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A man of many parts, a fearless veteran

Updated on October 15, 2012

My hero and role model

As a child I looked up to him - he was my hero and role model as he had the smart looks and confident air that reassured us that our small world was secure. Dad served the Indian Army for thirty-six years. He was a paratrooper and underwent commando training. The picture alongside is an old photograph of Dad in his early years in the Army. It was shot at Bangalore in 1946. I took it out from the family album and digitized it so that it can be uploaded. (Photo Credit : vinodkpillai)

Dad imposed rules and enforced discipline so that everything was organized. It was sometimes suffocating and we rebelled quietly without letting him know. We waited for him to go to office so that we could breathe easy and do what we wanted. But life went on with a quiet precision and there were not many hiccups as long as he had his way.

It is nearly five years since Dad passed away in his sleep, but his presence is still experienced. That is because he was a man of many parts.

A man of many parts

If I do not shy away from picking up new things and straying into unchartered territories, the inspiration is largely drawn from Dad. He grew up in a small village in the coastal state of Kerala in India. He had to terminate his education after leaving school because of family compulsions but went on to educate himself through extensive reading and learning from life experiences so that he could hold his own and command respect among the highly educated, many of whom admired him and went on to become his close friends. He showed me that informal education can be a very great leveler and learning can be a lifelong process.

Dad was a very good listener and would keenly listen especially if you had something new to say. He had the uncanny ability to quickly grasp and then join your discussion with ideas and observations of his own that would stump you. I learnt from him the value of listening much before I read Dale Carnegie.

He was very well read - mostly English and American writing and also Malayalam, which was his mother tongue. He had a very good library for one who had limited formal education and the best part was that the books covered a wide range from science and philosophy to history, culture and religion. We had the Encyclopedia Britannica and quite a few dictionaries and reference books to ensure that help was at hand if we needed to check up something. He created a climate of learning and intellectual development that I still value and which helped me develop an open mind and interest in all realms of knowledge.

Dad was interested in tennis, squash and horse riding and was a good photographer too. He encouraged me in these and many other areas because he believed that diversity of interests is the best antidote for boredom. He also believed that dependence can be a big cause of problems and worries in life whereas independence can liberate and leave you with all the options. I took up some of these forays very seriously and went on to develop proficiency - many I abandoned - but in the process I learnt that if one had an open mind, nothing was difficult to learn and even master. Dad never taught this by preaching; he demonstrated this in his life. He was an expert at very many things from gardening to agriculture and cooking to wine making.

There is a lot that I can write about Dad but if I have to zero in on the most defining aspect, I would pick his fearlessness and keeping in mind that he spent thirty-six years in the Indian army, I would say that he was a fearless veteran.

A fearless veteran

How he earned his paratrooper wings

Dad spent thirty six years in the Indian Army posted in various parts of the country. He saw action in Jammu & Kashmir and was a part of the UN custodian service that served in Korea in 1954 after the Korean conflict.

Soldiers are meant to be fearless and the job probably makes a person fearless. But Dad was by nature fearless, even before he joined the Indian Army. He viewed events and issues on merit and if and when action was called for, there was no stopping him. He could be discrete or considerate if the situation warranted but fear never held him back.

My favorite is the much-recounted story of his wanting to be a paratrooper. He applied but was told by the officials that he was being rejected because he very marginally exceeded the height-weight norms. Dad felt this deserved to be appealed against and so he did. The commanding officer tried to explain the risks involved but Dad could not be persuaded. So he arranged a visit to the military hospital so that Dad could see the casualties and get convinced. After the visit was offer, Dad was asked whether he had changed his mind.

"Sir, all these people were within the stipulated norms?" Dad wanted to know.

"Yes, they were obviously within our strict norms. So you see the danger-"

"Sir if all of them were within the norms then why are the norms so sacrosanct? After all if I have to die, it can happen in many other ways without my jumping from a plane!"

Dad was taken for the paratroopers training and went on to complete the requisite number of jumps and commando course for three years to earn his paratroopers wings. He was given two maroon ties sprinkled with the para wings and he treasured them and brought them out whenever he recounted the para story.

Dad's best advice

Dad often said that fear was incapacitating and therefore needed to be nipped in the bid. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

As a child he once asked me if I was afraid of ghosts and when I said yes, he narrated his ghost stories and then took me to the window and showed me a graveyard in the distance. It was pitch dark and I could barely see the tombstones.

"Go on, I want you to go there and wave out to me from there. Check out if there are any ghosts before you return. I will be watching from here and waiting for you so that we can have supper together."

I don't need to explain how the experience would have been for a twelve year old who was afraid of ghosts. But these and many other chilling and not so chilling experiences taught me that fear was in the mind and could be conquered. It made my life so very different.

Gifts for Dad

What would I present him if he were around? It was always difficult to decide, but considering the fact that he was a voracious reader and loved tinkering around, I guess I would present him these two gifts, which he would have valued.

It would be nice if you could enrich this lens by sharing your thoughts, feelings feedback - whatever you feel like....

A penny for your thoughts

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    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 4 years ago from Michigan

      Your dad sounds like a man any reader of this lens would love to have met; a man of courage and of wisdom.

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      Your dad and mine would have had stories to trade! Mine also saw combat; his wars were WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. This is a great tribute, showing great love and respect for your father.

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 5 years ago

      What an amazing man, you must be very proud!

    • profile image

      sailor_man 5 years ago

      I return visit and recommend for other lenses

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      Your Dad sounds like an amazing man and father. I love his advice about fear.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      What a great tribute to your dad.. My dad died many years ago and recently I passed the point in my life where I had lived more years after his death than before. It was quite a landmark, but I can tell you I still feel his presence and always will.

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 5 years ago

      Such a beautiful lense!

    • Magda2012 profile image

      Magda2012 5 years ago

      great article about your dad ..

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 5 years ago

      Your dad is really here. Cheers on that :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      supel lens

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 5 years ago

      Very nice to read about your Father.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      As an interesting read.

    • Tracie-Fisher profile image

      Tracie-Fisher 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your heartfelt love for your Dad.

    • profile image

      memberlog 5 years ago

      Interesting reading, great lens!

    • profile image

      dellgirl 5 years ago

      What a lovely tribute to your dad, he sounds like a wonderful man. ~Blessed~

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 5 years ago

      I can see your dad was quite a man and why you looked up to him.

    • EmanatePresence1 profile image

      EmanatePresence1 5 years ago

      Just to add another note... my dad passed last fall and your story is poignant. I like how you highlight your dad's strengths and seem to remain emotionally neutral yourself as you relate stories about who he was. Great ending story!

    • EmanatePresence1 profile image

      EmanatePresence1 5 years ago

      I enjoyed very much the story. Thank you for sharing!

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      ...of course, it deserves a big blessing.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      thank you for visiting my lenses and sharing your dad´s story. my father was also a veteran and at first glance, i thought it is my dad in his uniform.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wonderful heart felt tribute to a man of many pants. :)

      Blessed!

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 5 years ago from London, England

      Excellent lens and a very nice tribute

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wonderful tribute to a real life hero! Thanks for sharing this here!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for sharing a wonderful article about a 'real hero'. ~blessed~

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wow, I love the tough love your Dad imposed on you by making you go out into the graveyard. Thanks for sharing his story.

    • vinodkpillai lm profile image
      Author

      vinodkpillai lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for visiting and adding your comment. No I have never thought of writing his biography but now when I think about it, I am asking myself why I didn't! It's a great idea which I will definitely pursue and work on. Thank you!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      @vinodkpillai lm: I do hope you will. Biography is a wonderful genre, and you've got both the story-telling skills and the subject matter to make this a project well worth pursuing.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I've enjoyed reading about your father and his influence on your life. Have you ever considered writing his biography? He sounds like a fascinating man with an interesting life story; and if not a biography, I hope you do record your memoirs of childhood so younger members of your family can come to know him through your eyes.

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      Very nice tribute to your dad, and an interesting lens to read.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      A very nice lens about your Dad.

    • profile image

      sandi_x 5 years ago

      Great story

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      We learn so much from our fathers...excellent lens on your thoughts on your father.

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Great story. My Dad was in WWII so I know how proud you are! Squid Angel blessed!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      Our parents do pass so very much down to us. We may not think as we grow that we will develop so much of them within us but as adults looking back it is amazing how very much our parental heritage affects who we will become. I miss my dad very much and sure wish that he had a few more years to spend playing on this earth.

    • MargaritasWorld profile image

      Margarita Boettcher 5 years ago from Morrison, Colorado

      Really nice lens. I like the paratrooper story too:) Glad you shared your story.Margarita

    • profile image

      jazziyarbrough 5 years ago

      Sounds like your Dad was a pretty special guy. My Dad passed away earlier this year. I am always sorry to hear of someone passing away, my prayers go out to you, and may you have a blessed day. Thanks for posting and sharing.