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Remembering my father, Dr Prithvi Pal Singh

My father (Dr Prithvi Pal Singh) left for his heavenly abode on the 8th of May 2021. We lost him; it feels unreal to think that he isn't there with us, and will never be. Unlike his great heartedness, we were misers in praising him while he was alive and today we feel he deserves a Goodbye message which describes him and his great personality.

This is hard for us to write as we still haven't come to terms with this new reality of life, learning to live without our pillar of strength, guiding light, shock absorber.My father was an institution in himself, a born leader. Eldest amongst his 6 siblings, he became old (responsible) at a very early age. He was born in Kanpur on the 4th of December 1948.

His parents settled in India after partition in 1947, they came from Sialkot. As many other families, their family also lost everything during partition. He grew up in Mathura mostly, but studied in several other places, including Kolkatta - wherever his father (my Dada ji) was posted as a Pharmacist in Defence services. He completed his schooling and his father said he doesn't have money to send him to college. Because he was a bright student, his older cousin brother told him he will support his studies and he got enrolled in BSc as he wasn't eligible yet to apply for MBBS.

After completing his BSc he passed the MBBS entrance and was selected to become a doctor at Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Agra. He was eternally grateful to his brother for supporting his studies, and he would express this gratitude as often as he could, something that we still have to learn.He married my Mother, a gynaecologist after working for awhile in Delhi, in 1979. He had two daughters and he was always proud of them, he brought us up with a lot of pride. He taught us the concept of equity through his own conduct and behaviour towards women. We both are what we are today because of our parents and we can't thank God enough for bringing us into this world as their children.

We have heard him tell us endless stories of his childhood, he was a naughty kid in his own admission, and would get hurt due to his mischief. Once in school he was running between furnitures in the class and he fell, hitting his head. A nail pierced his skin near his left eye, without panicking he ran home and told his mother and went to the hospital to get stitches without telling his father due to fear of being scolded. He still had a small scar near his left eye, which he showed while narrating the incidence.  

He was a righteous person since childhood and took a stand against wrong; occasionally getting into arguments. I have never heard him abuse or use curse words during arguments or otherwise - strange for someone born and brought up in Uttar Pradesh. He finished his MBBS and scored a free seat to become a Pathologist - someone who sits on a stool and examines another stool- a line we heard numerous times from him.

Being the only Doctor in his family (in early years) he was called upon and expected to attend to several family members - which he did without batting an eyelid. He attended to our neighbour's distress call even when he was sick recently. He was known to everyone, young and old and he made a lot of effort to keep in touch with everyone- a wide network of relatives, classmates, friends, colleagues, extended family. A natural leader, we have always seen him either as the head of his department (HOD) or as a medical superintendent (MS).

He lead the way even while walking or organising the smallest of events, you will never find him in the back seat for anything- always in front guiding or driving, in everything. He wanted to serve in the Army as a doctor- but got rejected during the medical examination (two of his toe fingers in both feet were fused together), this was post MBBS. But he remained a dedicated citizen of his country even as a civilian.

We learnt the true meaning of patriotism from him - Someone who gives back to his country by doing his duty sincerely, paying his taxes, being as true as they can be and law abiding. Practical, straightforward and a simple person is what he was throughout his life. Before retirement, he was very particular about his clothes, always dressed smartly. We teased him that he took more time than all the ladies in the house.

His clothes were ironed twice, once by the presswala and later by himself - to remove the crease from the folds. Only post retirement in 2011, he started wearing kurta at home, but would always go out, even to the market in his formal pant shirt. He wasn't dependent on anyone for anything, he learnt how to cook growing up in Gurudwara, while making langar. Because of which his measurements were generous.

A cup of tea would turn out to be a mug, and a bowl of daal, a bucket - with so much flavour that we never minded the extra helping. Although fond of food, he never complained about salt, sugar or anything that we cooked. He would say it's Ok if it was bad and it's good if it was Ok.

He was also quite proficient with computer, he computerised his Hospital when he served as MS in Swami Dayanand, Shahdra. But till date he learnt things from his grand children and children - and would tell us to do it with him so that he can do it himself later. While we weren't that patient in answering his questions, he was never impatient. He could explain things more than ten times without getting angry - that's how he taught us how to drive, read punjabi, etc.

He was fond of teaching, he taught us maths and science for school but a lot more for life. He would explain the meaning of Gurbani, even when we didn't ask him to. He was a simple, contended, and a truthful person. He practiced his virtues in everything he did. He was happy in whatever state he was in, never complained, always said we should abide by God's wishes. He never strived to earn more money or multiply it - I would often tell him to invest in mutual funds/stocks, but his response was the same every time - what will I do with more, I am happy with what I have.

We took him for granted, we leaned on him for everything. No one can prepare you of a life without your loved one, but in his way he did remind us often, that death is a reality. The inevitable aspect of life needs to be embraced - he recited often from Guru Granth Sahib Ji "chinta ta ki kijiyey jo unhoni hoye" (worry about something that is unexpected). We kept saying to him that you will get better, till a day before he died.  He said "Jo Waheguru Ji nu manzoor" (Will abide by his wishes).

He never complained about the immense pain he might be in during his last days and we will always remember him like this. A good Sikh, a good son, son-in-law, husband, father, grandfather, brother, brother-in-law, uncle (Mama ji, Taya ji, Fufar ji, Chacha ji), friend, colleague, mentor, teacher, citizen, and a good human being. May his pious soul rest in peace.Your loving family.

Tribute by daughter Daljeet Kaur to her father Dr Prithvi Pal Singh

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