Fathima: A Dish washer’s daughter in Chennai clears JEE
CHENNAI: Shahul Hameed, 45, was serving idli and dosa to his roadside customers in Saidapet on Thursday morning when his daughter called up to give the hot news: She had cleared the IIT-JEE (Main).
Hameed rushed home to be with her for 10 minutes and got back to work, serving food and washing dishes for a pushcart food vendor. Late night he returned home a man both happy and concerned. Happy because his 17-year-old daughter Fathima Shadana had attained something so great that he is yet to comprehend; concerned how the family can afford her higher studies if she clears the Advanced exam or settles for an NIT or an IIIT.
Hameed, who works from 5am to 10pm to earns Rs 300, leaves the taking to his wife Bahira Begum. “I am happy, but sending her for an engineering course is beyond our financial limit,” says Bahira, washing vessels in the 250sqft house of three small rooms in Saidapet.
Fathima is worried too, but says her priority now is to clear the IIT-JEE (Advanced) on May 25. She is grateful to a training centre that offered to take under its wings some bright students of corporation schools. Fathima, then a Class 9 student of Chennai Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Saidapet, was among the eight girls selected for FIIT-JEE coaching.
“We were hesitant to send her for coaching, because we knew it meant expenditure later,” said Bahira. “But her headmaster S K Balasubramaniam came home and convinced us. Fathima, too, says she never dreamed of getting trained in a private institute. But that didn’t stop her from working hard. Her days started with books at 6am before going to school. After school, Fathima went to Nungambakkam for coaching and returned bome by 6pm. After an hour, she would be back to books. But the rigour till midnight wasn’t uninterrupted—she would have to help her mother with the chores in the kitchen.
Now there is a common prayer for the family: Give us enough resources to send Fathima for higher studies. “My husband and I are dropouts,” says Bahira. “Nothing is more precious for us than our children living their dreams.”
Two other girls from corporation schools — Pavithra L and Shyamala B — have also cleared IIT-JEE (Main). Both wish to do chemical engineering at an IIT.