He was my junior at Siddhartha Engineering college in Vijayawada. The first time I remember seeing him was when he was coming towards our hostel on a scooter. Short and very unassuming looking I hardly took notice of him. Me and a few others together used to be a very tough gang on the campus as in those days there was quite a lot of factional rivalry going on in and around the campus. In the context of one of those issues Rajgopal came to meet me. He spoke about a Goonda element who was threatening to beat up a student and he asked if my gang can help that student out. I still remember the sincere earnestness in his eyes when he spoke about the problem. After I and my gang took care of that Goonda, he thanked me and that was the start of our relationship.
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I came to know later that he comes from a very rich family and he has a bungalow in Guntur which kind of made many jealous. But not once did he make anyone feel either in word or gesture that he is better off than all of us. He was there for whatever we wanted and it’s not only us but he used to do that for many of the students in the college. He used to help anyone and everyone who asked him for anything and in doing so he used to, quite a few times go out of his way, even at a risk to himself.
Rajgopal used to be an excellent student too. He used to come to us only when he needed us for something and the rest of the time he used to be doing his studies and various others things. But his personality was such that, even if we meet him only occasionally even then every one of us used to still warm up to him much more than we did with the guys we regularly hang out with.
The various ways in which he used to help hundreds of students on the campus ranged from giving financial help, to giving a shoulder to cry on, to take on eve teasers and trouble mongers in the class rooms to organize events and what not. He was so energetic and everywhere at the same time and in the entire 4 years on the campus I don’t remember a single time that anybody said a derogatory word about him.
When he wanted to contest the college election and I asked him why, his answer was the greatest lesson of my life with regard to the truth of what actually a leader should be about in the truest form of the word.
He said “To work for people you don’t need to have a position but if you have a position it is easier for the people to access you”.
So in other words what he meant was that the position he craves for is for the sake of the people and not for himself. I was amazed at the clarity he had about this even in those days when none of us including Rajgopal knew about the ABCD of so-called politics.
Needless to say he won that election with a thumping majority.
There was a time in the college when I used to suspect that Rajgopal was just using us tough guys just to do his dirty work because he was basically a coward and he did not have the courage to face a fight and then one day when some outside Goonda elements known as the Chinna gang came into the campus to attack some students he was the first guy who took up a iron rod and led all of us into the fight standing right in the front, thereby shattering my suspicion.
After college I lost touch with him as I moved into the Mumbai film industry and except for very occasionally bumping into him at some function I never really met him. But today when I see him on TV in the eye of the political storm raging across Andhra Pradesh in the context of the samaikhyandra movement, I see exactly the same Rajgopal who I used to move around with 25 years ago. I can see in his eyes that he has the same zeal, the same earnestness, the same sincerity, the same enthusiasm, the same courage and the same determination that he had then. The only difference now is that all those qualities have become much more stronger both in range and intensity and the reason for that is because Siddhartha Engineering College has now become Andhra Pradesh. The Chinna gang and other trouble makers on the campus have now become opposing political gangs and other such forces and just one Ramgopal now he has 1000s of Ramgopals as his supporters and instead of a few hundred students he has now crores of people to work for.
Yes, his scale has now become massive. His objectives have become mountainous, his resolve oceanic but on the TV I can see even now in his thoughts and his deeds that his heart is still exactly at the same place as it was in Siddhartha Engg.College.
I am neither into politics nor do I have any understanding of what the samaikhyandra or the telangana movement is really all about, but one thing I want to say now for sure is that, if Rajgopal believes that samaikhyandhra is good for Andhra Pradesh then I also believe in it because I believe in both his sincerity and capability which I witnessed firsthand and I also sincerely believe that there can be no better sincere leader than Rajgopal.