There’s a kind of hush
All over the world tonight
All over the world
People just like us are falling in love
–Sung by Engelbert Humperdinck
Losing a dear friend and coursemate, a family member, during a global lockdown for COVID-19 gives rise to a numbing pain somewhere deep inside the chest.
Former naval aviator Cdr Partha Dutta Roy (PD for us) is one of the most doting fathers I have ever known. He was ailing for a while but fought back each time. His time ran out forenoon of 21st June 2020, on Fathers Day. Aviators respect planetary motion, wind and weather. For PD’s friends and family, June 21, 2020 will forever be the longest day for reasons beyond astronomy.
With his passing, Ocean’s Best and 40th Integrated Cadets Course (40 ICC) is down five members. Strangely, all five were either aviators, or training to be one. Two of five died in harness. I hate writing obituaries at a time when folks are celebrating ‘golden’ birthdays or climbing the highest mountains.
Coursemates have a funny way of describing each other. By the end of boot camp, each cadet acquires a ‘name’. Our course has its own Gaaru, Chaube, Lala, Dopey, Piggy, Khopdi, Mama & so on, like all courses do.
PD Roy was “quack”; not because he was interested in medicine. An anglicized divisional officer’s light-hearted observation during first term at Naval Academy that PD’s marching resembled a “pregnant duck” stuck the “quack quack” label on him. True to his innate goodness, PD never resisted. He gleefully embraced the description. Perhaps it helped that he was as peace loving & accommodating as a water bird. He could also maintain a dignified posture afloat while paddling-like-hell beneath. These qualities, and his diligent nature, helped him through his “Harpoon” days later in life.
Always brimming with joy and light-hearted banter, PD’s life was hardly a fairy tale. He lost his mom while we were still cadets. As the only son, he balanced familial and service responsibilities till the twain could be balanced no more. Health, crumbling under the pressure of incessant embarkations, was the first casualty. At a critical juncture, PD quietly hung his overalls, sought a posting to Delhi, and, in due course, retired to his abode in a leafy lane in Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi. PD & Nita’s social glue kept 40 ICC’s Delhi chapter abuzz with activity.
PD and another coursemate TSS “Cash” Prakash were my ‘go to’ people in the tumultuous, initial days of training at AFA. PD & Cash were one pilots course senior to me at AFA. They were in ‘advanced stage’ of 152 Pilots Course (152 PC) when I struggled through ‘basic stage’ of 153 PC. We occupied adjacent rat holes in AFA cadets mess. I used to debrief the day’s debacles with PD (& Cash) over many puffs of ‘Wills Navy Cut’ cigarettes. PD & me are both products of “Shanks factory” – trainees who made it back from a solo check ‘bounce’ with the magic wand of Shanks, one of our most-loved IAF instructors. TSS was the quintessential “Gaaru” – a respectable elder in Telugu dialect – of our course. TSS died strapped into Sea Harrier 611 in Sep 1997 off Goa while flying through the demanding Sea Harrier Conversion Course (SHCC).
Two officers from 40 ICC, Anish Sahai and Sanjeev Dutta, passed away in their early days of flying. Anish died in a tragic bike accident on opening day of our Pre-Flying Training at Kochi (1993). Dutta went down in a shower of flames and metal in naval aviation’s worst air accident in Oct 2002.
In Jan 2014, 40ICC lost “Essel“, an ace Sea King pilot & decorated naval aviator, while on fitness-duty even as a brilliant flying career stretched ahead of him.
Suddenly, life looks like a strange bundle of contradictions. All of us mentioned in this story have shared cabins or cockpits. Most of us rounded a bend called “50” this year. PD wrote Gaaru’s tribute for our ‘Silver Jubilee reunion‘ Coffee Table Book in 2016, while I penned a remembrance for Dutta & Essel. All of us have flown tough missions together. Five from 40 ICC have already left for blue skies. Whose turn next, I wonder? More importantly, who cares in this new normal of social distancing?
PD was ailing for sometime now. Many enquire, but few care. Only true friends know the demons he fought; battling personal and professional challenges; keeping a beatific smile while the world moved on. A few good men stood by him through his darkest days. His slow withdrawal from active life was marked by many upheavals. How many of us would like being strapped to a wheelchair or isolated in the dusker of life? Now there’s a lockdown and COVID to boot. Too late to mouth platitudes like “I wish I had known”.
With the support of coursemates and family, PD managed to pull through many health challenges. Feisty Nita, their son Pranay, and octogenarian dad “Uncle Roy”, nursed him back from the brink many times with true love and selflessness. When a serviceman takes premature retirement to nurture his family’s small dreams, health is the greatest asset. It can also turn biggest enemy if neglected. For folks seeking a second career, admission of weakness or ailments is a sure-shot ticket to oblivion in this dog-eat-dog world – whether serving or retired. It need not be so.
Madhuri (“Mads” for PD) and me met PD in Base Hospital when we travelled to Delhi in 2017 for a lecture at IIT, Delhi. Mads and PD had a special connection; borne out of simple love for Bengali cuisine and ballads. He introduced her to Engelbert Humperdinck over a regular coursemate get-together. “There’s a kind of hush” was their favourite song.
20 years after that first meeting, when Mads caressed his hair as he lay in Delhi’s Base Hospital (he had taken many hard knocks by then), PD wept like a baby. Only coursemates can understand these bondings. Our Delhi chapter kept them braced through much hardship. Ultimately, we all have our own crosses to carry.
To lose him on Father’s Day is the most bitter irony. All of PD’s plans always revolved around providing the best for his son Pranay whom he loved to bits. A dad gone too soon for Pranay; a son gone too soon for Uncle Roy. On Father’s Day. Such is life.
Blue skies, PD. Shake things up there a bit with Gaaru, Dutta, Sahai & Essel. We couldn’t even see you off properly due to the pandemic. But I am sure you understand. Earth sucks & the sky beckons. In between, there’s a kind of hush.
40 ICC, Indian Navy bids farewell to Cdr PD Roy with prayers for his everlasting peace. We grieve with the Duttaroy family and stand with them, now and always. Om Shanti. Rest in peace.
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2020. All rights reserved. I can be reached at email@example.com. Views are personal.
21 thoughts on “Remembering PD Roy”
It is so easy to express sorrow and anguish when someone moves on. Somewhere one feels that not having been in touch, for reasons one himself can’t justify, are mitigated by expressing shock and sorrow. I have had a a wonderful association with the 40th IC. Have known them since they were Midshipmen and Supermids. ‘Super’ most of them are. PD as most of us called him was an epitome of dignity, poise and integrity. He and I have met often, though never long enough, and we had a mutual respect for each other. As a family we somehow never interacted often but I know for sure that Nita and Pranay were the world to him. I am sure that the bonding that I have observed in the 1st course would be such a moral support for them and they will be well looked after in the decades ahead. Rest in eternal peace Partha with the knowledge and assurance that you were one of a kind in the service and a jewel as a family man. Our prayers are always for your family. I can’t even imagine what Uncle, Nita and Pranay are going through but I am sure they are proud of everything you have achieved or decided to let go for their sake. You will be sorely missed by your buddies from the Academy, friends and Aviators. Adios Amigo.
So well elucidated kapius……Although personally I didn’t have much interaction with PD, but it was heartwrenching to read about his turmoils…I knew him as a fellow aviator who was very easygoing and a person who could be relied to provide help as needed…Interacted a lot with him whist I was Senior Pilot and also later as CO, 312….PD left a little too soon….May God give him peace and his family the strength to come through this terrible tragedy…RIP my friend
Rest in peace my friend. Will fondly remember you in my memories as a dear friend and a coursemate. May God give strength to your family to bear the irreparable loss.
Your moniker for all of us, seniors and juniors alike. An Officer and Gentleman who always chose the harder right. You spoke of the values you learnt from your amazing father and your house master at Sherwood.
A fitting tribute by KPS. Penned in a few hours after your final mission, speaks volumes for what you meant to your friends and coursemates
. Friends you stood by. Always. You personified grace under pressure and continued to look after the interests of the service that you so loved, even after you hung up your boots.
You lived by your rules and fought the good fight , by exacting standards which you never compromised.
You gave the unforgiving minute 60 seconds of work done, whether it was during a night dunk in a Seaking or deciding the HR aspects of the Naval Aviators, for several years.
Honoured to have served with you.
….. When the musics over
Turn out thr lights… Jim Morrison
Thank you very much for your words KPS. Articulation of grief is impossible, but the words you expressed convey the essence of the wonderful person PD was, and the bond that ties the course together.
Fly free PD, In the skies, there are no fences facing..
To loose someone closer to the heart is traumatic.But we have no choice.RIP to the departed soul.
Pain. Love. Loss.
All entwined; in life
and and at that point
what we call, a life no more.
A journey encapsulated in words,
carried back and forth
with memories and feelings,
the re-flashing of moments lived,
the kindling of emotions expressed
Let there be peace,
In heaven and on earth
as we traverse these realms
with wisdom and faith.
Om Shanti .
Many a embarkations we undertook,
Mighty Seakings we were hooked,
Viraat, 336, 330 we Nested,
Hope we RV again after you rested!!
Though you left early,
Shall Miss you clearly.
KP your words just brought Quack back to life for me. Have great memories of PD in Academy and Viraat. Last meet him at our course reunion at Kota house. Having not being in touch did not matter the way we hugged that day. Rest in peace PD.
PD my dear friend you departed too soon. Will always cherish the fond memories. A very jovial and energetic soul. A true fighter, PD has left a big vacuum. You will be missed.
A true heartaching tribute to one of the most pure souls I have ever met . Your writing left me in tears as I could visualize every bit as I was reading through especially the lines ” Many enquire but few care” “The Earth sucks and the Sky beckons”.
I’m sure Kps , PD was equally blessed to have known you as you feel for him …he is still with us , though not visible physically..his soul is immortal n friends like you will make him IMMORTAL.
Your writings speak volumes about your personality and your humane nature …which is your greatest gift by Almighty . To introspect, feel the worth of every human being you embrace, to feel it a personal loss in today’s time when everyone is just BREATHING for existence rather than LIVING .
A big thank you for such a heart wrenching article which gave a true insight of PD. God bless his soul n I sincerely pray for his smooth transition from this physical world to an astral plane.
Words are inadequate to thank you for this soulful piece of work by You . Feel great to be associated with you .
God bless ! Regards .
Very touching tribute to a dear coursemate from u KPS….I wish you had not stopped writing this. Salute!
Well written KPS. That was straight from the heart. No one can feel the pain of this untimely loss more than his near & dear ones, and his coursemates. I first met PD at INS Dronacharya in Kochi in 1991. Ever smiling, warm hearted and affable, he was the quintessential ‘Officer and a Gentleman’. We did cross paths a few times during his service career. Every meeting was unfailingly with great warmth and bonhomie. His untimely demise is indeed shocking. Reminds me of Billy Joel’s number ‘Only the good die young’. PD may you keeping smiling at us as always from up there in the skies, your second home, and a place you always belonged. May the Lord Almighty give your family the strength to tide over this huge personal loss. Om Shanti.
Indeed a touching eulogy.
Your gratitude expressed by saying farewell to PD who left us, by expressing and sharing thoughts, feelings and experiences that honour and respect him and his family is befitting.
Though I am not from your course or service, (but has an aviation link though) and having read your eulogy, I am left to feel as though I know him so well.
A tribute of a kind…
I’m sure your friend is happy & at peace wherever he is.
Prayers for the family to be showered with utmost strength.
Rest in Peace Officer!
I take this opportunity to express my wish, to have all those fall-in once again to shake the world with their outstanding traits,which were taken away too soon from the gene-pool.
Offlately,I have understood that there lies fun in the ‘karma’ than to merely sit and ‘inspect’.
So for all those who have taken a break too soon to take shelter in the blue-skies, RIP for a while and do complete the fun-cycle to enrich the future gene-pool with your genius traits.
RIP for recharging the battery and refueling the ‘seekings’.
With much love and respect.
It’s heart breaking , can’t explain in words the Pain i had when i got this News.
Partho was my class Mate , we spent some fantastic school days,still remember those summer vacation days when we used to gather at his Aram bagh house to play cards and carom
Last i met him at base Hospital 2017 when he was critically ill , he recognized me with tears i had to hold my emotions and told him, jaldi theek ho ja,apna party due hai
I lost a part of my childhood , too early for this
This is from all of our class Mates-WE MISS U PDR
We will miss you. Fly in peace.
PDR or Raja (Almost all Bongs have a 2nd name, we call it ‘Daak Naam’) was my childhood friend. Our families were close, in fact my mom setup his parents marriage way back in the 60’s. Our bonds grew stronger after his marriage, Nita and my wife Aparna became best of friends. We became parents at about the same time, our boys Pranay and Joy enjoyed the camediere. I met his family yesterday, there are no words to describe their sorrow. A grieving octogenarian father, a teenager son and a wife who’s been through hell. Raja, you took off too early leaving all of us grounded. Hope you have found peace and happiness. Shall miss you always….
Remembering Partha or PDR as you were called later in the school group. It’s still not sinking, how a dynamic officer & son of the land just lost his battle, not on the field but on the bed leaving all of us so early wondering who is next. Its heart-wrenching remembering last time I saw you at the base hospital but you couldn’t recognise your schoolmate with whom you had spent some memorable moments just a couple of months back. It was a shocking incidence for me & for days it kept haunting me. How ironical it was that our last meeting at your office was also in connection with our other classmate Achintya whom we also lost on the bed too early in 2016. We spent hours at your office sipping coffee & recalling our school days. I am still cherishing those souvenirs as your memoire you had presented me that day. I will always regret why I couldn’t reach you after you recovered kept waiting for you to recover fully first & maybe waiting to see you cheering, smiling & charming as ever in our next get together. But alas now I can’t make up this mistake of mine & miss you always struggling to erase the memory of yours at the hospital bed. Still, you will always be remembered as my dynamic childhood schoolmate. My heart goes for the family especially for the young child Pranav who has lost his hero on the father’s day at so tender age, his aged father & his life partner Nita. Words can’t express this irrecoverable loss to these 3 family members. I remember how you motivated my son Devesh before joining the Naval Academy. Your warm & inspiring words are still ringing in my ears brother. May your soul rest in peace forever, may the Lord give immense strength & courage to his family to bear this irreversible loss.
I was just thinking of PD the other day, which I now realise is just about a year after he passed away.
Back in 2017, I was admitted in Base Hospital and PD coincidentally happened to be in the adjacent bed in the officers’ ward. I’d badly fractured my left ankle and had landed up in that bed after a 2-hour operation that added two steel implants in my ankle. I’d no idea that PD was ill and absolutely no idea that he was in a bad way at the time. Seeing how bravely he manged despite his condition made my pain – I was coming out of spinal anaesthesia – seem trivial.
One incident at that time stands out in my memory:
One night when it seemed to me that PD was in considerable pain, I offered to sing him a song (I’m a music-lover who dabbles in singing & guitar). When he agreed, I sang (of all things!) a doleful blues number that I’d been hooked on for several days (“110 in the Shade” by John Fogerty, if anyone’s asking). Halfway into the second verse – something about the noonday sun making you crazy – I hear PD’s testy voice: “Bugger, sing me a HAPPY song, dammit! You’re supposed to be trying to cheer me up, not give me depression!”
What spirit! The man was in pain, but he still had the humour to say something like that!
I met him a couple of times after that and it seemed to me that he was getting better. His passing away, heard of from a mutual friend, came as a very rude and unexpected shock.
Thanks, KP, for your beautifully penned tribute. RIP, PD!