Hostages survive it all

S.N.V. Sudhir

Visakhapatnam: Bhimsen Singh, 45, who was held by Somalia pirates for four long years and just returned home in Vizag, is now attending computer classes and revising his electrical engineering books which he once felt he never would need them in life. Reason, being cut off from the outside world with no communication available he lost considerable amount of memory and now struggling to get back to living.

“I have lost four valuable years of my life. I lost everything including some part of my memory. There were days where we stopped talking to each other since we had nothing to share. We got to see the same seven persons including me who were held hostage for four years and nobody else around,” Bhimsen Singh told this correspondent.

The seaman, who was awarded ‘extra ordinary seafearer’ for showing heroic bravery and courage while in captivity in Somalia, by the National Union of Seafearers of India, recounted his harrowing tale with Deccan Chronicle.

He is one among the seven sailors of Panama flagged MV Asphalt Venture, which was hijacked by Somali pir-ates southeast of Tanzania on September 28, 2010. The ship was carrying bitumen cargo from Mombasa port in Kenya to Durban in South Africa.
They were freed by the pirates on October 30 and Bhimsen Singh reached Vizag only last week.

“We were confined in Haradheere city, which is under the control of notorious militant group of Somalia, al Shabaab for all these years. I still remember that night when eight armed pirates got onto our ship while the captain sounded general alarm. After hearing the alarm I rushed to the deck only to hear gun shots and we had no other choice than surrender to them. That moment I thought we are finished. But only wish to see my family and determination to survive at any cost made me face all the hardships, finally returned home,” recollects Singh, who had retired from Indian Navy as petty officer (Electrical) in 2009.

It was Singh’s first private job after retiring from the Indian Navy putting in 20 years of service to the nation that went haywire.

Bhimsen Singh survived on boiled rice, salt and rotis were rarity. They collected rainwater to drink and bathing was once in a month. He along with other host-ages used to cut wood from the nearby jungle and had to take orders from the armed guards. They were allowed to talk to their family once in two months only for few minutes.

“We had no choice than obeying their orders. We were always at a gun point. We used to cook food for them also. Our tents were moved for every two months. Paracetamol tablets were the only medicines available for any health issue. I used to do yoga to be fit and offer prayers regularly,” he said. Mr Singh said it was a rebirth and never thought he would be back and meet his family in Vizag.

“Our hijackers refused to let us free demanding the release of some 100 Somali pirates arrested by our Indian Navy. For a moment I felt that Indian government taking the Kandhahar incident into consideration, leave the arrested pirates but then later I thought its not good for the society if 100 such notorious pirates are released in lieu of we seven,” added Bhimsen, who says Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, a seafarers’ association, helped them see the outside world.

“Now I don’t have any job in hand and need help,” said Mr Singh.


Original Article