Some people are prosperous with such an efficacious personality that can imprint a lasting impression just in couple of meetings. I was overwhelmed with similar influence when I first met Mrs. Rama Ramasamy, affectionately known as Ramasamy Mam, the co-founder Principal of The British International School (TBIS) Chennai. A pleasant countenance, magnetic demeanor, tall and healthy physique, the complacency and firmness of her discourse, and pointed ideology are few of those attributes which contribute to a resplendent character like hers.
To know more about her and what makes her so effective yet easy-going, sophisticated yet empowering, I requested her for a casual interview. On one fine Friday, I got the opportunity to enter the most prestigious corner of the school – the Principal Room. In a cozy corner of an alley stretched on one side of the square perimeter of the school, I found her standing towered and authoritative busy with guiding a staff. After quick greetings and an order of coffee, our conversation kicked off. My intention was to reveal the layers of her magnificent life.
The root of Ramasamy mam
Born and brought up in a small town Paramakudi, near Rameshwaram in Tamilnadu, Ramasamy mam hails from a family of lawyers where all her uncles and relatives have had been in law profession. Her father rather decided to follow his heart and opt for a route least traveled by his family members – a route of agriculture. Her father owned the Pramakudi town with a determination to foster the agricultural growth there and in the surroundings.
Growing up in the same town, she did her schooling in a catholic christian school. That convent education, immersed in strict rules and regulations, soft-skills training, and a conscious environment with the precept of English language, immensely contributed in her grooming for future. Being an absolute dutiful and meritorious student, she belonged to the clan who always deposit their homework to teacher’s desk with the start of the ring-bell. Other than the academics, she also had been the life of sports, representing and winning all athletic competitions at district level. She jumped high, she jumped long, she sprinted, and she raced as if sports was made for her and she was made for sports.
Getting out of comfort zone
At a very tender age of 17, she decided to explore the life on her own. With a mixed feeling of timidness and dauntlessness, she landed in Chennai in 1977. Although she was bit confused in the beginning about her choice of career path but she was crystal clear with the idea of being self-dependent. To brace her conviction, she took up a 10am-7pm job at a shop for just Rs 200 per month. Later she landed in the world of Madras Doordarshan as a host of a youth show. Simultaneously she made her way through All India Radio where she articulated the jingles. Although the exposure to colossal amount of work was overwhelming, but Ramasamy mam was not there to stop. She always believed in the fact that life gives you something bigger only after teaching a hard lesson. And indeed, the workplace of television and radio gifted her immense talent – from subject knowledge to voice modulation and from name to fame. Doordarshan being the only channel available those days, it did not take much time for her to gain recognition. For her initial days of struggle in Chennai, she expresses her indebtedness to her aunt who not only became her guardian but also helped her shape her confidence level by enrolling her in English classes to enhance her knowledge for the language and the speaking tone.
Ascending in her career life, meanwhile, she had developed a keen interest in the field of cosmetology. She delved into the areas which was still nascent and not much explored then – pigmentation and hyperpigmentation. After rigorous studies, she turned to be a technician and worked along with the doctors on the techniques such as skin aberration, microdermabrasion, etc. She invested her 25 years in the career of cosmetic technician.
Idea of a school
Mrs Ramasamy along with her husband Mr. Palaniappan Ramasamy – a scholar, an economist, and a keen businessman – had been looking for opening a school. But they had a mountainous task ahead of them, that was to identify the curriculum or board which would suit their need. Having exposed to extreme ends of the education system, a catholic convent school where there was nothing but study and then the government school where there was everything but study, Ramasamy mam suggested to take a middle route where the emphasis should not only be on study but also on the extra curricular activities which help shape a student’s future. They also wanted it to be a co-educated school where the hesitation between the genders is mitigated which could simulate the real world outside the school-boundaries.
They spent huge amount of time in research work and arrived at the conclusion of bringing the British curriculum to India. In 2005, their dream project, The British International School, took the form of reality.
The year 2011 came as a turmoil in Ramasamy mam’s life when she lost the hand of her companion, Mr. Ramasamy, forever. After his gone, she mustered all her courage to continue her journey alone and fulfill the dreams that they both had seen together. She made herself dedicated to grow the school and taking it to a next level. She ensured that the school, although having the British root, remain grounded to the Indian culture. Here, the martial art class was not intended to include Japanese Karate, Korean Taekwando, or Chinese Kung-fu; rather it adopted the Indian art Silambam, an art practiced in Tamilnadu with weapons. Her future aspirations for the institute is to incorporate more distinguished and creative courses such as art, sport- medicine, film-making, and others which would elevate the logical and creative side of students. She wants to offer the courses which would ensures her students’ best level of physical and mental state.
A day in her life
A day in Ramasamy mam’s life starts as early as the sun-rising. She is awake by no later than 5 am. Her 1 hour of rigorous exercise follows her morning ritual. Being an athlete, she never gives her workout-session a miss, rain or shine. She owes her fitness to her infallible exercising routine which gets her out from any mundane sickness within a day or two. She starts her school work from 9:30 am and her major portion of work routine involves personally monitoring the progress of individual student. Her weekends are spent visiting temples or relatives. She loves watching movies, reading newspapers, and playing sudoko. Coming from a family of film-industry business, she even made her cameo appearance in a Tamil movie OK Kanmani. This is how ordinary the life of an extraordinary person like Ramasamy mam who believes in the idea of simplifying the life.
Message to youngsters
We are living in a world where the knowledge of English language surpasses the in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. Considering this fact, Ramasamy mam warns youngsters to not fall into the trap of superficial showoff of the language and insists to invest in acquiring the knowledge along with the language skills.
She also emphasizes that youngsters must safeguard their words and must refrain from profanity. Observing the inappropriate choice of words among youth now a days, she stresses over and over again that words are the mirror of one’s personality and mindset and hence must be carried with care. Students represent not only themselves, but also their parents and educational institute. She advises in an appealing tone that students must use the respectful verbatim no matter what the reaction of common people is.
Another crucial message she wants to pass to any aspiring youth – men or women – is that “have a sensible dream and then chase it full heart. Do not blame others for your predicament. Not at all. It’s all up-to you how you want to shape your future.”
Message to parents
Today’s parents, particularly from urban areas, are entangled with excessive preoccupation of life. In such scenario, they sometimes become inadvertent towards their children’s need and desire. As a side effect, children get indulged to lavish lifestyle, overgenerous eateries, and extravagant amenities. Now, as a result, children first fail to understand the value of money and then they start taking the things for granted. Here, the role of parents is necessitated unendurably; they must take in charge and remind their children about the value of money and explain them what they need to do to attain a better future for themselves.
Additionally, she requests to all the parents that they must teach their children their native language and culture. “No matter what country you get settled or visit, the touch with your native language should not get evaporated. The culture would keep the children informed about their root. So please do teach your kids your native language and native culture.”
The last but not the least, she wishes that “Every child must remain happy and this is the sheer responsibility of parents, teachers, and every individual on this planet. Only then we can have a prosperous society. A happy child makes a happy world.”
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