A trip to Nepal as a young teenager impacted Dr Kumaran Rasappan so much, that he went on to scale the Mt. Everest. A mountaineer and a medical doctor, he also raised funds for charity through his climb and set up a clinic in one of the villages in Kathmandu.
This is the story of a special teacher-student bonding. The high esteem in which he holds his teacher is evident in Kumaran's voice. As he talks about his beloved guru, the respect for him in his eyes cannot be missed.
The two shared more than just a teacher- student relationship. As a young teacher, Krishnan had volunteered with the Singapore International Foundation to teach in Nepal for a year. He had brought a group of boys from Raffles Institute to Nepal, and Kumaran was one of them, a chubby boy, all of 15 years. He remembers him as a curious and focused child.
Staying with families who hosted them in the village of Aahale, they helped set up a library and paint the school building. Another project was to set up a garden in Saraswati School in Gorkha. They had just planted some seeds when the cows and goats came and started eating everything off. Everything got dismantled.
But their teacher, Mr. Krishnan, encouraged the kids by telling them that they had shown the true meaning of giving, to the Nepalese children. It was his first experience in Nepal and of the overseas community service. This incidence impacted the young Kumaran for life.
Thirteen years later, Kumaran – then a medical student – was poised to climb the world's tallest peak and he remembered his teacher. His title sponsors, apart from supporting his attempt to climb Everest, also wanted to do some service to the schools in Nepal by donating computers. Kumaran instantly knew which school to donate to. What better than Saraswati school in Gorkha? How amazing would it be to go back to chip in along with Mr Krishnan, he thought.
The two men reconnected and Krishnan felt humbled to know that, even after 13 years, his student remembered him and asked him to come on board.
Krishnan says that Kumaran could have just embarked on his journey and enjoyed, but he thought about him, and that was something that touched him. Soon, Krishnan joined Kumaran for the project.
When Kumaran reached the summit he immediately called his teacher saying, “Hi! Mr. Krishnan, how are you doing?” Krishnan was surprised to know that he was calling him from the mountains just to enquire how he was. He was moved to tears.
Immediately, after Kumaran successfully climbed the Mt. Everest, the two men revisited the school and helped to organise a computer lab. He also remembers coming across a Facebook picture of the schoolgirls in the computer lab that the two helped set up. Krishnan feels that it will change the students' outlook towards life and the world and will open many doors of opportunities for them.
Kumaran feels that Mr. Krishnan had paved the way for others to follow and that was a courageous thing for him to have done. Every student wants to be inspired by his teacher and he is glad that he crossed paths with him. He added that Krishnan had inspired him to realise his full potential.
Kumaran asked his teacher and friend what was the most important lesson he had learnt in his life. The teacher said that whatever one does, even if he /she does not see the returns immediately, one should not lose heart as long as he/she is sincere and wants to help others. The others will find their way and, maybe one day, will express their gratitude. And even if they don't, and he/she knows that they have served them well, then the person has done his/her part.
Many years later
Following the unfortunate Nepal earthquake of 2015, Kumaran volunteered with Mercy Relief. Kumaran and his wife fundraised among family and friends back in Singapore. They passed the funds to Krishnan, who went to Nepal later and bought zinc roofs to be used in the initial re-construction of the village.
Kumaran is a practising doctor now. He continues to follow in his teacher’s footsteps; sparking students' imagination. He inspired another group of students to help set up a science lab at Saraswati school.
Mr. Krishnan is now the vice-principal of a primary school. He continues to inspire young students to scale their own mountains.
Even today, Mr. Krishnan smiles and fondly recounts anecdotes about Kumaran like a proud parent. The deep respect and affection is clearly mutual.