Over the years, he kept rising through the ranks, after appearing for various departmental exams, to finally retire as a director from the ministry in 1986 at the age of 58, but his one dream remained unfulfilled– that of becoming a graduate.
“Family responsibilities kept me from pursuing my passion for studies, but at 87, finally, that opportunity knocked on my door,” said 93-year-old CI Sivasubramanian who was the oldest student at the IGNOU convocation on Monday. Sivasubramanian received his masters’ degree in public administration at the convocation and his zest for knowledge was praised by HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ who called him a 90-year-old “youngster”.
“After finishing my school in 1940s, I wanted to go to college but that meant either shifting to Trichy or Chennai. Meanwhile, both my parents fell ill and my relatives advised me against going because I had to take care of them. So, I got a job and started working,” he told PTI.
Later, the family shifted to Delhi, and he got a job as a clerk in the Ministry of Commerce in 1940s. Over the years, he kept rising through the ranks, after appearing for various departmental exams, to finally retire as a director from the ministry in 1986 at the age of 58, but his one dream remained unfulfilled– that of becoming a graduate. “In fact, I was offered an opportunity to be part of a programme in the United Nations. But since I was not a graduate, I could not go. “During my tenure at the ministry, I even enquired about the correspondence courses available at Delhi University but then I was transferred and could not pursue them,” he said.
The nonagenarian wanted to pursue studies after his retirement but then family responsibilities and ensuring that his children got the best education meant that his dream was put on the backburner. He has three daughters and a son, all of whom have retired from prestigious positions.
“My grandchildren have finished their studies and some of them are married. One of my granddaughters is studying medicine in the US,” he said.
“I taught my children English and Maths when they were in school, but I myself could not pursue graduation then,” he said.
However, an unlikely turn of events ended up steering him in the direction of his dream.
“My wife was rendered bedridden when I was 87. I used to be by her bedside all through the day and my daughters would also come. “One day, her physiotherapist said that he would leave a little early that day as he had to go to IGNOU to collect his form to apply for a course. I asked him to find out whether I could also apply.
“He found that age is no bar at IGNOU and then I enrolled for the bachelors’ course in public administration even though I told my children, ‘I do not know whether I will be alive long enough to complete it’. After finishing my graduation, I enrolled for the masters degree,” he said.
In the last six years, his routine revolved around getting up at 5 am and immersing himself in books.
“I would study early in the morning so that I could keep time for other activities through the day. I am a sports enthusiast also and love watching sports,” he said.
As his handwriting became illegible with age, his daughter used to write his assignments and she was also his scribe during exams.
A tragedy struck him last year when he lost his wife, but not before she held his degree in her hands.
“I had completed my degree but it was only after a year that I received it. In that period, my wife was in her last stages and I handed her the degree and told her, ‘Finally, your husband is a graduate’. She passed away two days later,” he said.
Asked about his plans now, he said, “I wanted to pursue MPhil but then one of my daughters said, ‘There are few seats in MPhil and if you enroll for it, you will snatch the seat of an eligible candidate.
“I have asked them whether I can pursue another masters’ course but I will see. Meanwhile, I have learnt that there are short-term courses offered by some websites, so I will probably choose one of them,” he said. PTI SLB AAR AAR