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Degrees of achievement

P. V. John is in the Limca Book of World Records as the 'most professionally qualified individual' in the country. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us.

Thomas L. Holdcroft

For P. V. John the monsoon always brings back memories - of a terrible childhood, of long hungry days and even longer nights, of frightful hardship. This was also the time for new admissions in schools and colleges. A time John looked forward to with hope.

“Our small thatched hut used to leak when it rained. The mud and cow dung floor used to turn soggy. We had no electricity. I had three brothers and three sisters, all elder to me. My father, the sole bread-winner, was a casual labourer. He worked during the summer months fencing compounds, thatching houses. The monsoon left him jobless,” remembers John, who has found a place in the Limca Book of World Records as the ‘most professionally qualified individual' in the country.

A fighter

John has seven professional degrees - FCA, FCS, ICWA, LLB, MBA, MCA and a Doctorate in Commerce. He achieved all this fighting a relentless battle with Destiny. Unlike most, John did not surrender to Fate. Instead he clasped it in his fist and went on to command the course of his life.

“Every time I stumbled I thought it was the last obstacle and life would begin. But the obstacles kept cropping up till it dawned on me that these were my life. And there was a meaning to all this. At every stage an unseen hand has guided me.”

Right from his schooldays John felt that this ‘hand' on him. He saw it in the headmaster of St. Joseph's Upper Primary School, Kadavanthra, who intervened to enable him get his ‘upma' every afternoon though he was not ‘eligible' once he reached fifth standard. And then there was Sumathi Teacher, who taught him Hindi at Sree Rama Varma High School, Ernakulam, who, noticing that John never brought lunch to school, used to take him home and give him food and clothes. John cleared his SSLC with 49.83 per cent.

John could not join college that year because he had no money. He tried his hand at typewriting but discontinued not being able to pay the fees. John joined his father, helping him in his job. “I knew he was sad. He allowed me to keep a part of my daily wages, Rs. 3 then, for myself. I saved and at the end of the year had Rs. 110. With that I joined college (Sacred Heart College, Thevara) the next June. I did not have the money to enrol myself for first group and so took third group.”

From then on, John paid for his education. He began taking tuitions for children in the evening and squeezed in time for study. One subject that he found tough was accountancy as he had not studied it at all. “I lost my father at this time. I never felt more terrible before, I was orphaned. I was lucky that Prof. Jose, one of my teachers in the college, volunteered to give me special classes.” John completed his degree, finishing second in the college with 68.33 per cent marks.

The ‘jobs' that everyone said would materialise once he completed his degree did not happen. His friends had decided on their careers/professions. “Most of them talked about Chartered Accountancy (CA) and similar professional courses. Most of them had already reserved their seats for ‘Articleship.' I knocked on the doors of almost every chartered accountant in the city asking for a seat but they could not help me. In a last ditch effort I went to one of the leading firms in the city, ‘Varma and Varma,' and told them my story. Venugopal C. Govind, one of the partners of the firm, was kind enough to admit me. That changed my life.”

John put his heart and soul into his studies and in 1983 cleared his CA and joined as Assistant Manager (Finance) in Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation. A year later he quit to join Kerala Electrical and Allied Engineering Co. Ltd, where he continued till 1999 becoming its Director (Finance) and also Company Secretary.

Hard work

John's tryst with studies did not end. He enrolled for the evening batch in Law College, Ernakulam, and cleared his LLB with 50 per cent marks. Company Secretary, ICWA, MBA (Finance) and MCA followed. All these were acquired while he held responsible positions. “Perhaps the most challenging of all was the MCA. The need to be computer literate was a necessity. I had given up Mathematics long back but decided to give it a try. In 2005 I secured the MCA degree from IGNOU.”

In 2011 John was awarded the PhD in Commerce by Mahatma Gandhi University for his thesis on ‘Reforms in Sales Tax Structure – A Case Study with Special Reference to Value Added Tax in Kerala.' John is now Member (Accounts), Kerala Agricultural Income Tax and Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal.

John's life has been an extraordinary journey. It goes on to prove that if one truly believes in something and never gives up one can achieve far more than you can ever dream of. And as it is said if you want the rainbow you got to put up with the rain.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 3:37:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/degrees-of-achievement/article2230215.ece

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