Dilip Veeraraghavan

Today morning, I got word that Dilip Veeraraghavan, a faculty member in the Department of Humanities at IITM, died after suffering through colon cancer and its treatment.

He was a humanities professor in a school that almost exclusively focused on hard sciences; a blind academic in a country where the disabled never make it past high school; a friend to every student who walked into his office in a culture where students and faculty would never meet socially.

Many of us students at IITM had lived rather sheltered lives; we knew that India was poor and that other people didn't have our advantages growing up. But it was Dilip who showed us how we, too, could make a difference. He was responsible, behind the scenes, for the dozens of volunteer organizations that have started by IITM alumni. For example, Balaji Sampath who founded the Association for India's Development (AID) recalls:
I should mention in all this the silent role that Dilip Veeraraghavan (a professor at IIT) played. Apart from getting us access to IIT facilities - CLT, rooms, etc - he also tried to rope in volunteers and gave the whole effort a degree of legitimacy that helped it grow. He also kept pushing us on to newer ideas, particularly sensitisation of students to various social issues.
He continued over the years to impact the lives of everyone he came across -- as kadambarid notes:
Dilip is one of the few people I held/hold in awe, who inspire, who defined to me the meaning of the word "awe-inspiring"- for no matter what his pains, no matter what his problems, I have never seen him without a smile playing on his lips or without atleast a few students or professors around him, deep in discussion...
I was one of that pack of the students; I would go by his office to read to him and throw my laissez faire free market ideas at him. He would patiently ask me questions and get me to recognize their limits.

After I came to the US, contact with him was very sporadic -- he would have emails and letters read to him, but the thought of a strange, young 17-year old reading letters naturally put a crimp on what you could write about. I visited him pretty much every time I went back to Madras and was always shocked by how he would immediately recognize my voice. My last trip to India, though, I was in Madras only for a few hours and didn't get to see him. And now it appears I won't see him any more.

His was one of the biggest impacts on my life. I will miss him.

UPDATE: Wiki of other folks' remembrance of Dilip.


  1. Very sad to hear of Prof.Veeraraghavan's passing. I have fond memories of his classes and the interactions I have had with him whenever I went to visit him. He was a perfectionist in every sense of the word..


  2. I was shocked to hear Prof. Veeraraghavan's death. His course on India's independence movement was one of the highlights of my IIT days. His insight on the topic and ability to reel off details of historical events was amazing and refreshing.

  3. I am shocked and sad to hear of Prof Veeraraghavan passing away. He was a tremendous scholar and an inspiration to all his students. He was a formative influence in many an IITian's life making us question our inherent biases and inherited perspectives. I must say that he cleared the cobwebs in many a mind with his searing insight into history and current affairs. He will be greatly missed by all his students and friends.


  4. I am really saddened on the death of Dilip. Though being a left brained electrical engineer I was infact more impacted by Dilip's classes on Civics and his motivational talk about why India with vast population deserves a bigger share in world economics. I can only say I am trying my best Mr.Dilip to get things even.

  5. I have great admiration for Dr Dilip, though I have never seen or met him. My son who studies at IIT-M keeps telling me about this humane person, a very soft spoken teacher of humanities and the life he came through, totally having lost his eyesight at the tender age of 12. That he rose to the level of an Asst professor in IIT after doing his Phd speaks volumes about his determination to succeed. My son bought a CD of one of Dr. Dilip's favourite songs. Tragically, he could not listen to this music as He was taken away from all of us. God bless this noble soul! - R. Viswanathan

  6. He was one of the best people I have met. Having done two courses under him at IIT and having seen his crystal clear arguments and objectivity I came to believe that he was not visually handicapped, rather we are. My utmost respect to this great being.

  7. I am deeply sorry to hear on Dilip's death. Even though I do not know him, one of my friend in India has been doing his PhD at IIT-M under Dilip's supervision. My friend has been extremely feeling very depressed after Dilip passed away. My deepest thoughts are with his family and may gods bestow strength to all those who're connected to Dilip. May his soul rest in tranquillity.

  8. Though as a teen then, and now as look back I do not agree to many of his ideas... I am still awed by his thought... and by what he taught us... Dear Dilip I am really sorry.

  9. Really shocked to know of Prof Dilip Veeraraghavan's sudden death. Was never aware of this and just happen to read one of the mails on discussions of IITM group. He will remain an inspiration to all on the achievements...Still cant understand how Colon Cancer can be the cause for such a Strict Disciplinarian...
    May his Soul rest in peace...