“Mitra added Indus to the name in honour of an Indo-US partnership, because he was an American citizen. Ironically, the boat couldn’t be registered in India, so it was done from the US. The procedure was almost complete before the tragedy. And now, Mike will sail it.”
Burtt, who spends his free time fashioning belts by knotting ropes, was roped in by Mitra when he heard of the sailor’s prowess and past experience. The Aurobindo devotee came to India seven years ago at the request of his guru, and has spent the past three years working with an NGO in Nadia. “In 2000, when there was flooding in the area, I made boats for people to travel around, for relief and aid work,” he recalls.
Although Burtt is keen to sail, “hopefully early next year”, when the boat will be in sailing condition, he will be doing things his way. “I won’t be alone, like Devi was going to be. I know my limitations. I’m fully capable of managing, including running around, but I’ve done it before, and it’s no fun. Having company is better. And I definitely won’t be taking the Red Sea route, which is what Devi was planning. I want to avoid the political situation in the area. I’ll probably go via the Cape of Good Hope, across the Atlantic, and through the Panama Canal.”
And so, a collaboration between a Calcutta boat-building company and an American sailor keeps alive the dream of one old man and the sea.