Discovery Channel’s Breaking Point: The Indian Submariners brings to light the life of men in uniform guarding the country’s marine boundaries

They are the stealth force of India about whom hardly anything is known. Having chartered 50 years in ocean depths, the Indian Navy’s submariners have remained elusive to the enemy as well as their countrymen. All that has changed with Discovery Channel now showing a four-part series focusing on this wing of Navy, titled, Breaking Point: the Indian Submariners”.

“The Navy was keen to bring these unsung heroes to highlight their golden jubilee. Thus this show came into being,” explains Richa Pant, the series creative director and scriptwriter.

What makes the show different from others, is the participation of host, Harman Singha, as part of the force. “The viewers witness a common person getting tutored in academics and building physical endurance at the Navy’s training base, INS Satvahana along with other cadets; and then sailing in INS Sindhukirti, the Russian made Sindhughosh-class diesel-electric submarine. It is probably as inclusive and immersive show as possible,” observes Harman.

Stressing that this is the USP of the show, Harman adds, “There is a lot of curiosity among people about submarines and submariners. The series goes into what makes this complex war machine tick and those manning it.”

Tough Going

Thus, the audience gets to see up-close the life of men of this small niche force — 500 only — all of whom have opted for life of peril voluntarily. Through Harman, one gets glimpses of the arduous physical, mental and psychological training that they undertake to wear the coveted Golden Dolphin. Describing it as a lifetime experience, Harman recalls, “The toughest part was crawling in the torpedo tube as part of the escape training.” Asked why, he replies, “You got to make your way horizontally through a 13-inch pipe wearing an escape suit that weights 30 kgs. What makes it doubly hard is that the tube is pressurised, and you can feel that pressure on your body, specially the ears.”

Concurring with him, Richa, adds, “Harman underwent the drill without any hesitation. It included a stint with the instructor of Marcos, the Marine Commando Force, which was gruelling. So hard was it that he later remarked, ‘khoon pasina ek kar dete hain’.”

Coming back to his trial by fire, Harman says all the training faded in comparison to what he experienced when going under water for the first time in INS Sindhukirti. “It is a custom that first timers have to drink the salt water. It was the worst thing I ever had in my life!” he exclaims.

His underwater stay is sure to give goose bumps to audiences who are sure to appreciate the hard life of submariners. “It is very claustrophobic and invariably one or the other person will get in your way. Despite the space constraints, they all work in unison like a well-oiled machine, donning similar uniform right across the rank. More than the physical hardship, life under water is psychologically nerve-wrecking. One knows that in case of a problem like fire, flooding, leakage, the section, where it occurs along with the men, is segregated. This means one has to be ever ready to handle any situation completely on his own.”

All this has to be done by these seamen without being able to share their pain or joy with family or friends since they remain incommunicado. “There is no internet or contact with the outside world, except the authorities,” says Harman. Being ingenious, the submariners have their own ways to entertain and enjoy. “The singers in the crew croon songs for their comrades. They also hold fashion shows by making patterns on their disposable suits. A handwritten daily newspaper is brought out everyday summing up the goings-on on the submarine which is passed around for everyone to read.”

While having plenty to eat on board, what the men have to forgo are fried eatables. “Since frying is not allowed on subs, all cooking is done by induction. That is why before embarking on a mission, the mess treated us to delicious puri and chholey,” says Harman.

Rachna hopes that the show will inspire millennials to join this prestigious wing of the Indian Navy. “The men donning the golden dolphins are rare silent workers whose work speaks for them.”