Published: 20th November 2021
At 75, this retired Kerala teacher completes masters degree despite suffering a stroke during final exams. This is her inspiring story
Kamala Bhai is a retired teacher who finished her MA in Malayalam from Kerala University. Her grit and confidence in going the distance is astonishing
Getting a masters degree is something that people usually set out to achieve in their twenties or even thirties. But imagine having to wait close to four decades to attain that dream of calling yourselves a masters graduate. That's the story of Thrikkannamangal native Kamala Bhai who recently completed her post graduation in Malayalam from the Kerala University through their distance learning programme. Believe it or not, she did this at 75 years of age!
It is not just her age that makes her feat commendable. She faced a stroke during her final year exams and had to write them while confined to a wheelchair. What made it even more difficult was that she was able to move only the right half of the body at that time. Despite all of this, she managed to pass with first-class grades. She even feels lucky to have had firsthand experience of online classes too.
A veteran in the field of schooling and education, she spent her entire career teaching in schools in and around Kottarakkara in the Kollam district of Kerala. She spoke to Edex Live about how education has always been highly held in her family for generations. "I would teach all subjects to kids till Class VII. Malayalam was just my personal interest. In fact, I even scored 100 per cent marks in my SSLC Mathematics exam," she says proudly.
Harking back to her teaching years, Kamala Bhai mentions, "I feel the way we behave and present ourselves to children, we reap the same in return. We must always keep in mind that parents expect a lot from teachers who guide their children. Sometimes, what teachers say holds more sway than even parenting." Her husband Janardhanan Pillai is also a retired headmaster who taught English and Social Science. The teaching mantle has now been taken up by Kamala Bhai's elder daughter.
Speaking about the debilitating stroke that hit her while writing the exams, she said, "For three papers, I was in the wheelchair and had only one good arm to work with. I am pretty confident that without those health issues, I would have got well over 70 per cent marks." Still, we believe that 65 per cent isn't too shabby either. She was taken to SN Ayurveda Medical College in during her exams for treatment. "I had considerable support from my family which gave me the confidence to complete the programme. Getting an MA in Malayalam was something which I had wanted for myself when I was about 38 years old and now I have finally done that at almost twice the age. Better late than never I guess," she chuckles.
All those years ago, Kamala Bhai had applied to study in the regular MA programme at Kerala University but couldn't get admission as she was unable to procure the migration certificate from Calicut University. So when the distance learning programme notified that migration certificate was not mandatory for candidates over 70 years old, she immediately jumped at the opportunity. That was all the motivation she needed.
The septuagenarian, who is an ardent admirer of Sarah Joseph's work, replies somewhat sheepishly when asked to recollect her time studying at Kerala University. "I am someone who is very direct in nature. I speak what comes to my mind unreservedly. I even wrote some of my own thoughts in my answer sheets. My professors told me that my marks went down a bit because of that. But that's all right," she laughs.
Kamala Bhai fondly remembers the assistance and guidance she received from her professors, especially Dr AM Unnikrishnan. "Despite being busy with teaching, writing and personal reading, he always comes through for the welfare of his students. I have been truly honoured to have learnt from him," she said.
Dr AM Unnikrishnan is a huge fan of Kamala Bhai himself. When asked about her influence, he said, "She is a huge inspiration to all those who studied with her and were far younger in age. But she kept up with them in spirits and was always keen to learn. She was always courteous to others and considered all peers as her equal. It was particularly disappointing when she had to face her health problems. But her nature made it very easy for us to assist her in any manner possible. In the end she proved her mettle as a student and as a strong willed person."