Neuroscience has shown that the neurons in our brain gradually start dying from middle age and therefore our brain starts slowing down unless we keep it active by pushing it to learn new things. This heartwarming story from the Indian Express shows that ordinary Indians don’t need neuroscience to tell them such things. They figured out themselves that whatever be the odds and however old they might be, they will learn. In fact, they will learn first to read and write their native language even if they are 96 years old – as is the case with the heroine of this story, Karthyayani Amma (from Alappuzha in Kerala). Then they will learn English (Amma says “I want to learn more….I want to learn English next”).

“Karthyayani is among 60,000 people in the state who have been initiated into the world of letters through over half-a-dozen literacy schemes run by the Mission. An overwhelming number of them are, like Karthyayani, elderly women who have never gone to school. Having struggled through a major part of their lives and now in their sunset years, these women, huddled together in community centres and anganwadis, are discovering a whole new world — the magical loopiness of the Malayalam alphabet.

“Why didn’t I go to school? Because I was too busy bringing up my children,” says Karthyayani. For several decades, the mother of six worked as a casual cleaning worker at half a dozen temples in Cheppad in Alappuzha district.”

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