IITian takes a different path

Happy with children: U. Subbaraju with his students from Timbaktu Collective, an NGO from Anantapur, on a visit to city.

Happy with children: U. Subbaraju with his students from Timbaktu Collective, an NGO from Anantapur, on a visit to city.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: P.V. SIVAKUMAR

Swathi V.

U. Subbaraju tossed away a lucrative career to train underprivileged children in extra curricular activities

HYDERABAD: The child contingent from Ananthapur that took part in the ‘Baalala Naatakotsavaalu’ (Children’s Theatre Festival) at Ravindra Bharathi had a remarkable mentor. Short, lean and plain, U. Subbaraju boasts of nothing unusual in his looks and can be easily lost in a crowd.

However, his phenomenal rise from being the son of a daily wage-earner to becoming an IIT scholar is capable of arresting many an eyeball while his decision to toss away the lucrative career to teach the underprivileged children will see as many jaws dropping in unison.

Working with NGO

Dr. Subbaraju trains children, most of them with strained family relations. Many have lost their parents, while a few stay with relatives or a step parent at Timbaktu Collective, a voluntary organisation in Chennekottapalli of Anantapur district. Despite his high-profile qualification, he does not force IIT on any of the children and instead, teaches them to relish their childhood.

“My father was a gang coolie on Tirumala ghat road. I studied in TTD school and later went to residential schools and colleges. All through my education, I never felt any pressure or spent even a penny. Education has got nothing to do with money,” he says emphatically.

Till recently, his elder brother who is a Class IV employee with the TTD, did not know the significance of getting IIT education. By the time he knew, his brother had already travelled a long way.

“After B. Tech at IIT Chennai, I went on to do M.Tech and Ph.D. from IIT Mumbai. All the while, I worked in local slums long with NGOs. Though I had a great time in both the IITs, my ambition was far from working with corporates,” said Dr. Subbaraju. A chance meeting with Bablu Ganguly and Mary, the couple of Timbaktu Collective, changed his direction forever.

He took the unbeaten path by assuming the responsibility of ‘Prakruthi Badi’, the school for day scholars and ‘Timbaktu Badi’, the residential school at the NGO. The motive of the schools is to protect the childhood, by making ‘extra-curricular’ activities the main part of curriculum.

The children here have play as part of studies and are taught to perform local arts such as ‘Kolatam’ and ‘Thappeta’ with aplomb.

Congenial atmosphere

“Though our infrastructure is poor, there is enough access to resources. We have a lab, library and playground within our means. To top it all, we have a free learning atmosphere,” says Dr. Subbaraju.

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