Gopaul, the canny young boy of 7 years was dribbling his ball in his backyard, when he heard a loud noise from the Kitchen. “Ttaaanngg”. He rushed into the kitchen and hugged around his mother’s leg. She had let a pot of boiling water slip from her hand crashing on the floor. Gopaul was in awe of his mother, who worked arduously in the kitchen, preparing meal for a family of eight and served them with unflinching love. He was eager to run errands for his mother whom he dearly admired. He adored his mother and respected his father.
Gopaul was a quick-witted, bright and intelligent boy who was the teacher’s eye candy. The family lived in the erstwhile Madras of the 19th Century and his father was a furniture merchant. The children in the neighborhood would gather in the evening to play in the narrow by-lanes of Saidapet. They were excited to spot an infrequent Horse-cart interrupt their play once in a while.
Gopaul would always ensure he completed his school work before joining play. He was very meticulous in handling on his chores. Gopaul’s father was one of the few who rode a Horse cart in his neighborhood and the sound of the hoofs of his Horse cart would send his siblings run Helter-Skelter, for the fear of the strict disciplinarian they saw in their Father, but Gopaul would continue playing Hockey, his favourite game. His father would stop by and teach him few tricks much to the dismay of the other children. Gopaul, was academically proficient and Mathematics was his forte, his father could never find a folly with his young boy and naturally encouraged his innate talents.
In 1926, when Gopaul was only 12 years old, he witnessed many communal fights in the hands of the British rule. As a young boy the sights of men running amok clad in blood soaked shirts and swords did not deter him. He aspired to be an Officer in High ranks and diligently worked in School. He was confident that India’s freedom wasn’t farfetched and he would be able to walk free on his Motherland. All the political vilification and the tense atmosphere in the country fueled Gopaul’s urge to remain transparent and uphold his integrity as he reached higher echelons. Gopaul’s father was equally understanding and wanted to give his Children Education which was hard to render in an era of Political calamity, but for a bright student that Gopaul was it wasn’t a hard feat.
He graduated in the year 1935 and was offered a job in the Southern Railways. A British Official once remarked at his senior officer, “You Indians cannot rule a country! You are poor, ignorant and dumb”. Gopaul had just completed his first year in the railways; he walked in to submit his financial report. The British official went through the report and looked up at Gopaul gave him a stern look and uttered, “You are an exception!”
His sincerity and commitment earned him respect from the Britisher’s. He never hesitated to highlight mistakes done by the British officials at work which required immense courage and was never biased towards his Indian counterparts. He always called a Spade a Spade!
He rose in ranks from a clerk to the ranks of Deputy Chief Personal Officer of the Southern Railways. He was indeed testing times for Indians working under the British Raj, but all through Gopaul was poignant, fastidious, and upright. He believed his most valuable asset would be the Personality he makes out of the Person he was. As an officer he was known for his tenacity and as a person he was the most affable man with immense love for everyone. He wouldn’t hurt even his enemy. He gave his family a strong foundation of love and preached peace. In 1939, he married a pretty young lady of 15 years.
As Gopaul rose in ranks officially, his family also grew in number, affection, joy and love. The Britishers were ousted from India, another difficult transitionary phase in India. A time when accountability went missing from our constitution and people reveled in their new found freedom.
Once when his children were playing in his home, a vendor to the Railways had come home to visit gopaul. In few minutes what transpired at their home was shocking to his children. He kicked a basket of fruits out and commanded, “Get out of my house, Next time I see any of you coming to my home seeking for favors, I would lodge a legal complaint”. The chirping, joyous home fell silent. He never sought favours nor used his position to favor anyone.
In 1975, when his youngest son was unemployed, many associated with ulterior motives offered his son a job, he refused to mortgage his integrity and let his son fend for himself with the Education he had given him. Mr. Gopaul retired in the year in 1968 from service but he couldn’t rest. He was ready for his second stint; he joined the Dinamalar Daily as the Manager of operations. It is here; he was able to explore his oratory skills and continued his exemplary work.
At the age of 80, with the second retirement, Mr.Gopaul had a family of 25 members, children and Grandchildren nestling with love and his integrity in-tact. He was fascinated by the rapid transformation that India was under, socially, and scientifically. He was amused at the burgeoning field of Computer Science and often questioned his Grandchildren to explain the technology behind sending an E-mail. Even in his 80’s he could recall Laplace transforms, Bernoulli’s Equation and the benzene ring structure from memory. The grand children were left dumbfounded when he easily bet them at mental mathematics and quickly solved complex equations. Mr.Gopaul’s Knowledge trove and his thirst for learning never ceased to exist.
We have heard of many stories of fierce battles fought and brave warriors of the Pre-Independence movement, but the story of Gopaul is the story of a common man, who battled the hassles of everyday life in the backdrop of Pre-Independence era combating the political misfortunes. This is the story of an ordinary citizen who grew in stature. He reflects a persona that every individual would like to set as his standard of living but fail miserably to acquire. A man who lived his life simple and died grandiose with impeccable virtues.
The people whom we brush shoulders with influence ours lives. The life of this gentleman and his resolve to live undeterred and live by values has left an enormous impact on my personality. Mr. C.V, Gopaul the man of love and integrity is my inspiration. Most of my personality that I am proud of today has been borrowed from his genes. I take pride in saying; he is my beloved Grandfather who reached Heaven’s abode in 2009 and lives in our memories.
This story was written for meeting the objectives of Project 5 "Bringing history to life" - Story telling manual, Toastmasters International