Courtsey: Raknno Weekly
By: Joachim Pinto, Vamanjoor
Translation: Our Correspondent
A few years ago, when the Kankanady-Milagres Road was named after Mother Teresa, there was a big hue and cry against the move, giving the issue a communal colour. However, as many as 30 years ago, crossing all religious barriers, a Mangalorean youth was honoured and a street in Mallikatta was given this living legend's name.
This gentleman is none other than Commander George Martis, the first Mangalorean to have received one of the most distinguished military decoration - the 'Vir Chakra' for his extraordinary bravery and his meritorious service to the Nation. Though the road in Mangalore city bears his name, he does not reside in Mallikatta. His home is in Chilimbi near Urva Store. "Indeed, the road was named after me. Going by convention, many people think that I am already dead," laughs George.
There have been only a handful of Mangaloreans serving our country through the Services. But whoever has chosen this career has done marvellously well to attain fame and honour. There is always a high opinion about our soldiers in the Services. Commander George Martis, by his bravery and intelligence, has secured a prominent place in the armed services.
George is the third among the eight children of the late Mathias Martis and the late Alice D'Souza. After his Matriculation in 1953, he joined the Indian Navy. He had a special reason to join this arm of defence. Once, at the age of five, when George was drowning in Kadri lake while swimming, one of his older companions rescued him and pulled him out of water. This incident made George fear the very sight of water, even preventing him from looking at deep waters. George never went again to swim in the sea or any lake. Yet, he had an intense desire to rid himself of this fear. This made him choose a career in the Navy.
Thus not only did he get away with his fear, he also took special training in deep sea diving and made a name in underwater adventure. "My greatest achievement in life is having gotten rid of my fear of deep water and becoming an expert in swimming and deep sea diving," he claims. In recognition of his bravery and expertise in swimming, he was sent to England for higher training. He was later sent to Italy in orderfor him to learn more about submarine warfare.
George earned name and fame for long distance swimming and, in 1966, when he accompanied Mihir Sen in swimming from Sri Lanka to India across the Mannar Channel. Their marathon effort took them 26 long hours to achieve the great accomplishment. George was also known for covering a distance of 22 miles across the Hooghli river in a swim-time of just ten hours. Later, he also tried his hand at achieving another tough target of crossing the English Channel, but could not do so due to bad weather. A boy, who was scared to even throw his sight at a mass of water, went on to become such a great achiever.
In 1971, when Pakistan was undergoing an internal political turmoil, thousands of refugees crossed the border and came to India in search of jobs and protection. These youth were enthusiastically prepared to fight against the atrocities of their Mainland, and youth in such large numbers were enlisted into 'Mukti Bahini' militia, and a battalion of 50,000 was sent to East Bengal for intensive training. The motive behind this was to reinstate the homeless migrants and to improve their economic condition.
Comm. George Martis with his family members
'Mukti Bahini' was taken to the banks of Bhagirathi river for training, where a Naval Commando Camp was setup. Commander George Martis was appointed chief of this Battalion. Later, as per the decision of the establishment, this venue became the Headquarters of this Battalion, and Commander Martis became their first de-facto Chief of staff.
At this juncture, for security reasons, Commander George Martis had to break off from his family in Mangalore, which led to rumours that George was missing or even he was dead. Even prayers were said to have been offered for him.
On December 3, 1971, Pakistan declared war against India. Commander George Martis displayed outstanding feats of bravery and courage in the battlefield. The Indian Government honoured him by awarding the 'Vir Chakra' for his great valour and performance. Apart from this great honour, Commander Martis has twice received the President's Special Naval awards for his outstanding service in the Indian Navy.
He tied the matrimonial knot with Anandi Menezes (daughter of Deputy Commissioner the late Felix Martin Menezes and Mrs. Jovina Andrade) and is now a proud father of three children. The eldest is Prameela, Senior Vice President at Kotak Mahindra, married to Russel Pereira and settled in Mumbai. The second is Sharmila, working as Manager with the Standard Chartered Bank, and the youngest is Mridula, running a western dance Academy 'Dance With Me'. George's wife Dr. Anandi is a Professor at St. Anne's College, besides being the Dean at the Mangalore University.
With Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Having voluntarily retired from the Services in 1979, Commander Martis joined as a Chief Pilot at Mangalore Seaport. After his retirement from this profession, he acquired a degree in Law degree and is currently a member of the Mangalore Bar Association. At present, George is a Marine Consultant.