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My Father, The Trailblazer

June 16, 2024 12:47 IST
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Father's Day: Devendra Prasad Singh and his wife

IMAGE: Devendra Prasad Singh with his wife. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rajesh Kumar

It has been more than five years since I lost my father; he passed away in January 2019.

The only time I saw him traumatised was when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and implored me to save him. That was in 2013/14. I watched helplessly as this accursed disease destroyed the very fabric of his personality, reducing him to a mere shell of the once-great man that he was.

It seems heartless but I was actually relieved to see his torture come to an end after almost 10 years of misery.

My father, Devendra Prasad Singh (DP as he was fondly known amongst his colleagues), was the eldest of nine siblings.

My grandfather a simple farmer.

In 1959, my father qualified for engineering with first class, the only person from his district to do so. After 30 years, in 1989, I was the second person to qualify for engineering from the village but then I had my father's guidance and was born/brought up in Jamshedpur, one of the most cosmopolitan places in India in the '70s and '80s.

He went on to do metallurgical engineering from BIT Sindri and then joined Tata Steel.

He retired as the CEO of a Top 200 company in India and was much in demand as a consultant. He kept working till the age of 73 when Alzheimer's began destroying his great mind, inquisitiveness and energy.

He (along with my selfless mother) educated his entire family, keeping all of them in Jamshedpur in order to do so. It's because of him that there are more than 30 engineers/doctors in the family today, all of whom have taken an inspiration from him.

My sister was the first lady engineer from our village and my daughter was the first lady doctor.

Apart from his near and dear ones, he gave education, employment and a way out to many struggling with poverty. Our home was always an abode for people coming for entrance tests, exams, etc.

He was a bundle of energy and ideas and the person who computerised the blast furnaces at Tata Steel.

He was an early tech adopter.

Gardening and bee keeping were his hobbies and he excelled at them.

He was also part of the Tata Steel Chess team and an avid sportsperson.

True to the Tata culture, he was honoured during the 100th year of steel making celebration by Tatas 20 years after he left Tata Steel. In 2008-2009, he was amongst a select few invited to Jamshedpur to be honoured 100 years after the first ton of iron came out of this hallowed institution.

What stays with me is his humaneness, simplicity, positivity and can-do spirit.

I still go back to my somnolent village (Sambhupur, Serai, Hajipur, Bihar) and wonder how, with a crumbling education system and no proclivity for education amongst the youth, he could trailblaze his way and be a role model to the younger generations.

His hunger for knowledge was such that he was learning coding (C++, etc) post-retirement with other youngsters.

He was also the first general secretary of the RWA after he settled in Noida, Uttar Pradesh; a person who was always contributing his bit to make the world a better place.

He was truly a remarkable man and someone who we miss dearly.

I have been wanting to write an obituary for the past five years as a homage but the memories are numerous and writing about him, painful.

Love you, Papa, and miss you dearly.

Whatever we are is purely due to yours and Mummy's guidance and blessings. If we can achieve even a modicum of what you did will consider ourselves blessed.

Yours and Mummy's picture graces my desk as I type this out. You two have been my God and will always be. Pranam.

Rajesh, your father was truly a wonderful person. Thank you for writing in.

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