Deluge is a regular affair for us: Mother of Sreedhanya Suresh, Kerala's first tribal to clear civil services exam
Kamala Suresh said at least two sacks of her daughter's books were lost in the deluge last year, but could not stop her from achieving her life's ambition - clearing the UPSC exam.
When Kerala was hit by the worst floods of the century in August last year, Idiyamvayal region near Pozhuthana of Wayanad district too suffered a lot like most of the state.
Asked about it, Kamala Suresh replied with a pinch of dark humour. "It is always a deluge here once the monsoon arrives. So, it made no difference. We used plastics to cover the leaking roofs..." she said.
Coming from a resident of a tribal hamlet in Kerala's most backward district, the statement holds little But then Kamala is the mother of Sreedhanya Suresh - the first tribal girl from Kerala to crack the civil services exam - and it is her house that is being discussed.
The 26-year-old, who secured the 410th rank in a 759-member list, spent the best part of her life in this house under that leaking roof devoting many hours everyday mastering books until she moved to her sister's rented residence in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kamala said at least two sacks of her daughter's books were lost in the deluge last year. But that did not stop Sreedhanya from achieving her life's ambition - clearing the UPSC exam.
Her parents are both daily wage labourers and all they could do was helplessly watch their three children toiling with books in the night due to poor light. Sreedhanya too, like her siblings, spent hours mastering her study materials in her small room, which had old sarees and wool in place of walls.
"Sreedhanya and her siblings went to school by foot. They daily walked about 4 kilometres daily as we couldn't afford to arrange any transportation for them. Wiring works were completed in this house only five years ago and we had no power supply before that," Kamala said.
Recounting her daughter's determination, the proud mother added,"She never failed. She got admission for graduation and post-graduation under the merit quota easily because her grades were very good."
For Sreedhanya's father Suresh, the various grants and scholarships that the children used to receive from schools were a great relief as they covered at least the educational expenses. He recalled how the situation worsened as Sreedhanya went to college since it became increasingly difficult for him to make ends meet.
"I couldn't afford any of her additional expenses. She wanted to buy a laptop when she joined under-graduation but there was no way I could afford it. Except for the regular study materials, I wonder if she ever had any other aids. Once she joined Devagiri College, Kozhikode, there was the hostel and mess fees too. It was very difficult for us to find the money for it," he remembers.
"All she had in her hand was one old mobile phone that she used throughout her college life," Kamala chipped in.
"Things are not very different even now. Our son (a Diploma student) still has got only one set of uniform. He washes it after class to use it again the next day," she added.
When the UPSC results came, Sreedhanya was nursing a broken arm. She had been hit by an electric shock while charging her laptop and landed on her elbow, hurting herself.
The laptop was a recent addition. Her parents said she didn't have it while clearing the civil service prelims. After this a couple realising the enormity of her achievement gifted it, they said.
Vishal TA, Sreedhanya's brother, says she deserves all the praise coming her way.
"She is my motivation. She always showed the grit to overcome all hardships for achieving her aims. Such is the character that she always tried to keep all of us at home happy by hiding her emotions," he said.
Outside Sreedhanya's house, bows and arrows are still kept, according to the Kurichya tradition. There is a big target board on one side of the courtyard. It was in her third attempt that she hit bull's eye in the prestigious competitive exam. A heroine's welcome awaits Sreedhanya upon her victorious return to her village.