Sandeep Dikshit

MALE: The decommissioning of Tillanchang prior to its handing over to the Maldivian Coast Guard was an emotional experience that left Indian bureaucrats and service officials emotional. "It was like seeing off your daughter after marriage," said senior Defence Ministry official Rita Menon, in-charge of the Navy's ship building activities. The decommissioning began in a routine manner as most military ceremonies do when four sailors on board "piped the side" to mark the boarding of the ship by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee for the last time.

Indians witnessing the ceremony felt a tug in their hearts when the national anthem was played and sailors started lowering the naval ensign as well as the tricolour. It grew more nostalgic for the naval officers and sailors when the Last Post was sounded. Though the ship was not being retired, it was passing away into friendly hands while in the prime of its career. And as the Maldivian Coast Guard band was playing `Sare jahaan se accha ', Indian naval personnel began disembarking one by one to signal the end of their active association with the ship. Only two sailors remained on board, and amidst the rolling of drums, they covered nameplate of the ship.

The decommissioning was complete when the two sailors too came down to the jetty to join their comrades and Maldivian Coast Guard men began filing up to fill the places abandoned by the Indian Navy personnel. INS Tillanchang was no more.