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Topper who split books

- How CA siblings studied together to save money

Mumbai, Jan. 24: Balancing the books began at home for Prema Jayakumar, 24, the auto-rickshaw driver’s daughter who topped the all-India chartered accountancy finals this week.

Since brother Dhanraj, 22, too was taking the exam, the siblings saved money by cutting all their books into two parts and taking turns studying each half.

It was what they had been doing since 2008 when they both cleared the CA entrance exam.

“The books cost Rs 600-700 each. Studying together this way helped us save money,” Dhanraj said.

“We had to spend a lot on our (exam) applications, coaching and books. So, once we had applied, we had no option but to excel.”

As reported in The Telegraph’s January 23 edition, Prema scored 607 out of 800 to top the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India examination, whose results were announced on Monday. Dhanraj too has cleared the exam.

Their father Jayakumar, 53, a farmer’s son from Tamil Nadu who has been driving autos in Mumbai since 1994, had sold off his land in his home state and spent most of his savings to educate his children.

“When it came to our education, our parents never made us feel that we would lack for anything because of our financial condition,” Prema said.

Now flooded with job offers, she says she would first complete two months of her three-year articleship with a Mumbai firm before deciding whether she would take up a banking or a corporate job.

“My first goal now is to buy a bigger house for us,” she said. Jayakumar, wife Ligammal and their two children now live in a one-room, 300sqft tenement in a chawl at Malad, western Mumbai.

Prema said that as a child, she had never dreamt of becoming a chartered accountant. But once her teachers in junior college set her on the path to becoming one, she never looked back.

She earned her BCom in 2008 and took the all-India chartered accountancy entrance exam. She encouraged her brother to do so too while he was still studying.

“We cleared the Common Proficiency Test in 2008 through self-study. For the intermediate exam, I took private coaching and got a scholarship too; so my parents’ financial burden became easier,” said Prema, who ranked 20 in the all-India intermediate CA exam in 2009.

“We are the first from our family to have achieved anything like this. The attitude towards education, especially for girls, should change,” Prema said.

Her father had studied only till Class V at Periyapuliyur in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district, and had come to Mumbai in 1992 looking for a job. After two years working at a power mill as a temporary hand, he got an auto permit.

“I had forgotten whatever I had learnt in school by then, but I started reading books and newspapers to try and understand what was happening around me. When it came to our children’s education, we supported them fully, knowing they would succeed,” Jayakumar said.

He has one complaint, though: he hasn’t been able to go to work these past three days with their home being flooded with visitors and phone calls. Jayakumar has taken out his auto several times — but only to pose before news photographers with his daughter.

Prema insists that once she gets a job, her father must retire and rest. But Jayakumar says that while he always listens to his daughter, he cannot imagine sitting idle at home.