Despite being polio-affected, she made a ‘world’ of her own

Educational counsellor Nellai Ulagammal S is abreast with current affairs, finds her happy place with children and in writing poems

Published: 13th May 2019 06:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2019 12:23 PM   |  A+A-

Nellai Ulagammal S (Photo |D Kishore Kumar/EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: I lived in a home in Tirunelveli with my parents and four siblings. I was affected by polio at a young age; my legs do not function normally. I had to study in a Corporation school from classes 1 to 12 since that was considered to be a better place for kids like me. Children used to make fun of the way I walked and moved around...but I got used to it. I had supportive parents. My father was the first to introduce the concept of nursery schools in Tirunelveli. I used to spend my weekends with the kids reading rhymes and helping them write.

After completing school, I pursued BCom. I used to take care of accounts for my father’s friends and give tuitions to schoolchildren. My gut told me that I was good with children, so I got interested in teaching. My passion for studying fetched me multiple degrees — MCom, MEd, MPhil, PGDCA, Diploma in Corporative Management course (DCoop), and MSc. My tryst with Chennai began in September 2001.

I started my career with one of the first private IAS coaching institutes in the city — Ganesh’s IAS Centre. I’ve appeared for UPSC exams twice — in 2001 and 2002 — but couldn’t clear it. Eventually, I started handling the management of the academy. I used to start early from home and most of my day was spent at work. Somebody had to drop me home late at night. In 2012, I decided to get a bike with support wheels. People were surprised to see my confidence.

I had no road fear. I was keen to get my own licence. I went to the RTO myself and procured it. I believe that if you want to get something done, then you have to do it yourself. Come rain or shine, I have been commuting on my own since then. I have a friend who has been with me for 14 years. She accompanies me to all the places I visit and helps me at home. I always have the back of my subordinates at work. I want people to feel at home everywhere.

My day is incomplete without wishing everyone in the morning — right from the milkman to newspaper boys. Meanwhile, in 2016 I got a machine designed to help with my mobility. It’s more like a rolling chair made by a person I know. I can move around without anybody’s support. My stint with the coaching centre came to an end after 14 years in January 2015. Now, my mornings begin with listening to Akashvani radio news. Then I skim through newspapers and jot down important points from current affairs.

I am part of a WhatsApp group where I discuss general knowledge with students who used to study in the academy. I also help my students through my Facebook posts on the latest news I come across on several platforms. I own six Facebook pages and a YouTube channel. I feel glad when students pass their exams and thank me with a box of sweets. Educational counselling is my second calling. It all began when someone approached me to give a lecture to students of a Corporation school. I had to start by addressing 200 students and that was my first time. It was a self-evaluation platform for me. These were all kids from troubled backgrounds. We discussed various issues — domestic abuse, homosexuality, relationship problems and troubled parenting.

The kids liked my sense of humour and since then there has been no looking back. The word about my counselling sessions spread and soon I decided to extend these sessions to government schools. This required a certificate from the education commissioner.

I managed to get an appointment and went to meet them with a file of all my accomplished projects, including the names of schools where I lectured, the topics I’ve discussed and a recommendation letter from headmasters and principals. Impressed with my work, I was granted permission and also given a list of schools to conduct counselling sessions for the year. As of 2018, I have given lectures in 13 Corporation schools and six government schools. I’ve worked with 12,000 students from 13 colleges in four years. I’m glad that kids listen to me, open up and share their concerns.

I also work with men in police departments and alcohol rehabilitation centres. Life has been good to me. I have an encouraging family and loving friends. I spend my leisure time writing poetry and stitching. I love recording everyday events. A scroll down my Facebook page will update you on all memorable moments with pictures and long captions. I’ve had my share of rough patches but nothing has stopped me so far from doing what I like. A heart that gives without expectation from others has brought me this far in life.

(As told to Vaishali Vijaykumar)

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  • R.Paathasarathy

    My name is R.Parthasarathy. I am staying in the same apartment where M/s Ulagam mal is staying.I read the article and very much impressed and touched. Especially her interest toward the student and counselling is to be appreciated.I pray God for her healthy peaceful long life
    11 days ago reply
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