Published: 06th March 2021
Women's Day: Back to school is cool for 52-year-old Ressy Mathew. Check out her awe-inspiring story
After spending three decades as a labourer, Ressy Mathew restarted college in her late 40s. We spoke to her
Every morning, dressed in a dark blue salwar, vest and a light blue kurta, Ressy Mathew boards a bus to Alphonsa College, Pala, from her house. Sometimes people would stare at her. The stares often translate to a frown or a smirk but the 52-year-old says that she doesn't care anymore. In 2018, she went back to college after a break of three decades.
"It was in the 1980s that I dropped out of pre-degree, after failing English. Mine is quite a poor family, my father died when I was a child and my mother was ill," says Ressy. She had three younger siblings who had to be fed. So, at the age of 18, she left her home in Kottayam to go to Andhra Pradesh and work in a school. Ressy regrets that decision even today. "I was treated like a slave there. I hardly got any rest. There was no job there that I did not do and for most of my time, I wasn't even paid," Ressy breaks down going back in time.
Soon after that, her mother passed away. "I worked in Andhra Pradesh for a few more years. Later, I went to Delhi and then to Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, I got my sisters married. Also, I had two children of my own," she says. In 2010, she returned home to Kottayam, with empty pockets and two children. "Settling down in Kerala took some time. I had to start from scratch. My children and I had to get all our documents sorted, find a roof over our head and find a livelihood," she says. Upon returning, she started working in nearby houses as household help.
Ressy tells us how she always wanted to restart her education. "It was a dream that I thought was unachievable. I had an opportunity once to study again, but the factory where I worked never let me go," she says. However, in 2015, she got herself registered with the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority to write the class XII exam, which she went on to pass. After that, she enrolled in Alphonsa College, the same college where she studied her pre-degree thirty years ago. In fact, during her first stint, Ressy also won the best actor award at the college's cultural fest.
"In the first year, I got up at 3:30 am every day and worked as a maid at a nearby house. But I stopped that after a year, owing to the lack of time," she says. But that, she says, is taking a toll on her financial status as she struggles to make ends meet. "I still do not have a house on my own. I had applied for various government schemes, but nothing has materialsied until now. I have no hope left," she says.
She tells us how she hasn't paid rent for close to five months. "It was especially difficult during the lockdown when we had to find devices to attend classes online. A few organisations have helped us, but the government has turned a blind eye to me and my family," she says. However, this time, Ressy isn't ready to give up her studies. "I only have a semester more to go. After that, I want to study law and fight for people's rights. And if possible, I want to contest the elections and help the ones suffering," she says.