Penned by Board Member Ms. Alo Pal

I drew the hexagon on the margin of my notebook and marked the 6 Carbon and Hydrogen atoms with single bonds and asked Kalaiselvi to explain the 4th carbon bonds, Kalaiselvi took my pen and promptly added the alternate lines in the hexagon and put the pen down and smiled a happy smile. I told her how my teacher had recounted to us the legend of Kekule getting inspired to find the structure of Benzene by dreaming of a snake eating its own tail. We shared a happy moment exchanging our love of chemistry. 

Kalaiselvi had completed her B.Sc. and B.Ed. and was preparing to appear for the exam for a govt posting of an Upper Division Clerk when I spoke to her a few weeks back. She was confident about securing the placement and I decided to write her story after the results were out. Last week Ravi informed me that Kalaiselvi had not been selected. Cruel as it may seem I wasn’t disappointed at all. Here’s why

Kalaiselvi’s father, an incurable alcoholic, had deserted the family when she was 7 and her younger sister 5, but he didn’t disappear from their lives. He settled with another woman. Not only was the family suddenly left with a drastically reduced income, but also suffered the humiliation of their father pursuing his new life before their eyes. No help came from an only uncle who himself, an alcoholic, had his own troubles. They shifted temporarily to their grandmother’s house but the girls often found themselves on the street, barred from entering the house every time their mother, Rajalakshmi and their grandmother fought. 

Rajalakshmi regretted not having a formal education and didn’t want her daughters to live a life of hard labor like herself. That is when the principal of Kalaiselvi’s younger sister’s school suggested she seek help from Sharana. Both children became beneficiaries of our Back-To-School Academic Support program securing excellent grades. Sharana paid for their tuitions and later, even as she studied for her B.Sc., Kalaiselvi taught at that very tuition center to bring home some extra income. Today both the girls run a tuition center in their house. 

The family lived through the COVID years in hunger. Rajalakshmi, a daily wage earner wasn’t going to work and if they ate at all in those years it is because Sharana distributed food packets. 

Alo – “In all these years, since your father lived just down the street, did he ever offer to help?”

Kalaiselvi – “Never”

A – “He abused his wife, your mother, but did he ever look upon you and your sister with love as a father? Even a little bit?”

K- “The only memory I have of my father is his loud voice, abuse and the stench of alcohol. If he came close to us, we moved away.”

What this family had endured and become was the definition itself of strength, resilience, diligence and grace. Neatly groomed speaking to me with confidence and calm she dissimulated her struggles with uncanny poise. Her wish to seek a permanent secure government job was perfectly understandable. But now I hope you too understand why I wasn’t disappointed or sad. This bright young girl was made of singular metal. Not only would she endure the setback but I am certain of her triumph and I promise I will bring that epilogue to close through another story as it should and is bound to.