Published: 06th March 2021
Women's Day: She passed +2 at 36. Nine years later, this college canteen worker has an MA in social work
Maragatha Valli talks about how she decided to attempt her +2 board exams 13 years after she left school and her journey since then
In 1992, when Maragatha Valli, who was all of 17 and from a small village in Dharmapuri, failed her +2 board exams, she was a little upset but it wasn’t like her to dwell in negativity. So a few years later, when her parents decided to get her married, she decided to just go ahead with it. She was too young to understand whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, so she just went along with whatever her parents asked of her.
It was only after she got married that life started to take its toll on her. A miscarriage, problems with her spouse, family issues... life dragged on. She gave birth to one son and one daughter and was then involved in their upbringing. Among the different jobs that she dabbled in was as an employee in a college canteen. While working at the college canteen, Valli started considering the possibility of completing her +2.
In that pursuit, she started going to a tutorial centre twice a week. The 45-year-old, currently living in Erode, managed a full-time job and tutorials for about a year. Like we'd mentioned, Valli was not someone who wallowed in negativity, so even when she talks about her life as a twelfth grader, she laughs off her failure, “I was just a very jolly child. I wasn’t that focused on studies and only studied when I wanted to. During those days, there was some confusion over theory and practical classes and I ended up not attempting the exam again. But then when I worked in the college canteen, I changed my mind about my education. I looked for a tutorial to help me prepare and took permission to attend the classes twice a week.” In 2011, at the age of 36, Maragatha passed her +2 board exams. That was ten years ago.
As soon as she passed her +2, Maragatha enrolled in a BA English course. Today, she has a Bachelor's degree in English from Annamalai University and a Master's degree in Social Work from Alagappa University. She has one more paper to clear her Masters degree in English. And in the middle of all this, she also pursued a course in fashion designing too!
“My sister did everything I didn’t. She went out and studied and learnt things. She encouraged me to chase my dreams too. She is like a second mother to me and so I’m very grateful to her. I think education gives women security that nothing else can. Today I encourage all women to pursue their education no matter what hurdles are in front of them,” she said. The 45-year-old encourages women, especially those who are without their husbands or are struggling in their marriages, to pursue education. “It helps women become brave. Young girls should ensure that they stay in college and complete their studies” she says.
The road has been tough. Her neighbours in her village make fun of her for constantly studying, the Erode resident says, laughing. “They all make fun of me because I’m constantly finding something to study. They joke about me every single day I’m attending a different seminar or lecture. But I really do enjoy learning,” she says. Now the learning has reduced a little bit because Maragatha’s own daughter just joined a BSc Psychology course and her son is in Class 12. Her children have always admired their mother for being a constant learner, “They also enjoy it when they see me poring over a book, preparing to study something. They also would give me ideas on how to study better. They’ve been extremely supportive,” she says.
Throughout the interview, Valli laughed and smiled, even when she spoke about the problems that plagued her family for years. But that’s just who she is, she tells me. “People also keep asking me how I manage to stay so positive all the time but that’s just how I am. I always like to see positivity even in the most negative of things.” I ask her what her other hobbies of interests are, “I like astrology and horoscopes. They intrigue me,” she says pausing thoughtfully and then adding, “What I really want and enjoy is cooking well and being able to eat what I’ve cooked. Eating a scrumptious meal that I myself have prepared, now that brings me the most happiness,” she says.
The 45-year-old says that even just a few years ago, she would get scared to board a bus after 6 pm, “Today, there is no fear. No matter how much later it is I can confidently get into a bus. I’ve learnt a lot by coming outside by home and pursuing an education, which is why I push other women to do so as well,” she says, with her now-signature laugh.