A 47-year-old Mumbai lady returns to college after 25 years to finish her PG in biological sciences

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As an intern at IIT Bombay, Ranjita Save is working on her research project as part of her Master’s degree.

The expiry date of Ranjita Save’s dreams and passion has been reset indefinitely. Twenty-five years after completing her under-graduation, 47-year-old Ms. Save, who took voluntary retirement from Vijaya Bank after working for 22 years, is busy completing her six-month research project at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

A Masters of Biological Sciences student at Sunandan Divatia School of Science at Vile Parle, Mumbai, Ms. Save is an intern at IIT Bombay. She is researching on the migration of proteins in cancer cells under the supervision of Dr. Abhijit Majumder.

Two years after taking voluntary retirement in 2013, she cleared the entrance exam and interview for the post-graduation course. “My passion for higher studies landed me here,” she says recalling how her studies came to an abrupt end after her under-graduation when she cleared the banking exam on her first attempt in 1990. It was difficult to turn down a government job that offered financial security in the early 1990s.

“But I was teaching my son science till his ninth standard. So I was in touch with the subject. But I was out of sync with the latest developments in biology. So took time to catch up with others who have learnt the basics in their under-graduation.”

“I had to put in extra effort to be on par with others. Once I finished my work at home I used to study from 11-2 pm every day,” Ms. Save says. The efforts paid off. She scored 64 per cent in the first semester and has nearly maintained it at the end of three semesters.

“I am not interested in taking up a job after studies. I don’t want any money as I am a pensioner. I just want to pursue research full-time,” she says.Her classmates, who are just two years older than her 20-year-old daughter, are more like friends now. “How do we call you was their first question,” she says. “Please call me by my name, I told them. Otherwise, I can’t mingle and learn from them.” But they refused to call her by her name; they call her RJ for Ranjitaji instead.

Future plans

“I am not interested in taking up a job after studies. I want to pursue research full-time. I don’t want any money as I am a pensioner. I just want to do research,” she says. Ms. Save has already taken up NET (National eligibility test) exam and plans to take up GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) to pursue a PhD programme at IIT Bombay. Her husband and children have been very supportive.

“When she first approached me I told myself that I will never get another student like her again. But I was not sure how much time she would be able to spare,” says Dr. Majumder, who is many years younger to her. “But she stays back in the evenings and comes on weekends whenever needed. She is at par with other students.”

Dr. Majumder says that she may not know the finer details of the subject but has good time management and maturity. “Biology has changed dramatically in the last 10-15 years after the human genome project. But I can see her passion and she enjoys what she is doing,” he says.

She is all praise for Dr. Majumder. “He is so friendly and a perfectionist professionally. He guides and supports me. But most importantly, he makes me think by asking me questions. I like that very much as I get to know why certain things are done in a certain way,” she says.

The man behind her success

In Ms. Save’s case, there has been a man behind her success. It was her husband who one day saw an advertisement about the course and alerted her. “Biology was close to her heart so didn’t want to wait for another year,” says Dr. Rajesh Save about her taking a plunge. “I told her the entrance exam would be difficult as whatever she had learnt in her under-graduation years ago would be primitive. So she ordered several books online and prepared for the exams. She did a terrific job and cleared the exam.”

But the real challenge started when the classes started. Dr. Save, who works with an IT firm, starts his day either very early or sits up very late. The two children too were in a crucial phase of life. And in December last year, Dr. Save underwent a bypass surgery. “Her first semester exams were happening around the same time. The focus with which she pushed herself was terrific,” he says proudly. According to him, the first semester was tough but she was still ahead of six-seven students in her class.

“She had to be a mother, a wife, a housekeeper and a student all at the same time. My only reservation was about her health as she used to sit up till 2 pm. But she is so driven that she did not listen,” Dr. Save says. Social life has been affected a bit as she has little time to socialise.

Published in The Hindu on December 29, 2016

One thought

  1. Ranjita, you are an absolute legend!

    You are an inspiration to people everywhere who have let go of their dreams and passions in life. Truly, life is too short and we can’t afford to spend all of it without pursuing the goals that really call to us.

    Wish you all the best for this journey, Doctor!

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