By Salil Jose
``Mother is the greatest word in the world. I owe everything to my mother who struggled to raise us. I dedicate my success to my mother.``
The woman in focus is 63-year-old Deeparamani - mother of Sarath Babu who hit the headlines in the recent times with his rags-to-riches story. Sarath, who is the CEO of Food King Catering Services Ltd and MTV Youth Icon 2008, is presently contesting the Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate from South Chennai constituency.
`Give us a chance, we`ll change the system`
However, behind the success of this Indian slumdog millionaire is the sad struggle of his mother. Ever since her husband abandoned Deeparamani and her two sons and daughters when she was 26 years old to marry another woman, her life was a toil. But despite living in a slum in Madipakkam in Chennai, she strived with hope.
She sold idlis in the mornings, worked in an anganwadi as an ayah later in the day and in the evenings she used to work in a clinic. But amidst all the toil, she did her bit of social service, as a volunteer for Arivoli Iyakkam (adult literacy programme).
``Sarath studied in King`s Matriculation School in Madipakkam. There were times when I was unable to pay the fees and he had to stand outside the classroom. However, teachers were kind with him as he was a bright student,`` she recollects.
But despite the poverty, Sarath`s educational brilliance forced her to let him follow his dream - of studying in BITS Pilani. She borrowed money from several people to send him to the prestigious institute and Sarath did justice to her by graduating in engineering with flying colours.
Soon after, Sarath joined the IT major Polaris Software and worked for three years. ``With his Polaris job, we repaid all our loans. One day he told me if he studied MBA, he would get more salary. I asked him to study more if he wished so. He passed CAT exam in fourth rank and joined IIM- Ahmedabad.``
But Deepa`s moment of glory arrived at the graduation ceremony of IIM-Ahmedabad. ``Everybody who came there told me I had a wonderful son,`` says Deepa with tears of joy. ``I was touched when a few of them said they craved for a mother like me and sought my blessing,`` she adds.
But it was at this juncture that Sarath decided to venture into food business. He started Food King Catering Services Ltd in Ahmedabad with a bare minimum capital of Rs 2,000. But the blessing in disguise was the chief guest who inaugurated the venture. It was none other than the Infosys chief mentor N R Narayana Murthy.
Food King became a phenomenally successful venture, catering to many multinational companies with branches in different cities. Currently, it has a turnover of Rs 9 crore.
``When his school felicitated him, Sarath said his dream was to give jobs to 50,000 people. I am sure he will achieve this,`` says the proud mother.
Sarath`s company now supports about 250 families now.
Deepa`s two daughters are now happily married and her younger son has joined hands with Sarath and supervises the Goa unit of Food King.Images: Universal Mothers
After donning various hats in her children`s lives, she is now busy drumming up support for Sarath`s victory in the elections
``I feel proud of him. His success is the reward for my struggle,`` adds the contented mother.