Wheelchair-bound Gopal transforming lives of deprived kids
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Wheelchair-bound Gopal transforming lives of deprived kids

Disowned by his siblings after a road accident, Gopal, 49, found his Valentines in the underprivileged children who are his students. Paralysed below the waist, he rose above his disability to dedicate his life to these children.

lucknow Updated: Feb 14, 2019 11:02 IST
Rajeev Mullick
Rajeev Mullick
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Valentine's day,Gopal Khandelwal,Utkarsh Jaiman
Varanasi’s wheelchair-bound Gopal Khandelwal, who found the love of his life 20 years ago, when he took to teaching children in a village near Mirzapur.(HT Photo)

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, but not just for lovers. One can celebrate any love or friendship in life. And who can illustrate it better than Varanasi’s wheelchair-bound Gopal Khandelwal, who found the love of his life 20 years ago, when he took to teaching children in a village near Mirzapur.

Disowned by his siblings after a road accident, Gopal, 49, found his Valentines in the underprivileged children who are his students. Paralysed below the waist, he rose above his disability to dedicate his life to these children.

Vivek Oberoi a fan
  • Gopal Khandelwal’s devotion to the cause of improving the lives of underprivileged children has earned him a fan in film actor Vivek Oberoi. In a short video that Oberoi shot with Gopal, he praised the latter’s determination, calling him the “real hero of India”. The actor appealed to everyone to help Gopal in whichever way they would, so that he could continue with his good work. Oberoi and others also gifted Gopal, who is paralysed below the waist, an advanced electric wheelchair.

“For me, Valentine’s Day does not mean love between two young hearts. Love should be selfless and there should be a strong bonding between two persons. In my case, my Valentines are my students,” said Gopal.

Talking about the event that altered the course of his life, he said, “In 1996, I met with an accident. My poor parents could not bear the shock of my permanent disability and died within six months of the mishap. My two brothers and sister refused to look after me because of the medical expenses involved. It was then that my childhood friend, Amit Dutta, took me to Mirzapur and provided me shelter.” Gopal, who once aspired to be a doctor, said he had even secured admission in a medical college.

It was in Mirzapur that he started teaching street children to change their lives for the better.

“My friend got a small room built for me on the outskirts of village ‘Patti Ka Pura’ near Mirzapur and I shifted there to spend the rest of my life in isolation. But I did not give up and started a free gurukul, ‘Noval Shiksha Sansthan’, named after my beloved mother,” he said.

In a Facebook post, Gopal’s friend Utkarsh Jaiman lauded his dedication. “For the past 20 years, he (Gopal) has been teaching thousands of children from all castes. They sit together, learn together and play together -- putting behind all discrimination and casteism,” read the post.

Gopal said that, so far, he had taught over 2,000 children and financially helped 15-20 others in securing admission to private schools.

“I am active on Facebook and Twitter. Many of my friends and followers are aiding me in my endeavour by donating school fees for these children,” he said, adding that his ‘social media friends’ were extending financial support to him as well.

In September, last year, Gopal was also invited to be a part of a television show that featured film actors Vivek Oberoi, Anushka Sharma and Varun Dhawan. On that platform, Gopal narrated his journey of struggle and inspiration.

Class 8 student Tanya, who has been Gopal’s student for seven years, said, “Sir teaches us free of cost from 3 pm to 5 pm every day. For us, he is Godsend. He has transformed the lives of so many children who, otherwise, would have been forced into child labour.”

Class 3 student Vaibhavi is happy with how ‘Gopal sir’ helps her understand concepts better. “I love to study from him,” she said unabashedly.

Years of dedication towards improving young lives has given Gopal his own little army of Good Samaritans. “My mobility is limited, but my students make up for it by helping me in my daily requirements. There is also a family here that provides me with meals on a monthly payment of Rs 1,000,” he said.

First Published: Feb 14, 2019 11:02 IST