Varatha Shanmuganathan is 87 years old, but her soul is still so young and vibrant. When she’s not playing Scrabble or dancing and singing with her grandchildren, she is busy chasing her many dreams.
“It has been interesting. On November 1st, I was just an ordinary woman leading my ordinary life. On November 2, when I graduated, everything changed, ”Shanmuganathan told CNN.
It was the day she became the University of Ontario’s longest-standing master’s graduate, according to York University spokesperson Gloria Suhasini. Shanmugunathan’s degree focused on the civil war in Sri Lanka and the efforts to achieve peace.
“It has always been a dream of mine to study politics and get a graduate degree, and I’m glad I finally made it happen,” she said.
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Born in Sri Lanka, in a small village called Velanai, Shanmuganathan found herself searching for answers and explanations for her country’s 26-year civil war.
The Sri Lankan civil war ended in May 2009 when the government crushed the Tamil Tigers in their hearts north of the Indian Ocean island nation. Sri Lanka’s long and bloody conflict has devastated nearly two-thirds of the population of the northern and eastern provinces. No less than 70,000 people have been killed.
“I have always, in my heart and soul, cherished and nurtured peace, justice, equality and democracy,” said Shanmuganathan. “I wanted to tell my country’s story loud and clear to each generation – we should all aspire to peace. “
This is not Shanmuganathan’s first master. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree from Madras University in India, she returned to Sri Lanka to teach Indian history and English.
In 1990, she moved to London to teach English as a second language and obtained her first master’s degree in applied linguistics at the University of London.
Shanmuganathan immigrated to Canada in 2004 to be with her daughter, who had obtained an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University.
When she found out that the university offered free classes for the elderly, Shanmuganathan said, she immediately knew it was finally her chance to fulfill her dream of studying political science. She began her studies in 2019 and continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic before graduating with 4,000 other students on November 2.
Shanmuganathan “represents the best of what York University stands for – access to education, a commitment to creating an inclusive environment for all and an unwavering determination to create a better future,” said University President York, Rhonda Lenton, in a statement to CNN.
“She will undoubtedly inspire others to pursue higher education and act as a powerful role model for women of all ages. “
Despite achieving a life goal, Shanmuganathan said she was not quite done yet. Her next project is to write a book on post-war Sri Lanka and the prospects for peace, she said, adding that she hopes her story will inspire others to look inside. themselves to discover their passions.
“You should always have a goal in life,” Shanmuganathan said. “Find out which dream you want to pursue and pursue it to the end. Think of something that interests you, but is also beneficial for others. Keep chasing it, get it, do it, realize it. “