Meet Ramanimohan Pal, a retired government employee and father of two sons and a daughter - all engineers. At 69, Pal, a chronic heart patient, is the oldest student appearing this year for the higher secondary examinations under the Tripura Board of Secondary Education.
Surrounded by 17 and 18-year-olds at the Umakanta Academy centre, the examinee seemed cool and yet serious about taking the exam.
"I had last appeared in an intermediate exam with my wife Leela in 1967. But soon after the invigilator distributed the question paper on the first day of the exam, I decided to drop out and left the hall all of a sudden," recalled Pal.
He was then a state government employee. "My dream of studying and earning a degree came true only to the extent that my children Debabrata, Mousumi and Jayanta became engineers," Pal said.
Originally hailing from Bangladesh, Pal and his parents migrated to the Belonia subdivision in South Tripura district in 1950. He studied at Belonia Vidyapeeth from Class 6 to Class 9 and always stood first in class.
Later, the Pal family shifted to Agartala and he joined government service in 1958. Pal retired in 1996 from the Public Health Engineering Department. "After retirement I had enough time on hand and nothing to do. It was then that I felt I should complete the unfinished dream of having a higher secondary certificate," he said.
His wife Leela, 63, also a retired employee, is happy with her husband's decision and inspired him to take up studies once again.
"Age can never be a barrier for education. We are really very happy that despite he being a diabetic and having a heart problem, he was determined to sit for the exam this year," said Leela, a former head clerk at the Public Works Department.
On Thursday, when Pal went to appear for the exam, his entire family including his grandchildren saw him off at the school and wished him luck. "My wife and granddaughters are the source of my confidence. They had all along encouraged me," he said, smiling.
"Though he did not disclose it, we know our father had secretly taken coaching from a private institution," his eldest son Debabrata said.
In all 16,154 students, including 8,973 boys, sat in this year's higher secondary examinations conducted by the Tripura board.