“I want to study too, I must go to school!” When 96-year-old Karthyayini Amma opened up about her aspiration, the State Literacy Mission instructor from Alappuzha district, K Sathi was hesitant to act on it. “Do you, really?” she checked again. When Karthyayini Amma replied with a firm yes, Sathi went ahead and made arrangements to enrol her as student. The jubilant grandma was all smiles as she held a pencil and started learning her Malayalam alphabets all over again.
That she has set a record of sorts is inconsequential to Karthyayini Amma, who lives in Cheppad near Harippad. The Literacy Mission however identifies her as the oldest literacy student in the state.
“Sathi teacher comes to teach me in the mornings and evenings. And, when the kids sit down for their lessons, I join them too. My father was an ‘ezhuthu aasan’ (instructor) and he had initiated me into some writing when I was small. But those were different times, and it did not continue for long. I started doing errand jobs at the temple nearby. We lived near the Haripad palace, and I used to go there for work. It just went on and there was little time for anything else. I used to work at the palace till about three years ago,” says the sprightly grandma.
She wears a serious look and declares that she has an exam coming up on July 22. “If I do well, I will be promoted to class 4. Then there’s an exam to pass class 7. When I am 100, I will be sitting for my class 10 exam,” she says with confidence.
Her daughter Ammini shared her concern that Karthyayini Amma had recently undergone a cataract surgery and all the writing could put a strain on the eye. “The surgery was done at Tirunelveli. I had to go there twice and went alone on both the occasions,” says Karthayayini, bailing herself out of any arguments concerning her health.
Ammini had passed the SSLC equivalency examination last year, which inspired her mother to restart her schooling.
“My mother is the best student at home. Even when my kids are monkeying around, their grandmother would be diligently doing her lessons,” says Ammini. “All her life, she has worked very hard for all of us. Its heartening to see her do something that makes her happy,” she adds.
Sathi teacher gives her student full marks for her enthusiasm. “Just watching her go about her business with energy and cheerfulness should be a lesson for the younger generations,” she says, grinning widely at her 96-year-old pupil.