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India’s Titanic Tragedy : Know the Incident Which Killed 700 also Marks 75 Years | 2YODOINDIA

India’s Titanic Tragedy : Know the Incident Which Killed 700 also Marks 75 Years

It was 8.05am on 17th July, 1947. As a loud horn went off at ‘Bhaucha Dhakka’ or Ferry Wharf in Mumbai, the last few passengers scramble on to S.S. Ramdas, a Scotland-built 406-tonne ship.

For five days a week, S.S. Ramdas, a passenger ship, ferried between Mumbai and Goa.

On Saturdays it made trips from Mumbai to Rewas (in Alibaug) and back.

This morning it was unusually crowd with 800-plus passengers.

The month of Shravan, mark by abstention, was set to begin, and many want to be home for ‘gatari’, the evening of indulgence before Shravan for sumptuous chicken and a glass of ‘taadi,’ the local brew.

About 700 of the passengers would be dead in half an hour, consume by the raging monsoon sea.

As India gears up to celebrate 75 years of Independence, the country’s grimmest maritime tragedy and certainly the worst in passenger shipping, has sunk into oblivion.

It had rain heavily the evening before, but according to the official version, the skies were clear when Ramdas left Ferry Wharf.

Soon heavy rain lash the coast, and the ship was caught in a massive storm.

At 8.35am, when it was 7.5km off Mumbai’s coast, the vessel was struck by a gigantic wave on the starboard or right side, and as it list, all the panick passengers ran to the port or left side, resulting in the ship going down in a minute and taking them all down.

The ship took 1.5 hours to reach Rewas, so when it didn’t reach in time, staffers of the Indian Cooperative Steam Navigation and Trading Co, which own the ship, got worried.

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There were no wireless transmitters, no one knew anything and Mumbai harbour too couldn’t be inform in time due to lack of radio communication.

After an Hours, a coastal patrol boat near the Gateway of India spot a child in the waters.

Barku Mukadam, barely 12 years old, had slip into the waters like the other passengers but had luckily got hold of a life buoy, which had drift towards Gateway.

He was rescue, and it was after he narrate the story of the sinking that rescue and search ops were launch.

The rain impeded the rescue, so not much progress was made for hours.

Bodies of many passengers were wash ashore, at Elephanta Island and Butcher’s Island off Mumbai, and along the city’s harbour.

One was of a 13-year-old French girl, Miss La Bouchardier, who had taken the ship with her parents and 14-year-old brother.

While her body was found at Butcher’s Island, bodies of her parents and brother were never discover.

The wreckage of the vessel too was never recover though the spot of the sinking was identified as Karanja-Kasa.

More than 90% of the victims were middle-class, lower middle-class or poor.

Most of them were Marathi-speaking people from Girgaum and Lalbaug with families in Alibaug, and Muslims, either with families in Alibaug or those head to the island of Janjira, which had Muslim settlements.

One of the Muslims had apparently save up money for years to take his mother on a pilgrimage to Janjira.

They both perish.

Among the lucky survivors was a Jew, Rubin Sassoon, and at least two Britishers, Francis Drying and M G Mall.

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The ship’s captain, Sheikh Suleman Ibrahim, and other staffers too survive, sparking allegations, largely unfound, that they had monopolize the life buoys instead of trying to help passengers.

But Independence was close at hand, and the probe by a Maritime Court of Inquiry itself began two months after the tragedy.

The result was the sacking of a few shipping company officials and the recommendation that wireless equipment be fit out on all ships.

Voyages by passenger boats in the monsoons were stop.

No memorial was ever set up for the victims.

Because of the arrival of Independence less than a month after the tragedy and the horrors of Partition, the sea disaster soon fade into the background, revive only by memories of a generation who reference it to indicate their own age and location at the time the Ramdas sank, a bit like how people in the 21st century refer to their age and location when 9/11 or 26/11 happen.

After many years, a street singer in Mumbai’s Girgaum use to move around the locality with his harmonium, trying to keep the memory of the titanic catastrophe alive.

He would sing in Marathi, ‘Gele tey bichare, jeev darya-tali gele’ means Gone are the helpless souls, to the bottom of the sea.

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