Anubhav Gopal's best friend is his grandmother Devayani, who is 83 years old. His day begins with a 'good morning' greeting to her, and she religiously sits with him every time he has his breakfast and dinner. “My other friends are Monica and Zabi Ullah,” says Anubhav, with his favourite guitar slung on his shoulder. Diagnosed with autism when he was two-and-a-half-years old, Anubhav is a student of Spastics Society of Karnataka (SSK).
He likes to meet people and visit people. Then, he would expect all those in his 'like-list' to call on him at his house. Singing is his passion and Anubhav, now 20 years old, can memorise songs by just hearing them and later sing them perfectly in tune. Sporting a wide angle smile, Anubhav can literally floor you with his skills on the guitar and keyboard. The thumb rule: You must listen to his songs from the beginning to end.
“Anubhav's teacher at his play school was the first to observe some strange behavioural patterns. He used to stare at the light and fan. When she told us about the same, we were totally in the dark. We had never heard the word autism till then. We took him to NIMHANS,” says his father Padmanabhan Gopal, working with Hindalco. “But he had very good eye contact,” he adds.
While putting Anubhav to sleep, his mother Anusuya, found his liking for songs. “Whenever we sang lullabies, it was clear from his reaction that he loved them. He always wanted us to sing some song or the other. We had this small tape recorder then and we played lots of Hindi songs for him. When he joined SSK, he started listening to Kannada devotional songs. Later, he was trained under late Uma Rao for seven years,” says Anusuya, a housewife. His parents are at times baffled by Abubhav's observations and they say he often listens to their conversations.
He miraculously survived a burst appendicitis when he was four years old. Unfortunately, he developed epileptic fits a couple of years back, which slowed down some of his extra-curricular activities. “He loves singing before people in functions and is extremely happy with every recognition he gets. Apart from Hindi songs, he sings Rabindra Sangeet and Shyama Sangeet. He is currently learning Hindustani classical music,” says Pabmanabhan. Anubhav is always in demand for singing invocation songs.
Listening to his dad talking about his liking for songs, Anubhav began singing Nammamma Sharade, Uma Maheswari...the famous Carnatic classical bhajan. And in addition to playing known tunes, Anubhav improvises and even composes some fresh ones.
But music is not all that Anubhav enjoys. A wheelchair, a bicycle, photo frames and a seven-feet-long scale – all made out of paper welcome the visitor at his home. His paintings adorn the walls, red being his favourite colour. “My father bought me a red T-shirt from Gopalan Mall, Old Madras Road,” says Anubhav, exhibiting his sharp memory for detail and places. He cuts narrow strips of paper quickly with precision and makes shapes using cello-tape. Triangle is Anubhav's favourite shape.
According to Anusuya, her son is not fussy about anything in life, especially with his food habits. “He loves appams. We give him fish and chicken soup sometimes,” she says. She admits that it was very tough for her initially to accept that Anubhav had some disabilities. “Things changed and Anubhav guided me to a spiritual life. He sits quietly at the temple... holding my hands. Now I take life the way things unfold. I have no problems with the way he is. He also corrects me a lot, when I commit mistakes. At times, I feel he is full of wisdom. I have a lot to learn from him,” says Anusuya.
While the photo session was on, Anubhav played a stunner on his guitar. This time he was playing Kyunki tum hi ho from Ashiqui 2. You couldn't have asked for more to wrap up the evening.