At the age of 51 when probably everyone is making plans to retire, CA Uma Krishna earned a professional degree and has started her career in Chartered Accountancy. She hails from Madurai. CA Uma is a post-graduate in literature. “I had no clue about that there exists a curriculum like CA,” she said on being asked about how she started her CA journey. She is a mother, daughter, wife, teacher, and now a Chartered Accountant. People like her do not live in boundaries set up by society, they go beyond their ways to live a life they want, to experience new things, to do what they really want to do and not what others want them to do. Things were not easy for her. She faced challenges, she had responsibilities like taking care of her parents, of her children, she had to face this society that kept telling her to not to pursue a course like Chartered Accountancy and stick to her job. But, she was driven and determined. That same determination and hard work have made her stand out in the crowd. She is truly a motivation for all the CA students and women out there. A perfect example of, ‘Age is just a number.”
Here is her story:
My journey to becoming a Chartered Accountant?
I am a postgraduate in English Literature and a graduate in Chemistry. So, after completing my post-graduation, I started teaching high school students. At that time teaching was a regular professional option for women. I loved my job. I was there for 14 years. Then, when my husband got transferred to Chennai, we moved as a family and then I thought of taking a break from school-teaching. Then I started working as a resource person in the Hindu NIE program and at the same time, I also started working as an online tutor, and an essay grader for the US students. I used to work from home. So, I was doing 3 jobs at a time. But, at one point in time, I realized that I wasn’t able to manage all the 3 jobs. Then, we moved back to Madurai and I decided to just stick to essay grading. But eventually, I started feeling bored as there was less work for me to do. Then I thought that I too need to do something.
So, my husband had joined law at that time, he had his own company so he suggested me to go for Company Secretary Course. I am a person from a science background and I had done my post-graduate from literature, so I had absolutely no clue about the course. I had just heard something about CA and ICWA. But just because of my husband, I got myself enrolled in the course. We paid the fees and they gave me all those books on cost accounting, income tax, etc. I was so scared to see those books. But the Madurai Chapter in charge said that they would be conducting classes there itself.
So, I started my journey as a student again after 16 years as a CS executive student. Once, I started my classes, all the other students were young (in their twenties) and all of them started calling me “Akka Akka” (meaning Didi). I became the Didi of the class. I really had a wonderful time with them. I had registered a bit late and I was totally unaware of the course, so I could appear for only the first module in Dec 2012 and when the results came out – I found that a few students had attempted both modules while some had gone for one module only. Other than 2 girls who had written 2 modules, only I had cleared the exams in a class of over 40 students. I had got above 60 in all the papers and the other students were like – Didi, you have an exemption in all the papers. I was not aware of what exemption actually meant in that context, but whatsoever, I had cleared all the 3 papers with above 60 marks.
Around that time the Direct Entry Route was thrown open by ICAI and graduates with the required percentage could register for inter directly. There was one girl amongst us, she was pursuing both CS and CA Inter together. I was thinking whether I too should pursue CA, I was about 45 years old then. Somehow I felt that after completing CS, it will be a bit difficult for me to get into a corporate company. Also, CS practice is not so feasible and lucrative in smaller cities like Madurai, we don’t have big companies here. So, I thought that CA would be a much better option for me but then the other students frightened me and said that CA is 7 times more difficult than the CS course. But then, I gathered all the strength and registered for it along with another girl from our class. But, I was also pursuing 2nd module of CS along with it, I was doing self-study and I was able to score well in this 2nd module as well with more than 60 marks in all subjects, in fact, much better than the 1st module. In fact, I secured 72 marks in the Security Laws subject, in which most of the students had failed.
I started my CA articleship in February, I didn’t know that I had to register for articleship in January to write Inter exams in November. So, I was preparing for the CS module at that time. Once CS exams were over, I got a letter saying that I hadn’t done my IT training, so my articleship registration was pending.
So, I started with all the necessary formalities from the month of July. When I was doing IPCC, there were a group of CPT students who had written their May exams. So, they again frightened me, saying CA is difficult. You had to go to classes. But, I was thinking of self-study, in fact, I had even made a schedule sheet for the same (I am very crazy about schedules and all). But, then the students said that “Ma’am, you can’t do it on your own.” So, eventually, I started doing my classes and articleship as well but what difficulty I faced was – I got diagnosed with diabetes in November and I also had a hairline fracture on my right arm. So, with these difficulties, I got a little worried as to how I would be able to manage my studies and all. However, I had a passion for studies. So, I started my preparations, wrote my inter in May ’14. The exams were postponed due to Lok Sabha elections, so I got some 3 weeks extra time. I cleared CA inter in my 1st attempt with the same 9 months preparation as other CPT pass and BCom students.
You wouldn’t believe this; when I started going for my CA classes, I didn’t know what debit and credit meant. I didn’t know what ledger was because in CS executive, I had focused only on journal entries and Costing. We had a chapter on the balance sheet but I didn’t understand anything of the chapter when I was doing CS. I loved Costing and income tax. In fact, in Madurai Chapter, I got the award for the highest marks in Advanced Accounts – I had scored 77 marks.
My May 2016 attempt would have been my attempt to write CA Final but unfortunately, I faced some issues like – my dad passed away in May 2017, my mom was suffering from cancer so I had to travel and all that. So, I could complete my articleship and I did write in May 2016 with just one month’s preparation but I couldn’t do justice. I skipped the next two attempts because I wasn’t able to prepare. Then, eventually, I started my preparations after May’18 exams for all the 4 papers – I gave my best. And I cleared group 1 exams in the Nov ’18 attempt. I wanted to clear everything in the 1st attempt, I did clear everything other than 1st group in the first attempt. So, I thought I have to clear the 2nd group at least in the first attempt, then I switched on to the New syllabus and I cleared it in May’19. So, this is my story.
I never thought of dropping out:
Frankly speaking, my entry into CA was an accident, CA was a choice but then, as I was a science student, I missed the chance of going into medical or engineering college. So, I always had the feeling that – I didn’t have a professional qualification. I felt that CA was a good opportunity to make that dream come true. Though I had these 2 years gap during which I did not touch the books even, I never even thought about dropping out. There was a time when people started saying (during my gap) why don’t you pursue your work or become a teacher as you already are an experienced teacher. People were there to discourage things, but, I, not even for a single moment thought of dropping out.
I always kept a perfect balance between my personal life and studies:
Yes, when I was doing my Inter, there used to be a problem – my daughter was in 9thth and my son was in 12th. It was a crucial year for them. But, then, I used to wake up at about 4 o’clock. I used to prepare for my studies till 6 o’clock. Then, from 6, I used to prepare breakfast, send them off to school, then go for my classes. After coming back, I used to study till 12:30, then take a break and start cooking. So, I was able to balance perfectly when I was in my Inter. Then, when my final preparations began, initially, there was a lot of disturbances. After my daughter completed her higher-secondary in May 2017 and moved to Chennai to do law (my son was already studying in Chennai by then), I had a lot of time. Once I started preparation, the same pattern started again like waking up early morning by 4. In fact, I have a close friend in Australia “Ratna” – she has been my friend from class 5 till college. Every single morning, she used to call me on Whatsapp, she used to make sure that I was well awake and then, she used to cut the call. So, there had been a wonderful support from her end. I used to feel low sometimes. Another close friend of mine from school days, Meena used to call me and motivate me.
I had this habit of preparing schedules. I decide what subject I should complete today, how many sums, how many pages etc. Sometimes, it may so happen that your schedule might not work out, there will be a delay, such things will happen. But, then revise the schedule. Not preparing a schedule is not an option – I would say.
My family is my support:
Yes, I did have full support from my family. That was not an issue at all. But, as I said before, there were other people who were saying- why don’t you go for a job and all that. When I was doing my first GMCS in July 2014, before my inter results were out, one girl came and said, “Ma’am please teach Financial Management for me. So, I started tutoring CA inter students, before my results were out. I did that during my free time till my CA Final preparations began.
My career path after clearing Chartered Accountancy:
I cleared my CA just a few months back. So, in the month of September, I got a chance to be a part of the internal audit team of a government department in Pondicherry. I was there for 40 days. That was a huge and great experience. I just came back before Diwali. And by this time, I decided to practice as well as do teaching and mentoring CA students part-time. Right now, I go to a couple of colleges where students pursue B.Com Honors and teach CA related papers. I am also into practice, of course, it will take some time to set-up. I think that practical exposure would make me a better teacher.
CA is a tough course, break that myth:
In North India, you have an option of writing your answer in Hindi. When you come down South, the students are not that comfortable in Hindi. So, writing in Hindi is not an option at all. The only option for us in English. So, what happens, when Tamil medium students come, for e.g, our former President A.P.J Abdul Kalam, he came from a local Tamil medium school but he was able to come up very well. In fact, there are many video lectures in Hindi for CA students on Youtube. There are very few in English and none in the Southern languages like Tamil and Malayalam. I speak both Tamil and Malayalam and want to post video lectures for CA students in their mother tongue so that they can understand the concepts better.
Right now, there is a myth that CA is very difficult. My dad was an accountant in a private audit firm. He used to interact on a regular basis with CAs. When I registered for CA, he himself asked whether it was not a tough course and whether I would be able to do it. And fortunately, he was alive when I cleared my Inter but now I feel bad that he was not there to see my success in becoming a CA. Once you have the drive, you can clear CA even if you are from a regional medium, this is one thing. Another thing is, there is a myth that CA is difficult, I want to break that myth. So, whenever, I get a chance to talk with the students, many students pursue this course with a wrong notion that CA is a tough course to crack; if you feel that stress, then no knowledge will get into your mind. The confidence level of the students should be high. Here, you can write the papers in so many installments – at least 5 installments you can write. That myth needs to be broken and students should be motivated and encouraged. And I am very happy that CA Foundation has subjects like Business English and Business Communication. So, that would give a chance to even the regional medium students to improve their English. I am a great positive thinker so if you talk to me about CA, I can talk for hours (smiles). I am passionate about studies so much. So, I always motivate the people around me.
Dreams of a woman do not have an expiry date:
In our society what happens is, once a woman gets married, either she gives her job up or is not able to complete her studies or follow her dreams. I feel that our society as a whole should change the way they look at a woman. They should be able to fulfill their dreams. My family was very supportive, they allowed me to follow my dreams and made it possible for me to get a qualification of CA at the age of 51.
I still remember that I used to hesitate to tell anyone my age when I turned 40. But, now it feels great, I feel very proud to tell anyone and everyone that I am 51. This year when an awareness camp was conducted with around 7000 students and everybody was asking me about my age. I felt so proud to say that I am 51 and the response was overwhelming. Dreams of a woman do not have an expiry date. I completed my journey from MA to CA in my late forties and early fifties and this feeling definitely makes me proud. So, when I see all that, I feel proud of my age.
My message to the CA students:
I did this at the age of 51! I don’t have a good memory like young students in their twenties have. I have more responsibilities as a wife, as a daughter, and as a mother. The young students do not have such responsibilities. So, if you work really hard, then with determination and perseverance, you can achieve all your dreams.