Welcome aboard the INS Jalashwa, the Indian Navy's second largest ship, after the Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant.
An amphibious assault ship which can easily swallow four football fields and still have space for more, it is technically known as a Landing Platform Dock.
Berthed at the Chennai docks on a windy Sunday morning two days before Republic Day, it loomed over the three Rajput Class destroyers, the INS Rajput, INS Ranjit and INS Rana berthed diagonally alongside. Three corvettes, the Kora Class INS Kulish, and the Veer Class INS Nirbhik and INS Nishank, as well as the submarine INS Vagli, were already waiting out at sea.
The Indian Navy was celebrating its annual "Families Day Out", where friends and families are given a taste of its hospitality, and its might.
As tugs pulled out the three destroyers first, the Jalashwa's Captain and commanding officer Alok Bhatnagar, in his immaculate whites, personally greeted each of the VIP guests, mostly bureaucrats, army and air force officers, and of course families of senior navy officers, as they were whisked up to the upper decks. Other officers and sailors waited to greet and guide the rest of the crowd that thronged the sprawling lower decks.
The seniormost officer on board was Rear Admiral P Murugesan, VSM, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Fleet.
The Jalashwa, earlier known as the USS Trenton, was the first American-built warship to join the Indian fleet. As Naval Attache at the Indian Embassy in Washington, then Commodore Murugesan had signed the transfer agreement of the 36-year-old USS Trenton to the Indian Navy in January 2007. The cost: almost $50 million.
Text and images: Ramananda Sengupta aboard the INS Jalashwa
Image: The USS Trenton at Port Everglades, Florida, before it was bought by India and renamed the INS Jalashwa. Picture courtesy US Navy/ William Lovelady.