I never thought I would be publishing a post like this. I never imagined I would broadcast my grief to the world in such manner. And then it struck me, that I am only honouring my father’s life by writing and sharing this with each one of you. And so it is….
My father, Colonel Subhash Chandra Khullar, suddenly passed away on 28th May, 2013, just a month before his 69th birthday. Papa read each and every blog post of mine and got impatient when there was a long gap between one post and next. I am writing after nearly two months. I know he would be anxious to read my post about now, if he could access his email and so I am posting this eulogy that I read out at the prayer meeting in his honour last week.
Remembering a great father, an irreplaceable friend and a remarkable human being.
My father was no ordinary man but then most of those who have known him and loved him, know that already. Loving, warm, compassionate, full of zest for life, passionate….these are just some of the words that have been used by friends and family to describe him. To me, papa is the one man who was the embodiment of happiness amidst all circumstances, unconditional virtuosity and generosity of spirit.
As we were growing up papa played a very important role in helping us not merely with our outer life, but our inner lives as well. He was deeply spiritual and tried to instill in us his own seeking nature. He introduced us to literature, art and fine cinema even when we resisted. I remember how insufferable I found ‘Letters from a father to a daughter‘ and ‘Discovery of India‘ when I was barely 13 and The Fountainhead at 16. I distinctly remember how inattentive I was when papa made me stay at home on a Friday night to watch Satyajit Ray’s Apur trilogy, when I was 17. How can I forget, how disappointed I was when I was made to watch Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and Kurosawa’s Rashoman when I was visiting my parents from university?
Leading by example papa tried to imbibe in us values of love, compassion, forgiveness and forbearance. He never lost his cool, never got angry at us, was always there as a confidant and friend, eager to listen to our stories that were not always interesting. He guided us gently, when we faltered, cheered us over our tiny achievements and held us when we needed his loving, reassuring touch.
In fact, my sister and I have spent a better part of our life with papa being hugged by him. The nature and frequency of his warm hugs and cuddles stayed the same irrespective of our age and height and imbued in our lives a deep sense of security and confidence in more ways that we knew or realized.
To us he was never just a doting father but also a wonderful friend who we could confide in and laugh with. He had this child like curiosity in him and an insatiable desire to live and enjoy life to the fullest, which was infectious. Papa made friends in bookshops, cafes, trains, on airplanes, in cinema halls and even on the Internet. The most remarkable thing about papa was that he always found the time and inclination to keep up with these friendships.
The other remarkable trait about my father was that he possessed the most incredible and unrelenting capacity to dream. And he dreamed big. He was also an eternal optimist and his optimism even at the most adverse times, was not only astonishing but also exemplary. He would always tell us to see good in others and he never judged people based on how others perceived them. In that sense, papa was in this world, but not of this world.
As a husband papa played two roles, one of a loving husband and the other of an indulgent and patient father to our wonderful mother. He was always, the quintessential ladies man, which came from being close to his mother and the training that he received as a dashing young Lieutenant in the army, back in the 60s.
My two daughters adored their nanaji and felt enriched in his company not only because he indulged them endlessly but also because he was a living encyclopedia on and introduced them to the wonderful world of Picasso, Van Gogh and Dali among other things.
In this one month over our various trips to Dehradoon, I also realized, that our father was, in fact a very rich man. Richer than any man we knew.
It was his goodwill, his humanity and his selflessness that made him rich. We also realized that he was by far, the most successful man we know because we witnessed the genuine concern and sincere love his innumerable friends in Dehradoon, across India and in fact even across this world felt for him. I wasn’t surprised to see that some of his new friends, who I had only heard of but never met before, were in their twenties, for papa’s brilliance and charm spared no age group. Day after day as our family sat in the hospital lobby, it was nothing but the love of his wonderful friends, that saw us through the most trying period of our lives and my mother, my sister and I are truly grateful for that.
When I look at the way our father has lived his life, I understand the meaning of grace and courage, for he was brimming with both. I understand the meaning of reaching out to friends, family and even strangers, in their hour of need, for what else is human life worth. I understand the meaning of giving without expectation and forgiving without conditions.
Papa lived with his debilitating back condition, that caused him constant pain and agony throughout his life, but he never once complained. We called him our Buddha, for he was the perfect picture of equanimity through good times and bad. He smiled all the time. And he smiled from his heart. Papa has given us many gifts but the most priceless one is the gift of laughter for it was papa who taught us how to laugh. He willingly accepted his physical failings in life with all humility often quoting the following idiom BY
BE THE LAST
MOVE IN THE WORLD AS IF YOU ARE NOT
DO NOT COMPETE
DON’T TRY TO PROVE YOUR WORTH
THERE IS NO NEED
REMAIN USELESS AND ENJOY.
Papa made this philosophy the anthem of his life and constantly reminded us of enjoy every moment of our lives and live with contentment and not get ensnared by worldly success and fame.
The one thing that made papa angry was when we used the word ‘bored’. He always told me that only dimwitted people got bored. After he left the army he showed to me the meaning of living a life in which there was no scope for boredom. How could a man of such varied interests and engaging hobbies like him, have a moment to spare? His all-consuming passion for classical music, literature, the arts and cinema kept him exceptionally busy.
Papa was the founder-president of REACH Talkies- Doon Film Society, the state capital’s only bonafide film society, he wanted to institutionalize his passion for cinema through this society and was instrumental in promoting the cause of the best of Indian and world cinema among the movie-buffs of Doon. It was papa’s dream to turn Dehradoon into an annual destination for a film festival. He dreamed of organizing a festival that would be at par with the best in the world and was working on it shortly before he got hospitalized on May 1st.
The press wrote tributes on my father stating, “He was irreplaceable”……and “Dehradoon was a poorer place without him.” This world is indeed a poorer place without Colonel Subhash Khullar. I cannot allow myself to mourn his loss for he would never approve. There is however, a gaping hole in my heart, which even time will not fill.
But I do believe that the bonds of love are eternal. Papa is ours in this and every other lifetime. And this belief alone will see us through. For now, I just feel fortunate to have had spent this lifetime with him. Papa, thank you for being you.