When one hears the name Manohar Parrikar, the first image that comes to mind is that of a salt and pepper haired politician, dressed in a half-sleeved bush shirt, simple trousers and sensible footwear. He was someone who went about his duties with a calm air around him and a smile on his face.
And it was with the same sense of calm and dignity that he endured his illness, which went on to take his life on March 17, 2019, about one and half years after it was first detected. Former defence minister and chief minister of Goa Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar, popularly known as just Manohar Parrikar, died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Panaji on Sunday. He was 63 and is survived by two sons — Utpal and Abhijat Parrikar.
Parrikar is known to have been in and out of hospitals in Goa, Mumbai, and New Delhi since February 2018, and on March 5 the same year, the Goa CM wrote to state governor Mridula Sinha, telling her that is likely to travel to the United States for treatment.
I have been advised by an expert team of doctors in Goa as well as in Mumbai ... to travel overseas for specialist expert treatment of my medical condition," he wrote in the letter. "As such, I am likely to leave for the US."
He returned to India after the treatment and vowed that he would serve the people of Goa until his last breath. And true to his words, Parrikar made quite a few public appearances in the last few months. While he looked extremely weak and even had a tube attached to his nose, he wasn't really the one to give in to the illness. Despite a frail appearance and a weakened voice, he presented the budget at the Goa assembly and even played on the "How's the Josh" dialogue from the movie Uri, stating: "Present circumstances have prevented me from delivering a detailed Budget speech, but there is a josh that is too high, very high and I am in hosh. Fully in hosh."
Of course the dialogue would resonate with him. After all, it was under Parrikar's tenure as the defence minister that the Indian Army carried out the 2016 surgical strike against Pakistan-based terror groups in PoK.
In addition, Parrikar's life was also evidently filled with a lot of josh. Born on December 13, 1955, in Mapusa, Goa, Parrikar studied at the Loyola High School, Margao, and went on to receive a degree in metallurgical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and became the mukhya shikshak (chief instructor) just when he was finishing his course. He went on to become a Sangchalak of Mapusa Unit at 26 and there was no looking back since.
Parrikar has often spoken about how proud he was of his RSS background, crediting the Sangh of teaching him "discipline, progressiveness, nationalism and social responsibility." It was the RSS that deputed him to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1994. He then became the Member of Legislative Assembly in Goa House and contested the election to become Chief Minister of Goa.
He was sworn in October 24, 2000, and his tenure ended on February 27, 2002. He was re-elected in June 2002 and served another term. He was once again sworn in as the CM of Goa in March 2012, but resigned in November 2014 after he was handed the defence portfolio in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet. Parrikar again became the Goa CM in March 2017, passing on the defence ministry to Nirmala Sitharaman.
Parrikar's tenure as Defence Minister
Parrikar is known to be one of the most efficient and loved defence ministers of the country, who not only was well-versed with the equation between politics and policy making and the armed forces. He is known to be extremely empathetic with the lives of the forces.
He is also known to have given his all to push for the much-awaited One Rank One Pension (OROP) for the armed forces and former Army chief VP Malik has also said that Parrikar is someone who worked for the welfare of the armed forces.
Condoling his death Malik tweeted: "RIP Manohar Parrikar. A person with high moral values and simple life style. Worked hard in MoD for procurements, self reliance, welfare and morale in the armed forces. Deserves major credit for ensuring award of OROP at present level. A big loss for the country."
Epitome of simplicity, integrity and dedication
Parrikar is known for his integrity and dedication to work, something that was there for the world to see when his wife Medha Parrikar passed away in 2001. He not only remained focused on his duties and responsibilities as the CM of Goa, but is also known to have raised his sons as a single parent. He was known to be a workaholic and had once said that his work day stretched for about 16-18 hours.
His simplicity too is often spoken of and Parrikar was clearly a no-frills politician. He is known to have resided at his own home in Panaji, instead of the government residence and also reportedly used the same Innova that he was allotted years earlier as the leader of opposition. He was often spotted using public transport and even ignored his security detail, taking off alone on a two-wheeler on several occasions However, he later admitted to giving up his scooter rides, revealing that he was so engrossed in work-related thoughts that he fears he might meet with an accident.
"People ask me whether I travel on a scooter. I tell them that I don't any more. My mind is filled with work-related thoughts and if I ride my scooter while my mind is somewhere else, then I could meet with an accident," the Press Trust of India quoted Parrikar as telling BJP workers in 2018.
Parrikar reportedly even paid his mobile bills from his salary, instead of availing government benefits.
Between all this and his service to the public, Parrikar health had deteriorated over the weekend with the chief minister's office tweeting on Sunday evening that the CM was "extremely critical" and that the doctors "were trying their best."
His death was announced a little later.
We inform with deep grief that our beloved Chief Minister of Goa Shri. Manohar Parrikar passed away today evening, after a spirited battle against cancer.— CMO Goa (@goacm) March 17, 2019
The Centre has announced that Monday, March 18, would be a day of national mourning and the National Flag will fly at half-mast in the National Capital and capitals of States and UTs.
Parrikar's mortal remains will be kept at the BJP head office, and be taken to Academy, Panjim, at 10.30 am. The public can pay their last respects to the leader until 4 pm, after which he will be accorded a state funeral, with final rights at 5 pm.
The whole country has now gone into mourning and condolences have been pouring in. If that isn't a life well-lived, we don't know what is.