A disclaimer first. This is not an inspirational movie story. This is the real life story of Neena George, a Class 10 dropout who fought against heavy odds and became an advocate at the age of 42.
Come December 15, Neena's parents, children, brothers and parents of her former husband will witness her enrolling as an advocate at the Kerala High Court. "This is the result of my hard work and perseverance," Neena said.
Neena hails from Vaduthala in Kerala's Ernakulam district. She dropped out of Class 10 after she had fallen in love with a man living in her neighbourhood. The relationship lasted for just four years. When she decided to call it quits unable to cope with her husband's alcoholism and physical assaults, she became mother of two children. "I was ignorant and blinded by love. It was too late by the time I faced the harsh realities of life," she recounted.
But she was not willing to give up. She rented out a house. She also began learning typewriting in both English and Malayalam. She worked part-time for 10 years before landing a clerk's job at High Court lawyer Advocate Denny Joseph's office.
In 2011, she passed Class 10 equivalence exam conducted by the Kerala State Literacy Mission. It triggered her passion for studies. In 2013, she cleared Class 12 equivalence examination.
In 2014, Advocate Denny Joseph gave her an offer that she couldn't refuse. "If you clear the LLB entrance examination, I will help you out with the studies," he said. Neena took it as a challenge. She cleared the entrance examination and joined Ernakulam Law College as a full-time law student.
Nonetheless, she continued with her clerical job.
"I would go to office early in the morning and finish routine works. Then I would rush to college. In the evening, I would go to office, do some work before going home. This has been my routine for the last five years," Neena said.
Neena now plans to practice under Denny Joseph.
Neena said her children - Athira and Abhilash - were not convinced by their mother's sudden enthusiasm for academics in the beginning. "I could barely spend time with them as I was racing to success in life. I didn't care about anything else," she said.
Later, when the children became wise enough to understand their mother's determination, they turned out to be her pillars of strength.
Though she was separated from her husband, Neena is still in touch with his parents. "I am maintaining cordial relationship with them. When I went to their home at 15, they cared me as their youngest daughter," Neena recalled.
Neena now exhorts single mothers to follow their dreams and achieve them. "You have to strive for your success while ensuring a better life for your children. Do not forget about your dreams, ambitions and passion," she said.