I’m revisiting this text after six months. It doesn’t mean it has gotten easier but I do feel the need to be more honest with what’s been within for so long. It’s something I managed to pen down on the morning of my father’s funeral. Neither its completeness nor its clarity is something I can guarantee; and yet its faults are made up only in heart.
I intend to put together a series of familiar essays or notes on my dad. Writing is healing and it is more importantly, remembrance. Also, the last piece of advice or an expression of his desire of what he wanted for me, something he told me the day before, was that I should write again. So, I’m writing again, dad.
A Note on My Dad
My father was a great man or maybe I should is a great man because the lives he touched will continue to bear the stamp of his influence.
Some of you have known him all your life, some of you he probably greeted during his morning walk, some of you may have worked with him but I think everyone knows that my dad lived life on his terms and in many ways died on his terms.
He was diagnosed with diabetes the year I was born and yet thanks to a visionary doctor who told him then that it was a lifestyle disease and not one that he had to be drug dependent for, he once more took up an active lifestyle.
He always told us he wanted to live till 70 without drugs because his father, who was diabetic as well, lived till 70 with drugs. In fact, when a few years ago, the gardener in the park in front of our house, died suddenly, with no prolonged illness or hospitalisation, he had remarked that he wanted to die like that – fit, not hospitalised and didn’t want to be a burden.
However, barely a month before his 62nd birthday, he fell ill and the doctors insisted that he had to be put on insulin. After nearly three decades of not taking medication, I think it broke his heart that he had to.
Yet, he did not die on Sunday when he was a little ill, or on Monday when he was still under the weather, but on Tuesday, after he bought provisions, did his chores, everything. He died as he lived, on his feet, doing everything he put his mind to, leaving no unfinished business.
My dad said that the opposite of love is not hate but laziness, so loving meant doing everything one had to do. So he died loving us.
He died an extraordinary man because there will never be anyone, who according to us, could ever match up. My sister and I have always known that and been grateful that we are the daughters of Cdr J.J Puthur, former commander in the Indian Navy, who spoke up in a world where everyone followed orders and lost worldly positions for it but instilled in anyone who knew him, a sense of purpose and an unflinching desire to do what had to be done.
My father’s gift to us was to instil in us a craving for knowledge, a need to constantly learn, read, and improve our minds. He gave us his conversations and most importantly, the one thing that is so limited and yet so precious – his time.
His life in many ways was a gift to us from my grandfather who got him grounded from the Air Force, in the fear that he would have as a fighter pilot become a smoky hole in the ground. My father never knew why he was grounded and found out rather recently from his father’s friend. He resented not knowing but understood that as a father, my grandfather had to make a tough decision for the safety of his son.
So he left the Air Force and joined the Navy. His need for excellence was such that one can consider him an authority on the Indian coastline. He wrote a book about the Coast, about Love and about Science, because my father was also a scientist. His achievements that he will be remembered for are that he was a great teacher, a charismatic leader, an exemplary father and the most wonderful husband ever.