Minutes before she went inside the counselling room, G. Akshaya was excited but nervous, and hoping against hope she would get the ECE course she wanted. Her parents kept telling her, ‘Choose wisely,’ and occasionally, her aunt and grand-uncle, too edged in with advice. All she needed to do in the face of such overwhelming concern was to glance at her 76-year-old grandmother, Gomathi who would immediately ask the group to, “leave the girl alone because she knows what to do.”

The trip to Chennai was a momentous affair for Akshaya’s family – seven members in all. “Her grandmother insisted she came along. She has been interested in everything Akshaya does,” says her mother, Vijaya. Her case is not unique though, as the counselling venue saw a throng of families, often extended ones, on Friday. Unexpectedly, there was a quite a bit of tension in the air too, even though most of the candidates were toppers and were likely to make it through to courses of their choice.

K. L. Thirumurthy, his parents and grandparents, have come from Salem and are staying at a lodge here. “My mother wants me to take up a course nearby but my grandfather is trying to convince her that I should stay here,” said the student, who opted for mechanical engineering at College of Engineering, Guindy. Elsewhere, Madurai topper M. Gauthaman was in two minds. “ I hope I get through NIT, Trichy,” said the student who had already got through to P.S.G. College of Technology. His mother was trying to reason with him, “Stay near home otherwise your health will be spoilt. You can go to the U.S. after the course.”

For the younger lot in these families, the trip was more of an expedition. “We came with him to collect the counselling form too and we went to the beach in the evening,” said 14-year-old Malar who had accompanied her uncle Ashok, the aspirant, her parents and grandparents from Karaikudi.

From getting water bottles filled and bringing in packed food at regular intervals to keeping an eye on the board that rapidly displayed the updates, family members participated in the whole process with gusto. “The last time I came to this city was after my marriage, fifty years ago. Since I brought up my granddaughter, she insisted I be there for her admission. I am delighted that she got into this college. I will come here more often nowsaid R. Shanthi, 86-year-old grandmother of R. Parvathy, who had come from Dindigul.