Tuesday, May 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Requiem for a man

“This foundation stone for the junior school building was laid by Lt Gen K.P. Candeth, PVSM, on February 21, 2003”.

This is the legend on a foundation stone on the YPS campus. Someone pointed out that I had forgotten to put (Retd) after Gen Candeth's name. But Gen Candeth never did retire. He just gently floated out of this world during the night of May 18-19, 2003 at his residence in New Delhi.

I first came to know Gen Candeth when I took over as Principal Yadavindra Public School, Patiala, in January, 1987. I had been appointed in the eye of a storm and I was to learn later that very few people held out much hope for a long innings for me. Gen Candeth was one such person. He made a special trip to Patiala, stayed overnight with me and asked if I was all right. I was troubled but still hesitant to admit it. I said that things were in control.

“Remember,” he said, “The Board is firmly behind you. We will give you all the support you need.” With that assurance it was easy for me to deal with my troubles, to take firm but unpopular decisions and put my house in order. He was always like that — all through my nine years at YPS Patiala and my last four and a half years in YPS, Mohali. He seemed to know instinctively when I needed support, a guiding hand, a kind word. He was always there.

He was a man of clear, firm ideas, unclouded judgement and courage that is born out of faith in one's values. He never hesitated in calling a spade a spade. When something was wrong, when something needed correction, he pointed it out in absolutely clear terms. Yet the terms he used were always polite and democratic. There was never intent to hurt or humiliate and as a result his words were listened to with complete earnestness.

I would go to visit him in Delhi and he would offer me a drink. He would talk about my children and find happiness in knowing that they did well and yet in spite of his friendliness the line between friendliness and familiarity was always firmly maintained.

He did not hesitate or stint in his praise. Renovations in the hostel, good examination results, achievements in sports and co-curricular activities, a good Founder's function and even a well got up year book drew letters of praise from him. I have them in the drawer of my writing table and on days when I am feeling low and my self-esteem has taken a drive, I only have to pull out his letters and read them to feel on top of the world.

I admired him from the bottom of my heart and one of my favourite short stories “The Cricket Cap” is woven around a character I based upon him. I sent him a copy of my book and when I next went to see him and he said how much he had liked this particular story I bit my tongue to keep myself from telling him what I had done because I know it would only embarrass him. But I was glad that he had liked that story. He was suave and had a charm that put everyone who came in contact with him at instant ease. He was remarkably fit even at the age of 86. Two days ago at the Chandigarh railway station he refused to let my driver carry his bag. “I haven’t reached that stage of dependence yet,” he said. He was a bachelor and lived alone but he was never lonely because he had myriads of friends and scores of interests to keep him occupied.

No principal could have asked for a better member of the Board of Governors and already I begin to miss him tremendously. The world was a secure place for me knowing that he was there. Others knew of his military abilities, his qualities as a friend, relative, commanding officer and peer. I knew him only as a member of my Board of Governors and yet I knew him well enough to be able to say:

“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!”

— Harish Dhillon

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