Revathi is happiest when she is surrounded by little children; she sings rhymes for them, twirling a teddy bear, making it turn around and touch the ground; the children clap in delight.

“Being around children is good recreation for my mind,” says the soft-spoken and smiling, single mother. However, a few years ago, Revathi had no idea she would work in a pre-school, first as a helper, and then quickly moving on to become an assistant teacher, because then she was trapped in an abusive marriage.

Married at the age of 19, with no qualification but a Plus Two certificate, Revathi put up with a difficult relationship, all for the sake of her children. But in 2006, she decided she had had enough; and moved from Tiruchi, where she lived with her husband, to Chennai, where her siblings and parents lived. Initially, she stayed in her brother’s house, with her school-going son and daughter; but she did not want to be a burden on her family for long, even though they were very supportive. “So I went in for Montessori training. I chose the teaching line, as I thought being around children would be a good diversion for me. My first job was as a pre-kg helper in a regular school… but the hours were inconvenient, and the pay was poor. Five years ago, I joined Bamboola, and I am really enjoy teaching here,” she says, with a smile that radiates in her eyes.

But the journey — despite her family’s support — has not been easy. “When I moved to Chennai, I was very scared,” Revathi confesses. “I didn’t know my way around; I didn’t even know which bus to take to go to the Montessori training institute.”

Initially, her brother helped her financially, but soon, she became self-sufficient. She does not manage to save much — her earnings just meet her expenses — although now, her son too pitches in with his salary.

Revathi is, understandably, proud when she talks of her children. Her son was a good student all along, and after his graduation (ECE), he now works in an IT company. Her daughter — studying in Class X — is an excellent student too; and both of them are wholeheartedly supportive. “They feel for me, and want to keep me well,” she says of the future.

With no trace of self-pity or bitterness, she talks of completing her B.A (Tamil), and enrolling for her M.A.

“I did regret not going to college earlier, but I’ve made up for it,” she says simply. Hardworking, and evidently in love with her job, she looks forward to every new batch of children. “The first three months, they cry a little; then, they settle down, and get attached to me. I do craft, outdoor work, numbers and letters with them,” she says, adding that she learnt to speak in English — which she does, fluently — after coming to Chennai.

Working at the play school suits her. . The timing and location — walking distance from her house — are both convenient. “And the management here has been very encouraging,” she adds.

“Being a single parent is not easy. I tried to make the marriage work, but when I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to leave,” says Revathi.

And if the happy squeals of the children are anything to go by, she’s not just turned around her life — she’s also found her calling.

(A weekly column on men and women who make Chennai what it is)