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From Kerala orphanage to UPSC list

Shihab has cleared 21 exams by govt agencies so far,but this was a dream

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
May 13, 2011 1:12:19 am

Muhammed Ali Shihab has faced many tests in his life. Some he had no control over: his father died when he was 11,his impoverished mother sent him away to an orphanage,he was forced to stop studying to take up a peon’s job,and family circumstances forced him to drop out of even Civil Services coaching. Others Shihab took on himself: an Arabic medium-student,who has cleared 21 exams so far conducted by various government agencies for all kinds of posts,yesterday joined the ranks of India’s successful Civil Service Examination candidates.

It was the 31-year-old’s third attempt,and he ranks 226th on the list. However,for the boy who spent 10 years in a Muslim orphanage,who wrote his Mains in Malayalam and appeared for the interview with the help of a translator for want of proficiency in English,it is a giant leap.

When his father Koroth Ali died,Shihab was a student of Class V. The family made its living from a makeshift paan shop in their village Edavannappara in Malappuram,and Shihab shared a two-room house with four siblings,including a brother and three sisters.

His mother Fathima,a housewife,had no means to feed the children. “As a last option,mother took me and my two younger sisters to a Muslim-managed orphanage in Kozhikode district in 1991,” recalls Shihab. Fathima’s only comfort was that her children were good at studies.

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Shihab would stay at the institute till he completed his higher secondary schooling and secured a teacher’s training certificate. He wanted to study further,but pressure to make a living meant he had to take up the first available job,which was of a last-grade peon in the Kerala Water Authority in 2004. The qualification was for the post was Class VII.

Later,he would get promoted to lower divisional clerk in a local body department. Shihab enrolled for BA (History) as a private student even as applied for several other jobs. In 2007,Shihab joined as an upper primary school teacher in Malappuram,where he continued till recently,when he took leave to prepare for the UPSC exam.

Shihab said he has cleared 21 exams conducted by various government agencies so far. “I appeared for posts of forester,jail warden and railway ticket examiner… The civil service crept into my dreams only at the age of 25. When I revealed my intention to try my luck at the UPSC exam,the orphanage supported me every way,” says Shihab.

He came to know of the Civil Service coaching conducted by Delhi-based Zakat Foundation of India through a well-wisher. But again fate intervened,and Shihab had to drop out of the two-year course after five months because of domestic issues,including the treatment of his newborn baby.

Shihab did the rest of the preparation at home,helped by the faculty of a Civil Service training institute in Kerala. “I had to toil due to my poor knowledge of English and Malayalam. But I was determined to achieve my dream.”

Now that it is within his grasp,Shihab feels his life of struggles may turn out to be his strongest point. “I can better grasp grassroots-level concerns.”

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First published on: 13-05-2011 at 01:12:19 am

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