“Guru, kaise ho?”
It is Shripad, checking about my well-being?
“Mein teek hun chela… Tum kaise ho?”
“Ek baat puchna tha, Guru…”
This is how our typical conversation goes…
Shripad Ragunathan came in my life the way Raghav (Nana Patekar) came in the life of Jay (John Abraham) in the heart-warming movie - ‘Taxi No 9211’!
It was 2006, the start of academic year. Shripad was about to start his T.Y. B.Com. One morning, his mother called me up and said, “Sir, I want my son, Shripad, to join your class. Can my husband and I come and talk to you?”
The next morning, Shripad’s parents came to meet me. I learnt, that Shripad was their only child and was a ‘differntly-abled special-child.’… that, he was excellent in his self-confidence and speech but had difficulty writing, grasping and socially gelling. He took a lot of time to write and his handwriting was not coherent and legible… His mother, right from his baby days, had been copying notes for him from his friends’ books… She would request the tuition teachers to allow her to sit during the tuition classes so that she could understand the subject and take down the notes as well…
SHRIPAD... MY 'HERO!
When Shripad was enrolled in my T.Y. B.Com class, he was my first ‘special’ student… I had a packed class room… brignt, dumb... all together in it! But, my experience with Shripad would, always, remain special to me… He never ever thought, that he was ‘inferior’ to anyone in the class… either in studies, debates or general knowledge… In the midst of the lecture, he would stop me, at least a dozen times, to clarify some point…
I had prepared the class not to lose patience with him… I had prepared myself, before that. Yes, I would internally get derailed… I would, often, count ‘hundred’ till Shripad completed writing… I would patiently explain to him again, and then again, the same point… But, at the end of the day, I would go home, pleased about the way I had conducted!
Shripad had also joined our P.D Programme… He was fearless and bold when he spoke on stage and took part in GDs…
‘Taxi No 9211’ had just been released… During one playful session, I teased Shripad and said, “You must watch the movie… You will love it.”
The very next day, Shripad had asked his parents to watch the movie along with him…The following day, in the midst of the lecture, Shripad said loudly, “Siiiiir…”
Siiiiir, it’s not a doubt from the Accountancy subject… It is from the filam ‘Taxi No. 9211.”
The class erupted in laughter!
“Siiiiir, I liked the filam… but, ek baat puchna tha aapse: Am I like Nana Patekar or John Abraham?”
I took a looooong breath and then said to my Shripad, “Arey beta, that’s not important… Just like them, we have come in each other’s life and, in the end, we both are going to ‘change for the better’… You will change me… I will change you!”
“My ambition is to do a job,” this was how Shripad would, always, tell me and others during the P.D. sessions. I never advised him on that… never tried to set some bench marks … I only wished and prayed that all would be well in his life!
Shripad’s grandparents had specially lived in Mumbai only to make sure he completed his graduation… It was the family goal. His dad, who was a thorough gentleman with an amazing sense of humour, his mother who was like a rock, his doting grandparents… yes, all had stayed back in Mumbai only to make Shripad a graduate…
Immediately after the final exams, his parents invited my wife and me for a sumptuous South Indian dinner at their place… Shripad was proud as a peacock, that night!
The very next week, the whole family migrated to Chennai, where they had an ancestral house. It was only after a couple of years, when Shripad got connected with me on FB, that I learnt that he was doing his ‘job’ at T.V.S….
“Shripad, do you enjoy your ‘Job’? I asked him…
“Yes Guru… very much,” Shripad was a winner all along and an eternal optimist.
‘Guru, ek baat puchna tha, aapse…”
That’s how it was in those days… and that’t how it is these days, too. “Kaise ho Guru?” he would ask me in the message box… followed by, “Guru, ek baat puchna tha aapse…”
For the last couple of years, never failing a single day, Shripad has been enthralling us, his FB friends, with a short tribute to a legend or a celebrity on latters’ birthdays…
Today is Shripad’s birthday… To me, he is a legend, a celebrity. So, here is my tribute to my adorable chela - Shripad Ragunathan...
“Happy b’ay, beta!”
Pic.: Suyog Surte/Shripad Ragunathan