“I grew up in a small hut with my sisters and parents who were daily wage workers. By the time I was in the 4th standard, I had to discontinue my education.”
Overcoming impossible odds, N Rangaswamy, a resident of Attapadi in Kerala, has become the first PhD holder in the tribal village.
“I grew up in a small hut with my sisters and parents who were daily wage workers. The income that our family earned was very minimal, and it was barely enough to send us all to school. So, once I reached Class 4, I had to discontinue my education,” says Rangaswamy.
The situation was so bad that the family had to move in with some relatives, and help out with farming and other agricultural work. Rangaswamy pitched in as well, but his family knew that he was distressed about not being in school.
“They knew I was keen to continue my education. So, finally, my brothers, Ramachandran and Ramankutty sent me back to school,” he adds.
The relieved young boy studied hard, and by Class 7, he was the top student. Unfortunately, tragedy struck, and his father passed away.
“The grief was unbearable. I was torn and couldn’t see the way forward. But my family was incredibly supportive and helped me bounce back and focus on my studies.” he says.
After passing out from MR School Mananthavadi, Wayanad, he went on to pursue his bachelors in Hindi at Palakkad’s Victoria College.
“I actually wanted to study English, but the seat i got was for Hindi. At that time a lot of people asked me why I went on to pursue an arts subject, as I had chosen the science stream after Class 10, but this was my plan from the very beginning. I just wanted to explore my options. My ultimate goal was to become a professor.” he explains.
All of Rangaswamy’s college expenses were taken up by his family. Many times, even his professors helped him meet his monetary needs.
“I’ve had professors even buy me clothes after noticing that I only had a single pair of shirt and pants to wear every day,” he says.
Tired of the constant struggle for money, Rangaswamy decided to take up a part-time job after college. “I worked from 5 pm to 9 pm, every day at a stationery shop in the bus stand for a salary of Rs 700. This barely met any of my expenses, but it was still the start of something,” he adds.
After completing my BA, I went on to clear my MA in Hindi from Calicut University. This was followed by an MPhil, and I also cleared the UGC-NET exam, alongside.
In 2015, Rangaswamy got married to Naveena, and he mentions that she is an incredible source of strength and support. He is currently working as a guest lecturer in the Rajiv Gandhi College of Arts and Science, Attapadi.
“My goal was always clear. Even when everyone urged me to try out PSC exams, I was focussed on completing my studies and becoming a lecturer. Today as ‘Dr Rangaswami N,’ I hope I can be an example for the children from the community to follow their dreams and continue education,” he concludes.
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(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)