Bhageerathi Amma may not have any teeth left, but the 105-year-old has enough gumption to write and pass a school-level exam. A native of Kollam in Kerala, Bhageerathi has just passed her Level 4 equivalency exams conducted by the State Literacy Mission, scoring 205 out of the total 275 marks. She is, no surprise, the oldest student in India to have taken the exam and created history.
She's scored 74.5 per cent, Bhageerathi will probably tell you that herself. She has scored full marks for Math, 75 on 75. There are four subjects in all including Malayalam, ‘Nammalum Namukku Chuttum’ (Us and what’s around us), English and Math. Total marks for English is 50 and for the other subjects it is 75. Bhageerathi got 30 for English and 50 each for Malayalam and Nammalum Namukku Chuttum.
PS Sreekala, director of Kerala Literacy Mission, visited Bhageerathi’s house in Prakkulam, Thrikkaruva Panchayat, to congratulate her. The centenarian told Sreekala that her aim was to complete the level 10 equivalency exams. Sreekala, remembering Bhageerathi’s earlier statement, said, “So you really meant it when you said Math was really easy!” and the oldest student in India smiled her toothless smile.
Bhageerathi Amma with PS Sreekala
Bhageerathi, who also loves poetry and music, recited for Sreekala, four lines of legendary poet Changampuzha’s Spandikunna Asthimadam, in tune.
“Tharangal kanmitho ningal
Thaazhe ulloree pretha kudeeram,
Hantha!yinnathin chitha rahasyam,
Entharinju ha! Durasthar ningal”
(Oh stars, do you see-
This tombstone down here?
Of the secrets that lie in its bosom,
What do you know, you dwell so far.)
Bhageerathi has six children and 16 grandchildren. She's spending her life with her fifth-generation descendants.
A total of 11,593 people wrote the Level 4 equivalency exams in the state, out of which, 10,012 have passed the exams. Among those that passed, 9,456 are women. In Pathanamthitta, all the 385 people who wrote the exam, have passed.
It is in October 2018 that Karthyayini Amma, aged 96 years, created history by passing an equivalency exam, scoring 98 on 100. She got international attention and representatives from the Common Wealth visited her house in Cheppad, Haripad, Kerala to honour her.