the only Naval officer from Udupi district to receive the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) from the President.
Having served in Indian Navy for a long time, Commodore Castelino has been following certain naval routines in his retired life. He has been hoisting the National Flag on daily basis at his residence ‘Vana Sowrabha’. He has also erected a War Memorial in front of his residence in commemoration of the soldiers who had laid down their lives in Goa Liberation War (1961) and Bangladesh Liberation War (1971). He had the opportunity to actively participate in both these liberation wars. The huge anchor installed at the entrance of his house serves as a landmark.
After his retirement from Navy in 1988, Commodore Jerome Castelino worked as general manager at Applied Electronics Ltd in Mumbai for six years. Thereafter, he came down with his wife to his native place, Moodubelle where he started the Lions Club and became its charter president in 1997. He managed to raise funds locally and also obtained a grant from Lions Club International Foundation in USA and built the Lions Seva Bhavan in Moodubelle. He is the recipient of a Certificate of Supreme Excellence from the international president of Lions Club International. He was also conferred the Melvyn Joes Fellowship in 2008 for his active role in Lionism.
Taking into account the vast experience of Commodore Jerome Castelino he was appointed as vice-president of Sainik Board of Udupi and Mangaluru districts for a period of 8 years from 2006 to 2014.
Considering his administrative capabilities, the Bharathi Shipyard took him as an administrative consultant for a period of two years in 2013-14.
Currently, Commodore Jerome Castelino is the dean of St Lawrence Degree College, Moodubelle and secretary of Lions Club, Moodubelle.
Among the three children of Commodore Jerome Castelino, two sons are engineers and presently working in the USA and his daughter is holding the post of deputy general manager in one of the reputable banks in Mumbai.
During the interview with daijiworld, Commodore Jerome Castelino spoke on a number of subjects, from his career in the Indian Navy, his opinion on the reluctance of the youth to join armed services and much more.
Q: How did you join the Indian Navy?
A: In February 1953, the naval recruiting team from Bengaluru came to Udupi and was camping at the Circuit House. At that time, apart from a teaching job, I was also doing my shorthand and typing course at the Modern School of Commerce, Udupi. Its principal, late Madhavan took me to the Circuit House and introduced me to the recruiting officer. After undergoing various tests for about eight hours, I was the only one out of 23 youths who was selected. I was asked to go to Bengaluru on March 3, 1953 where I was recruited as a sailor thein Indian Navy.
Q: What was the happiest moment of your life?
A: The happiest moment in my life was when at the midnight of January 25, 1984, a postman knocked at my door in Mumbai and handed over a telegram. Though I was perturbed to receive a telegram at an odd time, the contents of the telegram surprised and overwhelmed me. The telegram was from the defence minister conveying the news that I was awarded the Vishist Seva Medal (VSM) by the then President of India Zail Singh, for my distinguished and meritorious service in Indian Navy.
Q: How do you feel having served as a soldier?
A: I am proud to have been a soldier, having had opportunities to actively participate in Goa Liberation War (1961), Indo-Pak War (1965) and Bangla Liberation War (1971). However, I am pained to mention that especially in Karnataka except during war, our soldiers are not respected during peace time and after retirement. They are not given the respect and honour that they deserve by the administration. Their welfare and well-being are not given sufficient attention by the state government. There have been certain instances in which some of the ex-servicemen have been subjected to insults and humiliation.
Q: How did your family support you during your service in the Indian Navy?
A: Family is a part of military service except in forward areas. My family has been a great support and much of the time involved in my professional life. At the same time my family has undergone a lot of hardship and inconvenience. Frequent transfers affected children’s education and adjustment to new places had been difficult. But I am proud to say that my wife Rose has faced all challenges without any complaint but with a smile on her face. Transfers are part of a soldier’s profession.
Q: Nowadays the number of youth joining armed forces is decreasing. What advice can you offer to the youth?
A: There is a tendency among the youth to seek lucrative careers and easy life. As a result, our youth are reluctant to join the armed forces which demand rigorous training, exemplary discipline and a sense of sacrifice. However, I would like to emphasize that the emoluments and perks offered to the soldiers and officers in armed forces generally match with the salaries offered in some of the corporate sector. In Karnataka, the youth are not fully aware of the importance of service in armed forces. Colleges and educational institutions should create awareness about the armed forces. Serving the nation is a very respectable and honourable job. In the armed forces there are ample opportunities to display, bravery, courage, leadership qualities and patriotism. Even for girls in all the three wings of the armed forces there are opportunities in the officers’ cadre.
Q: What are your thoughts on One Rank One Pension scheme?
A: The One Rank One Pension scheme was promised by the central government 40 years ago. It is very painful to say that all the governments that came to power since then have failed to keep this promise. The retired soldiers hoped and believed in the present government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But even he has failed to fulfil his promises even after 15 months of being PM.
Hence, unfortunately all the ex-servicemen have been forced to take up the path of agitation by resorting to relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, Delhi for the last 50 days and also in other places throughout India. According to Kautilya, the ancient Indian Political thinker, ‘the emperor who cannot look after his soldiers has no right to be an emperor’. God knows when the government will fulfil its promises on One Rank One Pension. Till then the present agitation will continue.
Q: What message would you like to give to our youngsters?
A: Today’s youth need to apply their mind and heart towards studies and extra-curricular activities seriously to face the challenges of life. They should work hard from day one and keep themselves informed about various situations where they live. They need to develop patriotism and love for their motherland. They also need to show concern for their parents, elders and teachers. They should insulate themselves from those forces which are against their own personal growth, humanity, society and nation.