Monday, February 09, 2009


I woke up last Thursday, like always, in front of my comp to see around seven or eight instant messages waiting for me overnight. Puzzled me a bit, but a minute later, a message from Bhaand and it became a bit clearer. "Ramku, Dilip poaittaar da :((" I couldn't react. For that matter, I couldn't react for the next one hour, as I hurried through my morning chores, and started on my hour long journey to work. A few steps down the road, and reality struck. Yes, he was gone. That corner of the Humanities Sciences Block familiar to many students, friends and fans of one particular Prof. Dilip Veeraraghavan had suddenly been left a void. A big one at that.

And the floodgates opened. A collage of memories appeared before my eyes. Memories of us discussing anything from Visishtadvaitham to the latest happenings on campus. Memories of him moving along with me with his hand around my shoulder. Memories of that baritone voice recognizing me and greeting me with a "Vaa da.." the moment I entered his office and just said "Hello Sir.."

Dilip wasn't just a teacher to me. This struck me the most that fateful Thursday as perhaps for the first time (fortunately), I felt the loss of someone dear. Someone who mattered in your life as a whole. Someone who was concerned with your life right from pestering you to go have your lunch, to helping you decide what might be the right career path for you. Someone you can rely upon be it for some time to spend on a boring afternoon, or in a time of panic to help you out of a mess.

I still can't decide what was the greatest thing about the man. Perhaps it was his seemingly endless knowledge and foresight about a variety of subjects: From history, to politics, to cricket, to music. I could confidently say that quite a sizeable chunk of how Ramkumar thinks, and what his philosophical outlook is, owes its origin to him. The biggest thing Dilip taught me in his courses was perspective. The ability to look at situations and facts from various angles. The need to be broad-minded. And above all, the strength to question everything around you, and about you. He lead in this by example. It would have been hard to find a person who was such a staunch Vaishnavite and still ready to question its very basic tenets.

Perhaps it was his amazing intelligence and memory. He was a ready reference for all sorts of things, right from knowing which person was in which group for a class assignment (because we were too lazy to look up the table!), to finding a resource within the campus. I still fondly recall the day when he from his little office was giving me real-time traffic updates on when I should leave home to avoid a procession Ms. Jayalalitha was organizing.

Perhaps it was his ability to be a guide. It pays to have interacted with a person who sacrificed his career and remained an Assistant Professor because him once not having time for a student in need due to his busy schedule, left a deep impact on him. To his end, Dilip retained the priority he gave to every soul who came to him for his guidance and wisdom. We would surely find it hard to find a person who was concerned about everyone: right from all his students, nay, all students in the campus, to even about the family which brought him lunch daily.

Perhaps it was the simplicity and humaneness about him. For those of us who are cursed to live in a world in a race for survival and ambitions, he was one person who let us know what ideals like Gandhianism and Communism could mean. It was perhaps no coincidence that he had a large number of contacts amongst people from charitable organizations. Dilip exemplified the adage that the hallmark of a great man is his simplicity.

It comes as no surprise that he wasn't just one of the most popular professors in the campus, but also one of the most loved people inside IITM, who had a mind-numbing number of friends, well-wishers and admirers. He lived loved, and he passed away loved, leaving behind scores of people in tears. I look back at the past few years, and I am still as awestruck as I was after the first class I attended of his: Awestruck by a man who fought against a life not so friendly to him, by a man who gave back to thousands of people what fate had painfully and most cruelly snatched away from him, not in an instant, but over a period of a few years of his youth, bit by bit, showing mankind what sadism could possibly mean. The Indian Institute of Technology Madras, has lost a visionary. In the truest sense of the word.

Dilip.. As much ever I try, I know that it sometimes it just isn't possible for me to express what I had started off to do. Perhaps its just that the heaviness in my heart doesn't allow me to. The banter with you. The knowledge you had. That bookshelf and huge piles of books, that computer which kept having problems, that phone by your side which your effortlessly used to dial, those files and that red pen which you made sure was in the right place for you to pick up when you wanted. That lost chance to take you to Srirangam which we planned but never got around to. I will miss you.


  1. I have seen this person only once. BUt after reading what you have written I am in tears. I dont know if it is because the amount of pain you have and the way you have expressed so well or because the man himself is so great!

  2. I'm sure he knows, pa :)

  3. Resolve to live by the principles he stood for. That way, he will always be with us.

    (Sadly) Kumar

  4. life doesn't cease to amaze me.. but then, it is life.. like kumar says, let us resolve to live by the principles he stood for.. :)

  5. I have'nt known Dlip Sir personnaly. But I have heard lots and lots about him when I was in IITM. When I heard that dilip is no more, If I, who havent even had a single meeting with him, felt extremely bad and remorse, I can imagine what a loss it would be to people who knew him personally. Truly, a great soul and a great great human being. God loved more than us and took him away.

    I hope we will develop a more stronger mental strength to overcome his loss and come to terms with reality

  6. I didnt get a chance to spend too much time with him, but the few moments i did, were enlightening.
    Yes, we really lost a great soul from amidst us.