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TRIBUTE TO MY FATHER: AN OFFICER & A GENTLEMAN

July 26, 2020, 7:31 p.m. by Dr Gayatri Mohapatra ( 861 views)

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“His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!”
(Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: Act V, Scene V)

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An officer & a gentleman!

A long time back, when I was studying at St Joseph’s Girls High School, Cuttack, this particular speech by Mark Antony had made an indelible impression on my young mind. The one man this description fitted perfectly was my father, I had thought then. Now, well into middle age, I hold that belief most firmly, almost proudly.

Today (July 26th) is my father’s birthday. It would have been his birthday actually, but he is no longer with us.

it going to be a difficult day? Well, yes. I will always have a Daddy shaped hole in my heart. The longing to see him, to hear him, to touch him will be more acute. I will have to be content with memories only.

But, then I think, that’s not something Daddy would have liked! A man who lived his life KING size, he had no time or patience to be miserable with anything! So, let me try and tell you all about him. Join me in celebrating him, his life, and all that he stood for.

Shri Rabi Narayan Mohapatra, IPS (RR:1959) former Director General of Police, Odisha, the Sun God and the Lord Vishnu in his name, the blessings of his parents, the unconditional love of his wife and most importantly a razor-sharp intelligence complemented by humility made my father into a police officer of formidable reputation. Daddy was always in command! From a very daring young SP (Superintendent of Police) to a highly respected DGP, he was unflinching in his dedication to policing and to the people of his beloved home state, Odisha. And yes, he could face many difficult/delicate/desperate times with an arrogance that came out of impeccable integrity.

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What set him apart, running parallel with the responsibilities of his taxing profession were his interests and passions. And these, let me tell you were astounding in their range and depth! His magical fingers on the Sitar honored the Vishnupur Gharana of Hindustani classical music. He had trained in the vast knowledge of music and his deep respect for artistes translated into numerous scintillating 'evening baithaks’/soirees in our home. Imagine having Ustad Bismillah Khan ( shehnai) or Ustad Asad Ali Khan ( Rudra Veena) as guests!

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Reading, photography, and architecture were his other great loves. The mahogany shelves in his study were lined with a vast array of books in Sanskrit, Odiya, Bengali, English literature, economics, and philosophy were his preferred interests. He cleaned his cameras himself and nobody was allowed to touch the carefully rolled up trace paper architectural designs/plans/blueprints! Most of all, I remember the heavenly fragrance of the study- a combination of Paco Rabanne(his favorite aftershave), single malt whiskey, Cuban & Nicaragua cigars, and sandalwood incense.

Football/soccer was religion to him and he made horse riding look so damn easy that we spun stories and bragged about him being the original cowboy! Every Sunday he would go fishing with his friends. And if by chance he hadn’t been able to catch any, off he would go to the market, buy the best specimen, and attach the hook to the fish! This was a hilarious, endearing face-saving action (to escape the wifely jibes) of course to impress my beautiful Ma!

Recollecting all these aspects of his personality, I feel that’s what contributed to his success as the head of police. I mean he brought in panache to policing as well as a robust, vast dynamism for he did not narrow/constrain himself. He was an outstanding officer with an excellent grasp over crime investigation and administrative matters, remembered by all for his professionalism, endearing smile, magnanimity, and the humane touch which he brought to policing as in Walt Whitman’s words he ‘contained multitudes’.

Here comes a very special bit of information, friends! The three women in his life, his wife and two daughters are feminists. And we thank my father for that! Women's empowerment, whether in professional life or personal, was his firm belief. He stood like a rock by my Ma’s side, supporting her in her pursuit of excellence in the industry. She, the first woman engineer of Odisha, set up an electronics industry in the 80’s that gained national/international fame and was instrumental in promoting industrial growth in the state. Daddy revelled with pride in Ma’s achievements! As he did with his daughters’ from school report cards to life’s report cards. He believed that life is not a competition between men and women rather it’s a collaboration and a glorious one at that! Never did we hear from him ‘because you are a girl’ for a reason not to do anything My sister and I were taught to drive, to shoot, to ride by Daddy. Till date, none of us women, have been able to make ‘Mughlai paratha’ like him, though! Yes, there goes another one of the gender smashing facets of his personality, he was a most marvellous cook.

addy left us very suddenly four years back. The gathering in our home was massive. People from all walks of life came to pay their last respects. Not just the ministers, eminent personalities, senior bureaucrats but ‘ordinary’ people from the state and outside! The fishmonger from whom he would buy fish(and insist on giving a grand tip) came with his alarming brood of children whom Daddy knew by name; the banana seller lady “Amma’’ proudly wore the saree the ‘police bada sahiba’ had given her for Makar Sankranti; the paan shop wala gifted everyone my father’s preferred paan, named ‘DG Special’ by him, that day. Nothing had however prepared us for the surge of love that the elderly widows in the Jagannath temple, Puri showered on us when we went there for funeral ceremonies they held our hands as they wept and remembered the man who would not just buy ‘Mahaprasad‘ for them but would sit on the temple floor premises and eat with them. This deep connection he had with the lost and the distressed crossed human boundaries too. Over the years, he both helped and supported, we sisters’ rescue and adoption of all types of abandoned animals. In fact, our house was like a mini zoo! Our animals fell silent, many refused food. Only their eyes spoke.

Such a rich, meaningful life he lived, this officer and a gentleman. All those who knew him were drawn into that pulsating, vibrant, charmed, and beautiful space he created around himself. My father didn’t really tell anyone how to live. He LIVED and let everyone watch him do it. That perhaps is what everyone remembers about him.

Its ‘Global Parents Day’ today as well. And this is my tribute to a father who recited Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ to his daughters and taught them to live by its high standards

( Please click to read the poem :https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46473/if---)

Daddy, it’s an honour to be your daughter.


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