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The Rediff Special/ Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Jalgaon
A watchman's son has gratitude for Pratibha Patil
June 25, 2007
His father Gendulal Yeshwant Kochure was a guard at a rest house.
"I have known Pratibhatai since I was five years old. Today, I am 57 years old and whatever I have achieved in life is because of her. She noticed a brilliance in me as a child and told my father that he must encourage me to study further," says Dr Kochure, the second among eight children.
"She also said if my father needed any kind of assistance, then she was ready to help him," he recalls.
Dr Kochure belongs to the Mahar community. A bright student, he scored good marks in school in his native Nadgaon.
Knowing that his son did not have much opportunity in Nadgaon, his father took a transfer to Jalgaon where there were good colleges.
"Pratibhatai offered me all kinds of help in life. She provided me with books and moral support," says Dr Kochure.
After completing his inter-collegiate, he expressed a desire to become a doctor. Pratibhatai asked him whether he would be able to do it.
"I said, yes. And she gave me her blessings," says Dr Kochure.
"After I got my medical degree, the first thing I did was to meet Pratibhatai and touch her feet," says Dr Kochure.
Soon to follow Dr Kochure were his other brothers who took their education seriously and are well settled now.
Says Professor Vinod Kochure, Dr Kochure's younger brother, "Our entire family is indebted to Pratibhatai. She changed the lives of the children of a watchman." Professor Kochure teaches at a college in Bhusaval.
"Pratibhatai never discriminated against us though we were from the backward class. She always spoke for our good and all of us brothers practise her philosophy of life, to do good for humanity," adds Professor Kochure.
Today, Dr Kochure runs a 30-bed hospital in Jalgaon, which he started in 1984.
The paint is flaking off the hospital walls and it is not very well maintained, but there are patients waiting in queue to see him.
"I am a poor man's doctor. I don't take money from people if they cannot afford it," says Dr Kochure. "Tai's (Pratibha Patil) honesty and simplicity are her biggest strength. I learnt this from childhood. When I became a doctor there were many opportunities to make money, but I felt that I needed to repay society in goodness and help poor people."
He suddenly asks a question, "Have you seen Pratibhatai's home?" I nod yes.
"Didn't you find it too simple? Can anyone believe that the future President of India lives in such a simple house? You see her simplicity. She is so down-to-earth and always ready to help the poor. I too am doing the same thing by helping poor people. She is like a mother to me," says Dr Kochure.
Dr Kochure is naturally upset with the media for suggesting that she would be a weak President compared to A P J Abdul Kalam. He is more upset about the fact that the residents of Jalgaon don't even know her full name and never gave her due credit.
He rings a bell and asks his assistant to call in a patient.
As soon as a patient arrives, he asks the patient: "Can you tell me the full name of Pratibhatai?" The patient has a dazed look and cannot recall the name. "I am sorry," he says.
Dr Kochure sends the patient back and calls for another patient. He repeats the question. This patient too is ignorant.
"It is sad that people in Jalgaon don't know much about her life," says Dr Kochure. "She is an amazing person who has served society selflessly. She deserves to be the next President."
Photograph: Reuben N V
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