Not so long ago, Kuruva Sivaprasad was a child labourer who lived in a rented one-room house that accommodated six members of his family. Today, he is an oncologist at the reputed state-owned Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad.
Hailing from a socially backward community in Rayalaseema’s Kurnool district, Sivaprasad had to battle abject poverty and hardship to reach where he is. At the age of 12, when he was in Class 7, Sivaprasad was forced to drop out from school and support his family financially. His father Easwarappa, a worker in a glass factory, could not make ends meet with his meagre monthly salary of Rs 1,500. And so, Sivaprasad was sent to a seeds factory to pack gunny bags.
The gruelling work separated Sivaprasad from his books, but luckily for him he was spotted by MV Sivakumar Reddy, the then Deputy Inspector of Factories, during an official inspection. “I saw the boy in a muddy white shirt and khaki shorts. After coming to know that he was a school dropout, I asked him to write his name on a piece of paper. To my surprise, his handwriting was very good. Then I asked him if he would like to get back to schooling and he said yes,” said Sivakumar Reddy.
A couple of days later, Sivaprasad and his father visited Sivakumar’s house. Easwarappa agreed to send his son to school if the officer helped him pay the school fees and purchase textbooks. From that day on, Sivakumar supported Sivaprasad’s education till he got his medical seat.
For his part, Sivaprasad did not let down the trust that Sivakumar had in his potential. He was the school topper in the Class 10 examinations and passed his Intermediate in Biology, Physics and Chemistry (Bi.PC) stream with distinction.
Recalling his childhood, Sivaprasad said, “We lived in a rented house with a single room to accommodate all the six members of our family. The house couldn’t even protect us from a drizzle. Come summer, we had to sleep in the open as we didn’t even have a fan.”
Sivakumar Reddy wasn’t the only Good Samaritan in Sivaprasad’s life.
Speaking of his struggle to get a medical seat, Sivaprasad said, “I approached a commercial bank that was conducting a loan mela for medical students in a college at Tirupati. This was during an admission counselling session for students who required financial assistance. However, my plea was obviously turned down because of my failure to produce collateral security.”
Later, the Chief General Manager at the same bank offered to give him a loan of Rs 2.5 lakh bypassing the collateral security guideline, after a regional TV channel telecast a story about Sivaprasad’s hardship. This enabled Sivaprasad to complete his MBBS course in a college in Nandyal, in his native district.
Sivaprasad went on to do his Doctor of Medicine (MD) in General Medicine from a top medical college in Kurnool. His story inspired his mentor Sivakumar’s daughter Lahiri to opt for Medicine after completing her Class 12. “My father wanted me to do engineering. But Sivaprasad, whom I call brother, succeeded in pursuing his dream with grit and determination although he comes from a poor background. This inspired me to take up Medicine as well,” said Lahiri.
Not everyone was happy at Sivaprasad’s success though. There were protests about a candidate from Andhra Pradesh getting a seat at NIMS, which is in Telangana. However, the Director of the Institute stood by Sivaprasad.
“NIMS has only one PG seat in Oncology, for which 50,000 medicos from across the country compete. It’s a big achievement that Sivaprasad got it by sheer merit in 2014,” said V Praveen Kumar, his classmate in Intermediate and now Deputy Tahasildar on probation at the Kurnool Collector office.
Sairam Golla, Sivaprasad’s childhood friend who’s now a software engineer at Accenture in Hyderabad, shared that Sivaprasad was such a brilliant student that he stood first in Class 7 despite the fact that he was away from school, slogging at the seeds factory for most of the academic year.
“I was regular to school, yet I failed to fare well in Mathematics and English. In fact, I used to go to Sivaprasad’s workplace to take his help to improve my basics in the two subjects,” Sairam added.
Speaking about why he chose Oncology, Sivaprasad said, “I preferred Oncology as I thought I have my task cut out for me in this particular field. The reason being, there is almost no one to treat cancer patients in our Rayalaseema region, except very few in Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences at Tirupati. I have got placed as Assistant Professor in Medical Oncology at NIMS, but several offers still keep pouring in from corporate hospitals, offering fat paychecks. But my future aim is to work at the government hospital and serve the people in my native Kurnool.”
Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states.