Resolute & resilient

Unassuming attitude of Nirmala and never-say-die spirit of Rathaiah make them a perfect couple, says Ramesh Susarla

Learning the art of tutorial education system from the legendary C.V.N Dhan, a young man hailing from Pedanandipadu, an obscure village in Guntur district, has transformed it into a residential education system.

Hailing from a middle class family, Lavu Rathaiah, introduced the concept in 1983 and stands tall as a synonym to quality education today.

The education scenario was not the same three decades ago. Barely did youth in the rural sector have access to proper higher education about.

Rathaiah's entry into the scene is seen as timely since a major chunk of the students lacked proper direction. His move of introducing meritorious students to private institutions - a taboo then - paid dividends and the ever-expanding chain of the Vignan Educational Institutions stand proof to his vision.

Rathaiah is thankful to God for showing him a life partner like Nirmala, a blend of simplicity and perfection. "Her personality and her unique style of bringing up our three children has had a profound impact on the kids who grew up to be matured and self-reliant," says he.

Despite sharing life full of joys and sorrows with a busy person like Rathaiah who manages 20 institutions across Andhra Pradesh State, including three engineering colleges and a private university, Nirmala does not bother to know anything related to his business.

Hailing from Vadlamudi near Tenali, where Vignan has one of its most prestigious engineering colleges, she derives happiness from looking after the needs of her three children and keeping herself engrossed in domestic chores.

Unlike in the American system of education, the Indian education pattern does not allow a student to be creative, opines Rathaiah who strongly feels that the Government should initiate steps to infuse life into the education system by allowing children to ignite their thought process. "A total revamp of the primary education on a war footing with higher budgetary allocation is the need of the hour," he reiterates.

Instead of wasting time in drawing parallels between his institutions and others in the field, Rathaiah prefers to remain focused on grooming the temples of learning into world-class educational institutes with a deemed university status and acquiring the highest level of autonomy.

Though his aim was to be a biochemist, he pursued masters in chemistry and education with a doctorate in child psychology, which laid the foundation for the revolution he spearheaded.

The humble beginning made as a tutorial institute for a couple of dropouts in 1978 at Brodipet in Guntur has a very high sentimental value for him.

The room from where he began the journey remains unchanged. The Vignan group has a total strength of 22,000, supported by 1,400- faculty and 1,500 non-teaching staff.

Nibbling soft phulkas with plain palak, at the Vajrams, the couple relished the vegetarian cuisine ordered for the evening. Rathaiah likes for Gongura-Pappu and Kakarakai (bitter gourd) while Nirmala does not have strong likes and dislikes, at least when food is concerned.

Keen to be different from others, the couple named its children after leaders who earned name and fame so much so that they became a part of the Indian history. Their son, Sri Krishadevarayulu, is pursuing a course in mass media in Australia, while eldest daughter Rudramma Devi, is doing her masters in science (Computers) in the U.S. The youngest daughter is Priyadarshini.

Rathaiah loves gardening and personally supervises landscaping works in all the institutions.

A voracious reader, he likes to read Ayn Rand, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

The late matinee idol-turned successful politician, N.T. Rama Rao, is his role model and he aspires to revolutionize the education scene in the country by joining national politics.

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