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My tribute to the most extraordinary father

Posted by on June 6, 2013

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








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.


12 Responses to My tribute to the most extraordinary father

  1. Sandeep

    Tragic news. Why did this have to happen? Heartfelt condolences. A lot to learn from your father’s noble and extraordinary life. The tribute is inspiring and what better way to pay homage than to follow his simple values and ideals in life to make him live in each one of us. I find much to emulate from the few dimensions of his life you share; and to reinforce for myself. May God give courage to the family to overcome this irreparable loss.

  2. Hemal Patel

    Great Tribute Shunali.
    I had a dream to meet Uncle, and U ppl atleast once in life after U ppl left Vidyanagar, but now I wont be able to meet him, talk to him.

    • Penny Aunty

      My darling sweet Shunali,

      How your words of love for your father touched me deeply as I felt your sorrow and pain and my only regret was I never had the privileged to get to know such a wonderful man as your father whom I now realised helped weave such a beautiful personality as you and he shall continue to exist through you and your children.

      “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others” – Pericles, ancient Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens

      My prayers to your loving father and the family he left behind and I am sure his spirit has entered the divine light that frees the body of pain and looks down upon the Earth to his loved ones with pride.

      Bless you,
      Love and a warm hug
      Penny Aunty
      ***kiss your babes for me****

      • shunalishroff

        Thank you so much. I have not been writing much as have not felt like it. But today, after reading all the wonderful comments from people like you, I am feeling lighter. My father did weave a lot into the lives of others and now one aspires to live like him. I miss him but as you have mentioned, am glad he is free from pain and suffering. Lots of love to you.

    • shunalishroff

      How are you Hemal. So good to see you here. Where are you now?

  3. Saurabh

    Life is so unpredictable. Someone who has been there for us from the moment our existence comes in to being suddenly leaves us! I always respect army men and he is(purposefully is and not was) the perfect example of what they are made of! Truly inspiring gentleman! Lots to learn from him!

    As u said, he wouldn’t have approved of any mourning hence wouldn’t as I am sure he is at a better place spreading his love and charm! 🙂

    • shunalishroff

      Loved the fact that you used “is” instead of “was”. It is very thoughtful of you Saurabh. People almost always speak highly of those who are gone from this realm but in my father’s case, everything that I have said, is true and not even a minute exaggeration. Life really is strange though, as you have said. One minute the person is with you and the next minute they are gone. Forever. I am trying not to mourn his sudden loss. But I cannot say I don’t suffer from it. I shared the last line of your comment with my mother and she agreed with you, he indeed must be dishing out his laughter and charm on the other side most freely.

  4. Dinesh

    Great tribute Shunali

  5. Kanchan Wadi

    It is so touching to see your love and deep respect for your father pouring out of every word in this tribute. Whenever i meet someone i find special, i think of their parents and the wonderful upbringing they must have received, to turn out so. The biggest gift you have already given to your father is the manner in which you spread the laughter, wit and zest for life among friends like me. Sending you lots of love and praying always for the happiness of your family.

    • shunalishroff

      Thank you K. Sorry, I took this long to see your comment and reply.It has been my loss for such a wonderful comment against my post would have lifted my spirits sooner. I wish I had written this tribute to papa while he was around. But then again, I think he always knew how my sister and I felt about him. Lots of love.

  6. Fahad

    An extraordinary elegy worthy of an extraordinary man.

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