Postcard from... India


Though Prema Jayakumar's father works as a rickshaw driver in Mumbai, he did what he could to ensure that she and her siblings got the best education he could manage.

This week, his efforts were rewarded. Of the 29,339 people across India who took the national chartered accountants' examination, none scored more than Ms Jayakumar. "I am not educated and that is why I wanted to ensure that my children are," said Ms Jayakumar's father, Perumal, pictured above.

In a nation of 1.2 billion people, the examinations take on extraordinary significance. For those whose parents can afford it, they usually involve hours of extra studying and cramming. Such is the demand that towns such as Kota in Rajasthan state have sprung up to cater solely for students looking to pass these examinations.

The results of all these uniform tests are tallied nationally and the newspapers feverishly report the identity of various "toppers" in different fields. As it was, Ms Jayakumar got no special help, other than parents dedicated to ensuring that she and her siblings were not held back by their limited means. She also benefited from receiving a scholarship.

Mr Jayakumar earns 15,000 rupees (£176) a month and the family still lives in a one-room apartment in the Malad district of the city.

Now, Ms Jayakumar's ambition is for her and her brother to get decent jobs to ensure her father can take it easy. It might even mean he can say goodbye to the rickshaw. She said: "We both can take care of our family very easily. It's a matter of months now until I get a job."