Pointing to an old, damaged wooden cot placed by a window in her unfinished home in Wayanad, Kamalam said, “This is where my daughter would sleep whenever she came home. She has struggled a lot in her life. Now God has given her a big gift.”

Her daughter, Sreedhanya, 26, set a record of sorts on Friday when she became the first Adivasi woman from Kerala to crack the civil service examination. Sreedhanya, who belongs to the Kurichiya community of Pozhuthana village, secured 410th rank in her third attempt.

Sreedhanya lived in her family’s unfinished home for 17 years before moving to Kozhikode to pursue a graduation and post graduation in zoology. The house stands on 60 cents of land given by the Kerala government. But the family is yet to get its title deed. “I could not borrow money from any bank to complete the house,” said her father KK Suresh. “So we were not able to provide even basic amenities for our children. We could not buy even a shelf to keep their books, leave alone give them a decent place to sleep.”

Sreedhanya's home at Pozhuthana village in Wayanad. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen

Suresh and Kamalam are daily wage labourers who depend mainly on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to make ends meet. Suresh also makes and sells bows and arrows – traditional Adivasi hunting weapon – at the local market. “In spite of the hardship, we never compromised on their education,” said Suresh. “And Sreedhanya gave us a big gift today. We are proud of her.”

Sreedhanya’s older sister Sushitha Suresh, 31, is a state government employee and her younger brother Sreerag Suresh, 20, is a second year diploma student at the Government Polytechnic in Wayanad.

Sreedhanya outside Parliament House in New Delhi. Photo via Facebook

Fighting spirit’

After completing her post graduation from Calicut University, Sreedhanya worked as a clerk with Kerala’s Scheduled Tribes Development Department and then as a warden at the Adivasi hostel in Wayanad. “There, she got an opportunity to speak with then Wayanad collector Sreeram Samashiva Rao. He pushed her to write the civil service exam,” said Suresh. “So, she moved to Thiruvananthapuram for civil services coaching.”

It’s a day of celebration’

Villagers in Pozhuthana, around 20 km from the district headquarters of Kalpetta, are planning a grand welcome for Sreedhanya when she comes home on Sunday.

Kamalam has been welcoming visitors with sweets since Friday. Photo credit: TA Ameerudheen

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan congratulated Sreedhanya on her success on Saturday and Governor P Sathasivam will felicitate her at the state rest house in Kalpetta on Sunday.

Since Friday night, her home has seen a steady stream of visitors. Kamalam has been welcoming them with sweets. “Today I forget all sorrows in my life,” she said. “It’s a day of celebration for us.”

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