Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dilip Veeraraghavan


I had never imagined posting a eulogy on my blog. I write this while still not recovered from the grief of losing a good friend, a professor from the Humanities Department in IIT Madras, Dilip Veeraraghavan. He passed away early morning today after fighting colon cancer for many months. This is the very first time in my life that I'm facing the loss of someone I've known so closely!

I got to know Dilip about five years ago when I joined IIT. His room was on one end of the corridor where my office was. That's when I got to spend long hours with him. It took us one meeting to find out we had similar interests - from classical music, non-violence, Gandhi, sustainability, organic farming, alternative health systems to world peace. And a concern for the students we came to interact with.

Dilip could not see with his eyes. There is no other way to say this, since it would not at all be true if I said that he was blind, had no vision or that he could not see! Dilip was someone who had a deeper insight than almost all the people I've met have, into almost every issue under the sun.

I don't know if there has ever been (or there ever will be) in the history of IIT-M, any other professor who knew and stayed in touch with so many past and present students. Dilip remembered every one of those hundreds of students by his/her name, year of passing, department, interests, likes and dislikes, place of residence, family history and most importantly, voice. I'm not talking about the mere extra-sharp senses and memory that most blind people tend to have. I am talking about a deep and genuine care and concern that he had for every student (every person) he came in touch with.

During some very disturbing and chaotic times that I personally went through during my stay at IIT, Dilip was always there welcoming me with warmth and love, listening to my long hours of ramblings and outpourings, offering his insights and humble advices. He sometimes sacrificed even his favourite cricket commentaries (on his hand-held transistor) in order to listen to them! He was there with Rajeev and me right through our tough battles around our wedding decisions. (He traveled all the way across the city to be there on both days of the function!) Even after I left my job there, I made it a point to visit him almost every time I was there in the campus, every time getting introduced as 'a very good friend' to some past student (from as long back as the late 80's!) who'd be there visiting him. My most recent interactions with him were around the series of articles I've been writing on 'The History of Green Revolution' which interested him a great deal. After having carefully listened to the drafts of entire articles I'd read out to him, he would go over every single correction to be made - from grammar to historical facts - he'd have made note of in his mind.

I think of Dilip often. His words ring in my ears, most definitely every time I open my wardrobe "Hoarding is a form of violence. By keeping things out of circulation, you are contributing to poverty." How true! His ability to express childlike joy at simple things of life, and to remain compassionate and his unfailing belief in and practice of ‘satyagraha’ (winning over evil with love / soul force) will continue to inspire me till the very end. Even during times of great physical pain and discomfort, he would constantly bring back any conversation about his work, health and wellbeing, to how and what I was doing. Dilip will continue to remind me to give of myself as much as I can.

Dilip, you are being deeply missed!

Others about Dilip

9 comments:

how to name it said...

Thanks, Sangee, for this most moving piece on Dr. Dilip Veeraraghavan. I wish I had met him, considering I spent sometime in the IIT campus too four years back, doing odd things.

mammiar said...

A very true account of one's experiences with Dilip, as anyone who knows (or, sadly, knew!) him would attest to.

Yash said...

He was one of the most admirable people I ever met. He was simple, thorough, and followed his beliefs with deep conviction. Although I wish I had spent more time with him, his memory continues to inspire me.

Kumar said...

When I read your quote - "Hoarding is a form of violence. By keeping things out of circulation, you are contributing to poverty." - Dilip's voice hit me like a ton of bricks. Thanks for such a moving note.

Chandan said...

He was one of the best prof. I have ever met in IIT.Very kind hearted and very caring..I was fortunate to do one course under him...His sweet memory will stay in my mind for ever.

Anonymous said...

Well said. Although he had several students close to him, the way he spoke with me with his full attention and love despite my many shortcomings can never be forgotten. I still miss him... almost every day. I used to call him to take a break, to simply chat about random nonsense or while driving back home from office. Now, all I do while my wife flips between channels is to fondly remember him without words from the comfort of my recliner...

I doubt that he would encourage sadness despite the obvious pain of losing him -- he never did. "Dei xxxx, seri vaa innikku oru walk polam. Adha pathi ellam yosikkadhe. I know you are on the right track" -- what wonders such words would make. Its an understatement to say that I was in love with him and for some strange reason, I am happy to realize that others were too!

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