For decades, Mrs Ratnam has excelled at an outdoorsy pastime – advocating for the welfare of animals, growing organic food and helping those in need of material assistance
This 88-year-old woman just earned her master’s degree in theology: ‘If you don’t work, you’re idle’
Rajsa Chudasama was 30 when her family kicked her out of home because she could not afford to pay the rent.
“We had no other options,” said Chudasama, who was raised in Karnataka, in southern India. “We needed cash to eat.” She did not know how to speak English, so she taught herself to read and write, after reading about Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species.
In 1977, she began going to the local school to work with young girls, girls with future earning potential. She became a kindergarten teacher.
“I didn’t really have a very good first grade,” she admitted. “I almost gave up.” But then a renowned priest asked her, “Why are you wasting your time?”
So she continued to attend the school, studying to become a professor of philosophy and education.
She is the oldest graduate of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Philosophy in New Delhi, India, where her classes are conducted in English.
If she cannot work, she will tend to young humans – pointing out that hulking baby elephants need a parent – and the land.
“If you don’t work, you’re idle,” she said. “You don’t have hope.”
She teaches life skills: basic arithmetic, keyboarding, staying healthy. (“Always keep healthy and healthy.”) She has worked with orphans for 27 years, and has 15,000 Facebook friends.
Many of her pupils have children of their own. In 2016, she was voted one of the most influential women in Bangalore.
“At that time,” she said, “there was a vision for me to have my PhD.”
She did not think twice. “I never stopped studying,” she said. “I went and I studied. I dedicated myself.”