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.