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The perseverance and determination of this Tamil Nadu woman, a first-generation graduate, Balasundari, a native of Kovilpatti town in southern Tamil Nadu has transformed her family’s fortunes overnight. The daughter of an employee of a provisions store, Balasundari broke through the barriers of very poor family background, working hard at her lessons in a Government Municipal School in Tamil medium. She stood first in her school and later completed her graduation in engineering. She is now a Software Engineer. Not resting on her academic laurels, this pioneering Tamil Nadu woman has ensured that two of her sisters attend college.

Balasundari is asking a new breed of Tamil Nadu women, determined to beat the odds. A native of Kovilpatti Town under Thoothukudi District she is the daughter of Murugesan, who earned his living working in a provisions store. Her Mother Ramalakshmi has three other daughters. Balasundari is a story of grit and determination and keen pursuit of all available opportunities. She shared her experiences with us.

“Our family suffered abject poverty and my father had to take care of the six of us out of his meagre income earned working in a provision store. Whatever he earned was not enough. My mother used to take job work from factories sticking labels on matchboxes. After completing our school, we all used to sit along with her till late night hours and assist her. My father’s dream was to ensure that all his daughters should graduate although he could complete his own education only up to matriculation.

Not resting on her academic laurels, this pioneering Tamil Nadu woman has ensured that two of her sisters attend college.

So, our family migrated to Madurai city. My father’s job was to transport water cans in a push cart and supply to households and also door-deliver groceries to various houses. His work would extend to late hours without any break in between. The owner of the shop where my father worked was kind enough to provide us with a house at Aarapalayam and my father earned upto Rs.8000 per month.

Having studied upto 5th Standard in the government-aided School in Kovilpatti, I got admitted to standard 6 at a Corporation School on Silver Street at Madurai City. My sisters also got admitted to the same school. The midday meals provided by the school kept us going as we could not afford to bring our own food from home.”

Balasundari recalls that she put in hard work and scored 469 out of 500 marks in her 10th Standard. For her Plus One level, she opted for Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Computer Science. “I studied diligently mainly due to the excellent teaching and support from all my teachers. I did not have the money for extra tuitions. Whatever doubts I had in my lessons, I used to seek clarifications from my teachers who explained so nicely that I was able to understand and retain the concepts. I stood first in my school in the Plus Two Examinations in 2015 scoring 1102 marks out of 1200. My cut-off mark for Engineering admission was 184.5.”

  For her Plus One level, she opted for Mathematics, Physics,  Chemistry and Computer Science. “I studied diligently mainly due to the excellent teaching and support from all my teachers.”

“I told my father that I wanted to enroll for Engineering Course specialising in Computer Science. My father was depressed, as we were already in heavy debt and he could not afford to educate me in an Engineering College. He suggested that I enroll in an arts college.”

Balasundari with her mother during her graduation ceremony at Sathyabama University

Not fazed, Balasundari relied on the advice of her teachers. They told her that she could approach the Agaram Foundation for help. “I immediately applied and was granted admission at Sathyabama University in the BE Electrical & Electronics Course. I was able to pursue my education at no cost. During the 8th Semester, in 2018 October, I landed a job through Campus Recruitment Drive in Hexaware Software Technologies. They asked me to join even though I had not completed my degree.

The University Administration was kind enough to grant me permission and so I used to attend my job during the day and later in the evening, my friends in the hostel helped me with the day’s classes. I completed my last Semester Examination and scored 7.5 GPA scores and graduated successfully. Meanwhile, my first sister Usha completed her BA (Tamil) from the Kovilpatti Government Arts College and got employed in a Departmental Store as Billing Clerk. One of my other sisters Karthika is pursuing her second year B.Sc., Computer Science and the last one is doing her B. Com, first year course. As soon as I started earning, I ensured that all debts of my family were cleared fully and that two of my sisters were getting educated. It is my goal that they turn out to be graduates!”

Meanwhile, her father’s health condition had setbacks and she requested him not to continue working. “I also shifted our residence from Madurai back to Kovilpatti in September 2020. I have put in over three years as a Software Engineer in Hexaware Software Technologies and as it is Work from Home, I am working from my residence in Kovilpatti. If I am asked to work from Chennai, I may have to move there,” says Balasundari.

Hard work, determination and the will to achieve removes all hurdles as this young Tamil Nadu woman’s story shows.

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