“IT’S MY LIFE!
Forty five years ago, wearing the black gown, tightly holding the degree in hand a girl comes out of the Madurai Kamaraj University’s Convocation Hall. Her poor old father seeing with teary eyes brimming with love & immense pride hugs her and kisses her forehead. The moisture of that kiss felt even today in her heart.
Yes, It was me born in 1950 and named Seenath Rohaiya. Fifty years back the situation of women education; especially Muslim women’s education was totally backward and unthinkable. Melapalayam was a little village in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu were a small time businessman, a small stamp vendor my father Mohamed Shafi lived. As a widower he oversaw all the social restrictions and displeasures of relatives, to educate his daughter. It was a time when no Muslim woman could go out without a male company for security and women were always inside the four walls of the house with curtained doors & windows. My own father’s elder brother (periappa) mocked my father saying, “Is she going to become a big collector, why should she go for studies?”. My father put me in the most reputed and popular Sarah Tucker Girl’s higher Secondary School, Palayamkottai, and famously called South India’s Oxford those times.
Every morning he took me on the five kilometre cycle ride and we were never late to school. Even if he had much work to do, he would always take me to and from school himself with love and devotion.
When I finished school, there was much pressure from the family side and other relatives to my father to get me married. In my mind, I always wanted to come out of all shackles and achieve on my own. My father did not ask me, but he knew my heart and was determinant that I pursue higher studies. I joined for my Bachelor’s degree in Sri Parasakthi Women’s College, Courtallam. The principal Shrimathi Bhagirathi and my entire teacher in the college in that college inspired and motivated me. I had to stay in the hostel and my father promptly came twice a week to visit, guide and bless me. Government Scholarship was a great help since those were poor times due to my father’s deteriorating health and business. Whatever is the situation he always asked me to work hard in my studies.
His words ignited my desire to achieve. I got all my books from my seniors especially Dr. Sulormani, my senior and my best friend to this day. I dedicated my degree which I had passed with distinction to my father who himself was uneducated. But my father wanted me to study further more. I happily went on to do my Masters degree in Tamil. I finished my studies with first class marks and with many publications of Tamil poems and essays in many periodicals.
The fact that I got a job in S.I.E.T College (now Justice Basheer Ahmed Sayeed College for Women) in Alwarpet, Chennai still feels like a miracle to me, nothing but God’s greatness at work. I became a part of Tamil department in the college. There were nine loving professors in the department and I saw in their faces my mother, whom I lost at the age of 3. My education and job lead me to my husband and we got married in 1977 with the blessings of my father. I faced a different life situation and I had to shower love to earn love. I sent a portion of my salary to my father till his last breath. It was Prof. Dr. Nafeesa Khaleem, a senior professor of English in the college in whom I considered as my reincarnated mother, who saved me when I was about to fall down and taught me humility during growth. My husband, though a well educated and a employed man, due to his large family was financially poor. But we earned together and I am much proud to say that we were able to educate many of our poor relatives. I had a son & a daughter within the first 5 years of my marriage.
Like a farmer sows a miniscule seed of a banyan that grows to be a huge tree which gives sanctuary to many birds & people under it, my father sowed the seed of my life and grew it with his sweat. Today I am like a banyan tree, with my son, a B.E., my daughter & daughter-in-law are both M.A., MPhil and my son-in-law is a M.E., PhD. Since I know the integral importance of education, the help I offer to others is always centred on education. Me and my husband together took over the education of many of the young children of our relatives. They come to us in various situations some incomplete and few who never started studying. We even encouraged and made our driver to become a graduate. Today as me and my husband live out of our pensions; we have adopted two children and support their living and educational needs.
All credits goes to my father who saw me become a Lecturer, then a Professor, then a Head of the Department and my anonymous contributor helping people in need of education.
Let us adore women and promote women’s education. Educating woman is equivalent to educating a family. I am proud be born as a woman and lucky to be born to such a father who realised the value of woman education as early as in 1950s.”
Prof. Head of the Department – Tamil (Retired), SIET (JBAS Women’s College,