Tulasi and Lakshmipriya wear their stethoscopes like gold medals. The young women have just graduated from the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram with first class. They are the first lady doctors from the Irula tribe of Attappadi.
The Attappadi area in Palakkd district has not had a lady doctor since Dr Kamalakshi passed MBBS in 1995. A member of the Muduga community, she is the first tribal woman to be a doctor in Kerala.
Tulasi from Kavundikkal hamlet near Agali and Lakshmipriya fromm Osathiyoor have turned the spotlight on a community that struggles to shake off the shackles of underdevelopment through education.
Where there’s a will
Ask Tulasi the secret of her success and she would say she drew her strength from the situations that hemmed her in. She has solid role models in her parents, Muthuswami and Kaliyamma, who toil in their 10-acre farmland to raise their children. Muthuswami has passed 10th class but chose to be traditional farmer.
Tulasi went to the Tamil-medium government lower primary school at Kavundikkal and later the government school at Agali. She then joined a vocational higher secondary school to study livestock management but her sights were set higher. She realized that she wanted to be a doctor.
She wrote the entrance examination to medical colleges even as she wrote the VHSE exams. She was not disappointed to see her name lower on the rank list, somewhere near 13,000. She joined an entrance coaching course at Mannarkkad. Next year, she finished 17th in the list reserved for Scheduled Tribes.
Tulasi was thrown into the hustle and bustle of a fast city in Thiruvananthapuram. She focused on her studies. And her work has paid.
Tulasi says she wanted to pursue a post-graduation in surgery. Her immediate plan is to help her parents in rebuilding the mud house. Then she would be Attappadi’s own doctor.
Her brother Vijay is a teacher.
Against all odds
Lakshmipriya’s medical degree is a fitting answer to all skeptics. She could not offer a more gratifying present to her parents, who braved the odds to get their children educated.
Rugmini and Murugan had to fight an unsympathetic society since the start of their life together. Rugmini belonged to the Vaniya caste and her marriage raised hackles in the community. The couple left Attappadi behind to ensure quality education for their children, Lakshmi and Unnikrishnan.
As the daughter of a Central Industrial Security Force personnel, Lakshmi studied in the Kendriya Vidyalayas at Aluva and Mangaluru. After passing 10th standard, Lakshmi told her parents that she wanted to be a doctor. Her parents did not think twice. They shifted to Thiruvananthapuram, where Lakshmi joined the Kendriya Vidyalaya at Pattom. She worked hard for an MBBS seat and she was rewarded.
Rugmini is a proud mother now. She wants to go back to her hamlet in Attappadi along with her daughter.
Lakshmi wants to pursue post-graduation in general medicine and serve her folk at Attappadi. She wants to secure the life of her family before her father retires from his current assignment in Delhi.