Through April, Rajashree Lala’s son, Shivam, conducted pop quizzes for her.
The 10-year-old was helping his 39-year-old mother prepare for her first year LLB exams.
Getting back to course books, after a long break — for marriage, raising Shivam and running a furnishing store — hasn’t been easy for Lala.
For now, mother and son compete at studies. “When he goes to school, I have college, so our timings don’t clash. It’s only during exams that I need to concentrate more on my studies,” said the Colaba resident. “But sitting for an exam after 20 years, getting a hall ticket and all of that, was quite nostalgic.”
Several women like Lala, who put their educational pursuits on hold for marriage and motherhood, are heading back to class and sharing benches with much younger classmates.
Poornima Nair (48), a research scholar at IIT-Bombay, could not pursue a PhD after her son was born in 1995. To reduce the infant’s growing dependency on her, she took up a part-time job at IIT-B three years later and is now doing her PhD in multiple intelligences. Juggling work, studies and her home, Nair has had to resort to cooking food for three months and storing it in the freezer.
For science graduate Deepa Nawany (47), academics took a backseat to marriage. Then, helping her son with his homework and taking him to swimming lessons took up most of her time. But last year, when a lawyer friend filed a PIL in the high court challenging the Bar Council of India’s move to introduce a 30-year age bar for the LLB course, Nawany became one of the petitioners.
“My dad was a lawyer and I felt this was my calling,” said the first-year LLB student. “Once you clear one semester, your confidence level increases. It feels good to be part of a mixed crowd, with people from all ages coming to learn.”
Nirja Bhatnagar (46) signed up for an MBA course to keep up with the times. “While I was working, there had been changes in expression, thinking and market behaviour. I found myself left out,” said Bhatnagar, who took her final-year exams in April.
But coping with younger classmates, whose thought processes didn’t match hers, was difficult. “The teachers were younger, and had less work experience. The power dynamics were stressful, but it taught me how to deal with the new generation,” she said. “I haven’t done any Diwali cleaning for three years. I’m grateful to my husband and daughter and will thank them at my convocation.”