Here we are…43 years from this day, I met TD Joseph (Joe) at the National Defence Academy (NDA)- he as an Air Force Cadet and I as an Army Cadet. Until then, we both did not know each other and that we hailed from the same village – Ayarkunnam, Kottayam, Kerala. He graduated from the Mayo College, Ajmer, Rajasthan and I from Sainik School Amaravathi Nagar, Thamizh Nadu. Today, I cannot believe the day has finally come for Joe to hang up this uniform and retire.
Often our vacations home coincided and we met either at the fish vendor’s stall in the village market or at the coconut oil mill. You were the ‘son of the soil’ and I have an anecdote to narrate. My eldest brother, while on a trip to the village market, was hailed by a young man pulling a പിടി വണ്ടി (Pidi Vandi – hand cart). laden with bags of fertilizers, with his father pushing from behind. It took my brother a minute to recognise the person. Behold! it was you – a young Flight Lieutenant.
Joe, by your compassionate and fearless leadership, you have put smiles on all the officers and airmen who served under your command. I witnessed it in while I visited you at Shillong in 2017. You were real passionate about everyone’s well-being.
You are a born leader and have been blessed to be able to lead others. You have the power to influence others and you did it very well You always worked towards the betterment of others and never for self-gratification. You surely did enjoy your time with the Indian Air Force and you will undoubtedly miss the camaraderie and the privilege of leading such wonderful human beings.
Sophie was always by your side, and you touched the skies with glory in her company. You both raised two thoroughbred gentlemen sons – Abhishek and Ivan, with Ann Maria now joining your team. Sophie has been your supporting pillar over all those years and you credit her for that. It was very evident during the days you both spent with us in Canada in June 2016.
Sophie has been a perfect Air Force wife, inspiring others and representing the ladies fraternity. With her love and caring, you have flown safely all these years.
Joe was commissioned into the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot in December 1982. He was the winner of the Nawanagar Sword of Honour and President’s Plaque for standing first in Order of Merit in his batch of pilots. He has flown over 3800 hours on various fighter and trainer aircraft.
He is a Category A Qualified Flying Instructor and was an Air Force Examiner. He commanded a Fighter Squadron in the Eastern Sector, the Flying Instructors’ School at Chennai and a major Air Base in the Western Sector. He was a senior faculty with the National Defence College, New Delhi the Air Defence Commander in the South Western Sector and Eastern Sector.
Veteran Air Commodore Joseph Paul recounts:- ‘… and a most inspiring Malayalam address to the audience, on the occasion of Onam, all of which went over my head. Loved his golf, and had a mean handicap. When a Sikh C-in-C was retiring, we made him ‘renew his vows’, at a party. Joe was the ‘priest’ who conducted the ceremony, and as in everything else he did, was technically flawless, including his sense of comic timing. Had the audience in splits!!!
As in sailing any sea, one has to take the rough with the smooth. Sometimes, in a Headquarters, when somebody senior got on your nerves, one deftly manoeuvred the boat into Joe’s office, where a cuppa tea, a beatific smile, and a few words of wisdom, were instrumental in inspiring you to take the boat out again.’
Veteran Air Vice Marshal Anil Golani pens :- ‘Joe known since the last four decades, a handsome, smart and erudite officer with impeccable language and diction has been a simpleton at heart. Rarely does one find the combination of an intellectual, hard working, meticulous and sincere professional who is a simpleton at heart, bears no malice towards anyone and makes an effort to keep in touch with friends. I followed him for the RCDS course in London, UK and his briefing to me was immaculate and precise.
Sophie aka Nirmala has been a pillar of support to Joe, in all his endeavours while carrying out her responsibilities on the social front for the welfare of the extended Air Force family. Fun loving and charming, she has been sought after by seniors and subordinates while being a caring and loving friend to her peers. We wish both Joe and Sophie Good luck, Godspeed and Happy Landings as they begin their Second Innings, which I am sure will be better than the first. Wishing you both many birdies and pars with an odd eagle thrown in to keep you going. Lots of love from Golu & Rekha’
Veteran Air Vice Marshal Michael Fernandez says:- ‘Joe is a super guy, and I mean it truly. Known him ever since NDA, got to know him better when we spent the next decade together. Always ready to help and extend a hand whenever he saw someone in need. Ably complemented by Sophie who I am sure has been his crutch though he is the youngest looking coursemate we have. Hope Sophie remembers the reason she stopped speaking to me for around three months. Looking back, I’m sure she will remember that episode “happily.” Professionally second to none, Joe, possibly, must be one of the few coursemates who has published a professional book. Vaneeta and I wish them all the very best in their life ahead.‘
Veteran Captain Ramesh Babu (Indian Navy) recalls:- ‘Joe was an ideal Cadet at the Academy, excelling in everything that the curriculum prescribed. He followed rules, studied hard, played well, marched smartly and made lifelong bonds with friends, which make up the essence of Academy life. As Malayalees, we shared a special bond and the poor guy often had to put up with my pranks. Together, the two of us smashed over the nets when volleyball got introduced at NDA. The special bond we made at the Academy continues, now encompassing our families.‘
Veteran Colonel Abhay Mall writes:- ‘Our dear Joe, as I saw him during three years of stay in Bravo Squadron during NDA days, has been a perfect gentleman – always cool, silent, and soft spoken and ever smiling. He has been a passionate basketball player. Joe, the fighter pilot, by dint of his caliber, professional acumen and perseverance rose to don the most coveted rank of Air Marshal and achieved numerous accolades and decorations in his illustrious career spanning over four decades. It’s been a matter of great pride for ‘Braves’ to have been associated with him and remember the old bonding. I recall a very brief conversation with you at Braves get-together at Gangtok few years ago wherein I was touched by simplicity and contentment with life when you talked about your humble beginnings and that what God blessed you with Sophie and adorable and successful sons. At this memorable moment, we wish you all the very best in life ahead..’
Veteran Lieutenant Colonel Tejinder Padda recollects : ‘Hi TD! Heartiest Congratulations on completion of an absolutely awesome tenure with the IAF. Started getting to know you from the time you joined NDA as Cadet TD Joseph and got to know you more when you rose to the pinnacle and became the Air Marshal TD Joseph. There has been hardly any change in you ever since: cool, always smiling, suave, having a good word for everyone and everything, essentially a towering personality. Though happy to note one major change- you’ve grown up to become rather naughty in preparation for your retired life, I presume!
In NDA I remember your full of josh cross country running, awesome Basket Ball game and not to forget the Green Horn Camp josh run… when you were literally caught with your ‘dungarees down. A fantastic person that you are, may you have a super retirement and get to spend more time with Sophie and the family and get to fulfil all your bucket list. Good luck to you.’
Veteran Colonel Nilesh Lal reminisces:- ‘Joe was good in cross country and he came in fifth in our first term. TD ( Tulsi Das ) for want of a better name (as TD was unpronounceable) was a genial, unassuming & affable person who steered clear of any controversy & was always on the right side of law ; managing that in NDA required some dexterity & manoeuvring skills & guess that is what ensured that Joe mastered his flying skills subsequently. Post NDA we briefly interacted while he was flying in the western sector and I have a vivid memory of Joe proudly introducing his Flying Bird .Proud to know that Joe is the last of the lot from Bravo 61 still in uniform and wishing him the very Best going forward.‘