For almost four years, a mother-daughter duo have been preparing together for the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) exams. Now, 47-year-old Santhi Lakshmi and her daughter Thenmozhi, finally have reason to celebrate as they have cleared the exams and have both received state government jobs.
Hailing from a small village near Theni, Santhi Lakshmi was only 15 years old when she got married. Barely out of Class 10, she focussed on adjusting to family life and supporting her husband, who was a farmer. However, her dreams of pursuing higher education remained deep inside her heart.
“I have always wanted to study, ever since childhood. Circumstances made me get married and start a family, but my wish was always there. After marriage, I did work towards my dream, but the process was slow,” Santhi Lakshmi told TNM.
After six years of marriage, she passed her Class 12 exams, following which she enrolled in a typewriting course and completed both the lower and higher levels. She took a small gap after that and then started her BA (Tamil) and graduated in 2010. Four years later, she suffered a personal loss after her husband died of a brief illness. A mother of three girls, Santhi Lakshmi eventually moved on with her life. She and her daughter Thenmozhi are currently pursuing postgraduate degrees in Tamil through correspondence courses from Madurai Kamaraj University.
But this was not Santhi Lakshmi’s first attempt at the TNPSC exams. She has been a regular face at the TNPSC centre in Theni since 2012, and had cleared the exam three times before. But each time, she was thwarted at the counselling level since there were no vacancies.
In 2015, Thenmozhi, now 28, finished her undergraduate degree and started preparing for the TNPSC at Thinai Payirchi Pattarai, a coaching centre with free classes in Theni. “My mom also used to come to classes with me. Since my grandparents were staying with us, amma could join the class only by 12 noon and had to leave by 3 pm since my sister needed individual care. So I used to fill her in on missed classes when I came back home,” says Thenmozhi.
At night, after the family had wound up for the day, Thenmozhi would narrate what was taught in class to her mother like a story. The next morning, when Santhi Lakshmi and Thenmozhi would have their tea, the mother would narrate the lesson back to the daughter.
Santhi Lakshmi has also always pushed her girls to study. “Never has she said one word against educating us. She has always encouraged us to work for our studies,” Thenmozhi says. She adds that one sister is pursuing a BSc Maths, while the youngest sister is studying in Class 2.
And for Santhi Lakshmi, she said her own parents have been a constant “pillar of support.” “Otherwise how do you think I can manage three girls at home and still study and work for my dreams? I love Tamil and that is why I chose to pursue my higher studies in it. I want to complete M. Phil and Ph.D and become a Tamil professor,” she says.
On Monday, Santhi Lakshmi started her new job at the Tamil Nadu Health Department and will move to Veerapandi in Theni district soon. Thenmozhi is awaiting her posting location in the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.