Hyderabad: What would you be likely doing when you turn 86 years old? Checking on the doctor’s next appointment? Relishing a video call with your great-grandchildren? What are the odds you would be getting dressed for the university convocation to receive your PhD? Unlikely?
Not really. At the Osmania University convocation on Wednesday, amidst the ebullient young and boisterously enthusiastic middle-aged congregation of scholars, a fragile old gentleman, who slowly climbed the steps of the dais, occupied by eminent academics and dignitaries, to receive his doctorate certificate, just did.
Eighty-six years old, a retired headmaster by profession, Ramchandra Rao Kale, from today, would be addressed as Doctor Kale. The ‘star’ attraction at the 81st convocation of the Osmania University, Dr Kale received his certificate for his dissertation in Hindi (Oriental) on ‘Om Prakash Valmiki ke sahitya main charitrit Dalit chetna’ (Dalit consciousness as portrayed in the literature of Om Prakash Valmiki).
Speaking to DC after receiving his doctorate, he said, “It was a dream which got fulfilled today. Against my strong will, even time and circumstances failed. I persevered relentlessly, against all odds, making sure I fulfilled my dream. My great grandchildren will be waiting for me… to see this certificate.”
Life’s best moment, easily? Not really. In 1951, he completed the higher secondary school certificate (HSC) from the Kachiguda high school, Hyderabad. History touched, when Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru passed our school thrice.
“We were made to wave our hands at him. When I completed HSC, I was the first one in three talukas to study thus far,” he reveals with an endearing immodesty.
Life’s greatest moment, surely? No. While Kale was doing his intermediate, in 1955, he was privileged to get to meet Dr B. R. Ambedkar, at Peoples education society at Aurangabad, when Babasaheb visited his college.
“It was a silent promise I made to Babasaheb, that I wanted to do a doctorate, just like him,” he says nostalgically, overcome by the richness and profundity of the memory.
“I had to quit college before completing my intermediate because my father as well as my uncles were sentenced to imprisonment for a murder. The burden of the family fell upon me,” he said.
In 1968, Kale joined as a teacher at a salary of Rs 60. Kala dedicated his life thereon to social reforms in his community.
“In 1985, I was offered an MLA ticket from Jukkal constituency by TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao for which I had to resign as a headmaster. But later, the ticket was given to someone else,” he says without any bitterness.
When questioned about the changes in India, Kale answered, “India got its independence when I was a young boy. We got freedom from the British, but I see it only as a transfer of power. For Dalits and most backward classes, we are still living the lives of slaves in this country.”
“I witnessed the Nizam’s state getting merged into a united India. I listened to radio news about the end of World War II. When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, I fasted for twenty four hours,” he says, in quick summary of a rich life lived.
About his personal life, he says, “each day I exercise for an hour without fail. It is the only secret for my health. My wife Jayabai Kale takes care of me. I have four daughters, two sons, sixteen grandchildren and four great grandchildren.”
Hobbies, we ask, unable to resist. He wins us with an answer smilingly. “Of course. I like listening to movie songs, I love dancing, but above all, I love to read and write.”...