Fulfilling her lifelong dream, 104-year-old Indian woman learns to read

Fulfilling her lifelong dream, 104-year-old Indian woman learns to read
Fulfilling her lifelong dream, 104-year-old Indian woman learns to read

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW DELHI: When the morning newspaper arrives at her home in Thiruvanchoor village, Kottayam district, 104-year-old Kuttiyamma Konthy carefully studies it from front to back — a luxury unimaginable until a few months ago, when she fulfilled her dream of learning to read and write.

Illiterate all her life, the youngest daughter of landless farm workers from a marginalized community, Konthy knew that education was a passion she would not be able to pursue in her early years. As a teenager, she married an Ayurvedic medicine seller and raised five children.

“Life was harsh in the beginning and survival was the only concern those days,” Konthy told Arab News. “Education was beyond our means and imagination, and social standing.”

Decades later, while taking care of her 10 grandchildren, she learnt the alphabet of her native Malayalam — the language spoken in the southern Indian state of Kerala — but not well enough to read.

Help came unexpectedly when her 34-year-old neighbor, Rehna John, became aware of her dream.

A literacy teacher, John started giving alphabet books to Konthy and the two met every evening to review progress, which was quicker than expected.

“She is the brightest of all the literacy students I have taught so far,” John said. “She managed to finish all the courses in three months which were meant to last a year.”

Konthy’s achievement was recognized in November when she scored 89/100 in a state literacy exam and Kerala’s education minister, V. Sivankutty, announced her test results on social media, with a note that said “age is no barrier to entering the world of knowledge.”

Konthy can now enroll in the fourth year of elementary school — a new chapter she is looking forward to.

“It makes me happy that I can study,” she said. “I never allowed my dream to die, and I want to live this dream.”

Being active is also what she attributes her good health to. Besides some hearing and sight loss, the centenarian student does not complain of any ailments and says: “If you don’t sit idle and keep yourself engaged, that keeps you hale and healthy.”

Her morning engagement nowadays, before she goes on to do housework, is the local Malayalam-language broadsheet Kerala Kaumudi.

“I really look for the newspaper and read whatever is published there,” she said. “This is a habit for me and makes me feel good.”

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