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Lost: sons with navy in their blood
Mother not told officer is dead

A submarine, believed to be the INS Sindhuratna, is seen anchored at the naval dockyard in Mumbai on Thursday. A fire truck and support crew are seen in the background. (AFP)

Feb. 27: Kapish Muwal, 32, had been excited to have qualified as a submariner in 2010 after the small hiccup of an inconsistent echocardiogram, apparently caused by an abnormally large heart.

Fellow submariner Manoranjan Kumar, 30, was equally elated at being promoted last February 15, though perhaps a tad disappointed at being denied leave to celebrate Holi at home in Jamshedpur.

Kapish, from Delhi’s Najafgarh, died in yesterday’s submarine accident off Mumbai along with Manoranjan, whose brother has disconnected the family’s cable connection to prevent their ailing mother from learning the news.

Kapish had been home to celebrate his birthday on January 19, said childhood friend Monica Ahalwat who is studying to be a veterinarian.

“He was a great guy, an extrovert, and he took great pride in being an officer serving his nation,” she said.

The house of of Lt Commander Kapish Muwal in Delhi.

An infectious sense of joy seemed to pervade a Facebook post Kapish had made in April 2010.

“So it’s medically proven now. I have an abnormal heart...a huge heart..!” he had written, telling his friends in the Air Force that “You fight from above the planet...and I will do it from below sea level..!!!”

Manoranjan Kumar’s brother Suman (in blue T-shirt) near his residence in Baliguma on Thursday.
Pictures by Yasir Iqbal and Bhola Prasad

In another post the following year, he described his group of 12 friends at the Naval Academy as “the deadly dozen” and “the immortals”.

The eldest of three brothers seemed to have inherited his love of the navy from his family: his father Ishwar is a retired naval commander; his uncle too was in the force and one of his cousins is a naval officer.

His younger brother Ashish said Kapish had expressed concern at the condition of the ageing INS Sindhuratna during his last visit home a month ago.

“He told us that everyone knew about the submarine’s poor condition and that he was concerned about it,” Ashish said, declining to elaborate.

Kapish’s uncle Om Prakash Ahalwat refused to blame the navy.

“This is part of the job. Accidents happen as they do on the roads of Delhi every day. How can we blame the navy for this accident? We stand by the navy, but yes, our son is dead and no amount of platitudes can give us back what we have lost,” he said.

“He was an extremely talented, competitive and kind boy. He would be there for others at all times. The navy was in his blood.”

Kapish won the Sword of Honour as the best cadet in his batch. His pride in the armed forces shone through even in his choice of favourite films, as listed on Facebook: the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Swades and Hrithik Roshan’s Lakshya.

For Monica, he was just someone who looked out for her. “He was always there. Whenever I participated in a cultural festival, I would send him recordings of my songs and he would always give me feedback. He would always tell me that he was a phone call away if I needed him for any advice,” she said.

Another friend, Mitsu Chavda, tweeted: “Feeling profoundly sad and numb — lost a very dear brother, a very true friend.”

Manoranjan’s father Navin too was in the navy. The former naib subedar and Kapish’s father are in Mumbai to receive their sons’ bodies.

Manoranjan’s younger brother Suman, a Plus II student, said their mother Rukmani Devi had been left bed-ridden by a hip ailment and hadn’t been told about her son’s death. “She won’t be able to bear this loss.”

Suman said Manoranjan had badly wanted to come home for Holi but was not granted leave. “We had all been looking forward to the trip — he had not played Holi with us since joining the navy in 2007.”