Like any father, Vadithya Ramana too pinned high hopes on his son. He named him after Jawaharlal Nehru, a man who inspired the farm worker when he visited Nalgonda, -- Ramana’s village, in fact -- to inaugurate the world’s largest masonry dam, Nagarjunasagar several decades ago. He hoped to see his son do well academically and reach great heights professionally.
Despite struggling to make ends meet as a farm labourer, Ramana somehow managed to save money for Nehru’s education.
He wanted the boy to be an engineer. “I saved money for his studies and whenever he asked for more, I arranged it somehow,” says Ramana, sitting under the shade of a tree outside the Osmania General Hospital mortuary.
Inside, his 20-year-old boy lay dead, having committed suicide by consuming poison at a construction site he had no business to be at. Through his shock, Ramana speaks lucidly of his hopes for his son. After the boy won a place at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, Ramana was over the moon, expecting his son to graduate and come home to a proud village.
“We are lambadas. As part of our tanda culture, we wanted to welcome Nehru with drum beats and take him in a procession. All of us were looking forward to the day.”
The father does not say he wanted his son to be an engineer. He wanted Nehru to be a ‘highly qualified’ engineer. The adjective meant something more to him, a fan of Nehru no less. Speaking through a haze and shock and fresh grief, Ramana throws up a startling question, not expected of a man who has just lost his son. “Did he do the right thing?” he asks, of no one in particular.
He spoke to his mother and told her that he would come home and explain some issues regarding his studies. I wish he had a little more courage.”
The body is brought out of the mortuary and family members wail, but Ramana fights to hold back his tears. It’s a long journey to Narlaga tanda in Vaddipatla village in Nalgonda district.
Two years ago Nehru had made the journey out of the tanda, having secured an all-India rank 17 in the ST category in IIT-JEE and decided to go to IIT Kanpur for a B Tech. Life on campus was nothing like he had ever experienced and he struggled in his first year, getting a GPA of 4.5 out of 10 It got no better in his second year. IIT-K has a detention policy and they struck him off the rolls this year. Nehru returned to Hyderabad in a depressed condition but didn’t tell his family. He lived in a friend’s room in Kukatpally. The call he made to his mother, Pannin, was his last effort to solve his life’s problem.
He borrowed Rs 100 from his friend and bought a pesticide and went on the Vijayawada highway. He sent an SMS to his parents and friends stating that he was going to end it all and switched off his phone. The tears finally flow as Ramana narrates how he and Nehru’s friends desperately tried to reach the boy.
“We sent hundreds of SMSes. Finally one went through at 5.41 pm on Thursday. And I thought he was alive! I made a call to the number. It was answered by the Hayatnagar police,” he said, breaking down. IIT-K is a big thing anywhere, but in Narlaga tanda, it was huge. The boy was seen as something special even in childhood. Says his childhood friend Muni, “He always spoke of getting a big job and returning to Narlaga to do something. Maybe we expected too much from him.”