There is one truth about life – It is certainly uncertain. Uncertainty, for that matter had a large role to play in the formation of a polished personality we are about to introduce to you this month.
It was a normal day for Prof Gopinath. Classes had just started a month ago with new batches of students buzzing with excitement around the college. The incessant rains of the coastal region was active with life blooming everywhere around. His schedule was to finish his accountancy classes, a subject which he loved, pick his wife back from work in his motorbike and ride back home together – a routine schedule which he had followed for a few years.
However, July 11, 1994 changed his schedule. The day gives him a blow of his lifetime, altering him both physically and mentally. The days though weakens him at once, makes him stronger and braver than he thought he could ever be.
The schedule of Mr Gopinath, lecturer in Canara PU College was pretty much the same as described above. On the rainy day of July 11, 1994 he picks his wife back home looking forward for things he had planned to do. Alas, there is a change in the script of his life. Close to Pinto’s lane, right in front of Vinaya Nursing Home a broken coconut tree comes falling down, lands on Gopinath Sir’s head, critically damages his spinal cord. Thoughts run through his head, as he falls on the side of the road and people approach him to take him to the hospital. His wife escapes without any major injuries. A tale of friendship takes root after this accident. A few of his friends who are agonized by the woes of their beloved friend take a decision. They decide to do everything they can to save a friend.
Meanwhile, the damage to his spinal cord was so severe that no hospitals in Mangalore during those days were ready for such a complicated surgery. He lies in a hospital bed for ten days wondering about a fate he could not control. His friends collect some money for his treatment and airlift him to Bangalore on the tenth day. Why, you might ask. He cannot be taken to Bangalore in an ambulance. The spine and the backbone was so severely damaged that doctors feared an arduous travel to Bangalore by road might well be ‘the end of the road’ for him. He considers himself incredibly lucky and his dreams begins to gather hope.
The tale in Manipal Hospital at Bangalore too was not much different. The doctors inspect him and ask, “Why did you come now?”, as if to emphasize their helplessness; as if to say everything was over. But the doctors are also moved by the plight of this teacher who is putting up a fight against the atrocities of uncertainty. They resolve to make him atleast a bit better than his current condition. They put him on a waterbed. Prof Gopinath does not think much when doctors advise him to sacrifice an occupation that has defined his life. They declare that chances of Gopinath Sir getting back to teaching profession were extremely remote.
After 38 days in Bangalore which involved surgery on his spine, medications and therapies, he recalls himself sitting in a wheel-chair. The wheel-chair and the condition of his legs, which he has lost due to the damage to his spinal cord ensures him that he will never be able to walk again in his life. His aspirations to teach students seemed remote. How might one feel when the doctor says that you’ll never be able to walk again? We did not ask the question. We could see it in his eyes when we met him. We felt that even after 17 years since the accident, as he sits there in a classroom talking to us, there was a slight residue of pain in his eyes, of not being able to walk around in the class and teach.
There was fight left in a man who is bruised with a scar that looms large in front of his life. There were people to support him in his battle. Gopinath Sir recalls Vinod Abraham, his physio-therapist as a man who changed his perceptions about the things he can and cannot do after his accident. One of the very first things Vinod Abraham did as Gopinath sir’s physio-therapist was to go to the management of Canara College and request them to allow Gopinath Sir to teach again. Mr Abraham reminded them of the time Gopinath sir had spent there teaching. The management was skeptical enough to ask him – How can he teach again? How can he control the classroom? How can he do that? How can he do this? How can he teach with a “urine bag”? Mr Abraham though, was adamant – he was confident that he could restore the teaching prowess of Gopinath Sir.
While we were speaking with Gopinath sir, he fondly recalled Vinod Abraham. He considers him his “resurrector”. He had a large role to play in me, being me today, says Prof Gopinath. Vinod Abraham was a young physio-therapist in Father Mullers College, initiated a physiotherapy course that revitalized Gopinath Sir and readied him to the task of teaching again. For Gopinath sir, teaching again meant living a new life, nurturing new hopes and ambitions and doing things which he consider impossible in his wildest dreams after his accident. Mr Abraham taught Gopinath Sir to drive with only two hands – one for the steering and one for the accelerator and brake. The car has automatic transmission. For three years Mr Abraham dedicated his time and a part of his life for Gopinath Sir. After Gopinath Sir learned driving, they went for long drives with Gopinath Sir on the driving wheel. Eventually, he became the first person in Mangalore to get a “modified handicap car”; and also the first person in Mangalore to get a ‘Invalid Carriage’ license.
Gopinath Sir recalls “Vinod Abraham was behind me every day for three years, lifting me, carrying me and being more of a mother than a doctor.” Gopinath Sir is 59 this year and on July 3rd 2012, he will be turning 60 and will be officially retired from service. A management which was once skeptical about Gopinath sir teaching again now wants him to continue teaching even after his retirement. A twist of fortunes, I must add.
This is a brief overview of a man’s extraordinary struggle from dependence to independence; though he is restricted by the whims of accident and uncertainty, he enjoys that embracing sense of being free every day. No doubt, he is still dependent on a few people to move around, as he is confined to his wheelchair. Most of them with a condition like his would consider themselves as a burden. But, Gopinath Sir is an inspiration for people both without and with legs. The journey of his life since 1994 hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. We have not even been able to describe a small percentage of the trouble he has taken. HIs medical expenses still clock at about Rs 6000 a month. His Anti-Embolism stockings used to prevent blood clot and support blood flow to the lower part of his body; which are available only in UK and USA costs Rs 1200 a pair. It has never been easy for him to come to terms with relentless medication and physiotherapy. The trouble he has taken because of his urine-bag is not only painful to the listener but leaves one with a lasting wonder of the courage of Gopinath Sir. His will to live and inspire others has enabled him to transcend any of the problems he has faced.
A good man will always have good friends. He hasn’t forgotten his friends and students who are always eager to help this extraordinary man. Well, it’s not every day you get to help such men. Gopinath Sir recalls his friend Eric Ozario conducting a program at the Town Hall to raise money for his treatment. He remembers with gratitude his students and well-wishers who send him anti-embolism stockings as it is unavailable in Indian Markets.
Today he lives a peaceful life; drives his car around the heavy traffic in the city. He has an afternoon physiotherapy session every day at Father Mullers and also enjoys a special parking slot in the hospital premises. He says with a sense of humor, “Well, I am almost the brand ambassador of Physiotherapy at Father Mullers.” A group of ten doctors has approached him and have asked him to be the Chairman of a rehabilitation center they are planning to open in the city.
He is an inspiration to all the people around him. He constantly speaks to people who have similar injuries and convinces them that they too can live and earn. He says, “Will to live and survive cannot be hindered by any disabilities of the body.” He feels that a will to live makes us do wonders. He recalls a taxi-driver who met with an accident and lost his legs. He was admitted to Father Mullers and Gopinath Sir was speaking to him about his condition. The taxi-driver painfully said, “If I have to commit suicide too, I have to take help from someone”. Gopinath Sir asked him to shut the crap up and took him on a ride across the city in his custom car. The taxi-driver was awed at such a display of determination from Gopinath Sir. He could not believe his eyes when he saw that I, a man without legs was driving a car, Sir recalls. That inspired that Taxi-Driver to change the thoughts he was harboring in the mind. He realized that life at any state was better than death.
Prof Gopinath has also taken part in various medical research programmes. He had also volunteered for the controversial “stem-cell” research, hoping that the research might offer some solution to the problems he was facing. Unfortunately, Bush’s religious interests pulled the plugs off the research. He has tried almost all medical techniques to better his condition at least a little bit. But he feels he has come a long way and a sense satisfaction is etched all over his face.
We could not resist asking him what was the most important lesson he has learned in his ordeal, called life. “Do good to people and there will be ten other good people itching to do good to you.” He said that and smiled.
We all end up having an opinion of people we have met which makes us judgmental about a person. Gopinath Sir harbors ambition in his hearts. He feels he has a lot left to achieve. He feels that he can inspire populations affected by various problems. He can surely change the minds of a man who has lost all hope with a childish glimmer in his eyes.
I also had an opportunity to meet him in an orphanage in Mangalore. The way he interacted with kids, by being a small kid among them reflected his aspirations about life. He tried to fill the minds of those kids with dreams they never bothered to wonder about. He wanted to change the way they saw the world. He wanted them to live the fullest, like him.
Prof Gopinath is strong with eyes that look through things. He understands a person better than a person has understood himself. Maybe I am speculating. Once you meet this incredible man, you cannot do much but speculate and wonder for days about his will and determination.
Handicap of the limbs in no handicap of a man and handicap of limbs is no handicap of the mind.
Hats off, Sir!
Submitted by: Akram Mohammed
Comment on this article
Arran Johnstone, UK:
I doubt thus message will get seen as this page was posted over 2 years ago.
I’m a Physiotherapy student in Scotland who is about to graduate and came across your story whilst studying spinal cord injuries separately.
I have to say the bravery and determination shown in your story is completely overwhelming and has inspired me greatly.
All I can say is thank you for showing me a different perspective, not only on spinal cord injury patients, but with life itself; you are truly an inspiration.
Rasmiya sheikh, India:
hats off to u sir v r surely gonna miss ua teachin as well as ua talks which u shared Wid us daily…. u really inspire not nly physicaly challenged ppl but also d youth of d nation… if u can achieve so much on wheel chair y can’t v do it on our feet will b d big question for us…! n thanx for all d lil knowledge which u gave us…
sangeeta b, India:
i had the privilege of studing under him in 1976. hats off to him for the courage,
Gopinath sir is a perfect gentleman and a super human being. Even though he did not teach us in Canara College, he was well known in college. Wish him a great life ahead.
Vignesh Shenoy, India:
Wonderful human being,who is an inspiration to many.He did not teach me,as i was in Science section,but I consider myself fortunate,that I got so many chances of interacting with Gopinath Sir,as two of his sons(twins) Preetham and Uttam were in my batch,and Preetham was my classmate and still a good friend.
sowmya jyothi N (Batch-MSCA-2000-2003), India:
sir was truely inspiration for us . He made accounts so simple in his own style . Hats off to you sir .
God’s blessing may come as a surprise, and how much you recieve, depends on how much, your heart can believe.may you be blessed beyond wat you expect.
Dr.Nalini of Besant COLLEGE, India:
This is a wonderful article about Prof Gopinath. I am greatly indebted to him, because he made my mediocre daughter an achiever, and today, if she is well placed its because of the encouragement and guidance of Gopinath Sir(i also consider him as Sir, though he is more or less of my age and we share the same profession). May God give him whatever he desires is the sincere wish from my side.
Santhosh Noronha, Kuwait:
Prof.Gopinath, great personality,real hero and he is a role model for everyone.You are truly an inspiration to all of us. May god Bless you and your family.
Anupama Kiran, India:
Hello Sir, Hats off to you ..I am so glad that I could atleast watch u in college surrounded by students talking to them .smiling with them .I was a science student. Though we didn’t interact much I was your fan and still continue the same.
A. D’Cunha, Bangalore., Hungary:
It is heartening to read about your heroic story and also the compliments and good wishes of your friends and students. Your story truly reminded me of the days you were at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. Some times I feel guilty about myself as I could not do a bit for you. But, dear Gopi, I assure you of my good wishes and prayers to Almighty that He may grant you the necessary strength to be cheerful for rest of your life and also be a true inspiration to all those who feel that they cannot bear any kind of cross in life. God bless you and all your family members.
Chamaraja A. Rao, USA:
Prof. Gopinath is a unique person who displays hope, optimism, positivity and most of all Resiliency, a rare trait which involves a determined ability to bounce back after a severe downfall.This never-say-die spirit is perhaps innate and not acquired. Hats off to this great man, hope he is a role model for other disabled people, both young and old.
Congrats to Prof.Gopinath. You are truly an inspiration to all of us. May god Bless you and your family.
LYNETTE Pinto, UAE:
Congratulations sir. keep going. My best wishes are with you and your family. We pray for your good health. BEST WISHES
Varsha Shenoy, USA:
Congratulations Sir. Gopinath Sir is one of the best Professors in Mangalore.
mabel victoria menezes, India:
HATS OFF TO U, U ARE GREAT SIR, NO ONE WILL BE DARING TO BE LIKE THIS IN LIFE AFTER MAJOR ACCIDENT, I HAVE SEEN U, BEING A SPORTS MAN U TOOK IT AS A CHALLENGE AND U DID IT. STUDENTS NEED U MORE THAN ANYTHING. WE PRAY FOR U FOR GOOD HEALTH AND A MIRACLE,AGAIN
Mangala Hegde, India:
Dear Sir….you are an inspiration to us..May God Bless you….
Alister Don Mendonsa, India:
Prof. Gopinath – Truly an inspiration.
Shruthi Bhat B, India:
“Good teachers make the best of a pupil’s means; great teachers foresee a pupil’s ends…”
u r the best forever for me sir!
i wish your name n fame reach greater heights,
may god bless u 🙂
Neha Ingale, India:
Im really glad 2 get a lecturer like gopinath sir….he is really superb……he always helps students in all conditions….HATZZZ OF SIR….
Harish Padakannaya, India:
Hats Off to my beloved Sir. I, your ex student salute you for the courage you have shown in facing challenges in your life. You are a role model to everyone around us to face the the life as it comes.
I was in Sir’s coaching class for a short time…He has truly been an inspiration and I am sure will continue to inspire many… It has been indeed a pleasure to be his student. Your will power and determination is an example for many… God bless you Sir….
gopinath p a, India:
Thank you for the good wishes showered on me. With all your blessings I am doing well.
Wish you all a very Happy New Year 2012.
My email id is- manimaash@rediffmail .com
Shreya Shetty, India:
I am really proud to be a student of Gopinath sir…he always keeps us happy by approaching with each and every student…you are really GREAT sir..hats off to u sir:-)
Supriya, UAE, UAE:
good work Akram..
Sir, I was ur student, the year this tragedy happened……We had come to see u in hospital and tears rolled down our cheeks, but u said us not to cry. U are really great sir….keep going
Govindraj Prabhu, Canada:
“He understands a person better than a person has understood himself”…Akram Mohammed on Sir. Gopinath.
Inspirational for all of us. Tons of food for thought.
Amith Prabhu, USA:
Gopi Sir – thanks for being part of my life’s journey.
Sampoorna Kamath, USA:
He is someone I would remember for the rest of my life, as I owe a lot to him, although I was a science student! He is fantastic person, who only tries to give hope to other and always is optimistic. I wish many people in the world were as brave and helpful as he is.
Please let me know if you need anything from this part of the world, I would be more than happy to ship it across.
Roanne Pinto, UAE:
He is a true inspiration and an amazing person. i have had the privilege to study under him and he is brilliant beyond words.
It is an honor to know such a wonderful human being 🙂
I wish him only very best.
Hats off sir from your Spectaular student!!!
Ria , Mangalore, India :
Even I studied in Canara P.U. College.
But I was Science student.
So I did not have chance attend Gopinath sir’s classes.
Pradeep Nayak, UAE:
I am one among those forunate & blessed to be a student of Gopinath Sir. He is an inspiration not only for us but for generations to come. I salute his will power, determination & his love to his profession & teaching that brought him back to the campus despite so many challenges.
I salute you Sir….
Vikram Shetty, Dubai, UAE:
Professor Gopinath’s real life story of his sheer determination and courage needs to be told to every youth of our Indian society at their respective community centre by their concerned leaders who after reading this article will be highly motivated to take head on the challenges which they are facing in their daily life.
Professor Gopinath’s real story of achieving success inspite of all the adversial conditions which he has faced in his life over the last few years further justifies the fact that the Almighty Creator that during our utmost difficult times in life ,there wil always be noble angels like mr.Abraham and others who will come to our rescue if we are true in our thoughts and deeds.
Kavitha Mangalore , India:
Congratulations Sir !!
CHANDRIKA R UDUPA, India:
This is our favorite Accounts lecturer (in Canara PU College, Mangalore).
Please analyse the DEBITS and CREADITS of his life, his INCOMES and EXPENDITURE, gone are all his LIABILITIES – but finally he could withstand all these because of his ASSETS i.e, GOD’S GRACE, HIS WILLPOWER, & above all the BEST WISHES & SUPPORT OF HIS WELL WISHERS. HATS OFF TO YOU SIR.
Renuka Vishnu, USA:
Thanks for posting this Akram. I was indeed very lucky and proud to have teacher like him. Hats off to you Sir!
M. Ullas Hegde, India:
He is certainly willpower & Inspiration personified….
and the way accounts is taught… awesome, no better way i can say!
hundred cheers to Sir!!!
Puttur Dinesh, USA:
Can you please send me the size of anti-emboli stockings. I will try to send some from here.
You can post it here, I have Professor’s mailing address.
Nitin Kumar, India:
Hats off sir…. yes indeeded inspirational personalities in around. always role model to present generation
I was the tution student of Gopinath Sir in the year 1992 batch. I’m proud to be your student, we used to enjoy his class, since he was very jovial and superactive too. I always remember his will power at that time and he has continued for the past 17yrs of the tragedy. Hats off to you sir. May God bless you in all ways sir.
MANGALA PRADEEP, India:
Gopinath sir is the man who has influenced me more than my father. I did not miss even a single day of his class of 1984 batch.The 2 years of my study at canara junior collage has the most deep impression in my mind and a cherished one too! In fact his teachings are the ones which helped me recall what i learnt even loosing the touch of accounts for 18 years!
Recently I took a depressed person to him for guidance! And he recalled many moments of my collage days even after about 26 years from among thousands of his students(my other teachers rarely remember me:) )
Sir, sometimes I feel whatever accident you met was only to make you a guide and inspiration for many disabled or fit persons who are unable to live life! They all become tongue tied when you become a example of what life means and how precious it is!
What an inspiratrional story of Prof Gopinath, Hats off to him and may God bless him.
Gautham P A, India:
@ Mrs Shalini
Your email id has been passed on to him and he will get in touch with you shortly
@ Puttur Dinesh
While these motorized wheelchairs are available readily in India, Mr Gopinath prefers using the lightweight dismantle-able wheelchairs as they are easier to lug around and stow away in his car. We thank you for your suggestions
Thank you all for your kind comments
Gajanan shenoy,Dubai, UAE:
Dear Gopinath Sir,
I salute your spirit to uphold the courage you installed in us during our course in N.C.C during my days in Canara PU college.This is what is called standing example as an instructor.
GAJANAN SHENOY MANEL
Thanks to Mangalorean.Com for bringing out a personality in Prof.Gopinath who is loved and revered by friends, neighbours and above all by his students.
Shall I call it “Fate: that brought down the coconut tree? Why did it not wait a couple of seconds more or fallen bit early? Why it did injure a learned, pious, friendly person? That apart, is it the providence that has given him courage and will power to accept life as it is?
Let me wish him good health and vitality to regain his normal life with steps as suggested by Puttur Dinesh and other wellwishers.
John Castelino, Kuwait:
Teaching is a noble profession. People take their teachers/professors lightly in the campus but when someone admires you for your knowledge of the subject, spare a thought for your mentor who instilled in you that knowledge without reserve.
I am a byproduct of old school where we had split shift school/college hours and we used to barge into teachers room during lunch breaks to solve problems meant for our day\’s homework. It is our teachers who sacrified their siesta and discuss that subject without remorse.
Hope one day I take this route as a tribute to my teachers.
Long live that generation and long live our teachers – with good health.
Mrs. Shalini, Australia, Australia:
I have no words to tell my feelings after reading the article. Sir was our neighbour, our friend’s accounting teacher and he knows me eventhough I was a science student in late 1970’s. I lived in Pinto’s Lane.
If possible kindly pass on Gopinath Sir’s contact ID to me.
Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org
Puttur Dinesh, USA:
Prof. Please take a look at the following link.
Puttur Dinesh, USA:
An inspirational life.
Please send the size of ted hose( Anti embolii Stocking) I will see if I can send some from here.
Professor should also look into motorized wheel chairs which are very commonly used in developed countries.
JP Mascarenhas, India:
Hats up Mr. Gopinath Sir.
upendra shenoy, India:
thanks for the whole story,which is put up so beautifully…i am one the present students of gopinath sir….proud to be his student….
He realized that life at any state was better than death.
Prof Gopinath has also taken part in various medical research programmes
Akram has beautifully summarised the will power of a brave man here.Life at any state is better than death is true.I have watched a video of a man who is disabled by mines. He even made it into the finals of idol competetion and sang Ímagine’by Paul Mccartney and won lots of praise from the audience.
Milton was blind. But his greatest works came after he lost his vision.Paradise lost is a reflection of that reality. In his sonnet Ón his blindness’, the last line says ‘they also serve; who only stand and wait’.
Thanks Akram for the narration. My humble respects to the great fighter Gopinath Sir. He has not taught me as I attended St Aloysius college. Only a great teacher could teach the society the lesson of grit and courage with his own example. Any lesser mortal would have given up and succumbed to the D word.
I also commend Akram for mentioning ABOUT medical research. It is this research which drives the way forward.The clients who participate in a study may not benefit themselves at times but will definitely help several others to find a cure some times and at least comfort. He has obviously shown a way for several others. One need not be actually paralysed in life to learn from this. This is an inspiration for all to know that there is hope for every one.
Devesh Alva U.A.E, UAE:
I studied in the same college in the year 1989.I don’t know if he remembers me but definetly he was a fantastic human being.I salute his determination.He was always a fighter.We used to have a lot of fun though I was a science student.I pray to god to give him the strength to continue his good work.
Sameem Abdul Majid, UAE:
Hats off to you Sir… Best teacher and role model for the society.
Prakash Kamath, India:
I was his student in 1984 and 1985 and owes my confidence in accounting. A person with great confidence and full of life, later showed it all of us, what courage and self confidence means. Scores of people with suicidal tendensies and try to portray simplest of problems and issues should read his life story. I salute him and his grit. Pray god to provide him strength and health to continue his good work.
vas, New Zealand:
He says, “Will to live and survive cannot be hindered by any disabilities of the body.”
This statement is 100% true. What is important is “ability” in a disabled person. One should not discount anyone on the basis of disability but should explore his ability and encourage to do so.
Isubu, Indian Ocean:
I still remember when he used to mentor us as a NCC officer in Canara PU College, his flex muscled figure and attractive personality with flowery english language always swayed the hearts of students.
This freak accident is an unimaginable tragedy for Mr. Gopinath Sir, who would have accomplished greater heights had he been normal.
Our good wishes are always with you Sir.
VN Baliga, India:
Hats off Sir! your determination is commendable. More power to you Sir.
A living example of what determination of a human mind can achieve. A really moving story of Prof. Gopinath’s life.The people who accept failure and give up easily should look up to him as an example and to not give up. Really hats off to you sir.
Austin Prabhu, USA:
Congratulations to Professor Gopinath one being named as the Mangalorean Star for the month of November 2011. You have very attractive achievements to read. You are an inspiration to our modern youth. Wish you all the best in your future endeavors and God bless.
Mangalorean Star column is dedicated for those fellow mangaloreans who have been known for the good work, dedication and talents.We like to bring all those personalities here and introduce them to the community.If you know some one whom you wish to appear in this column, please Let Us Know.