From Violent Valley Childhood To UPSC Crest

From Violent Valley Childhood To UPSC Crest

6 May 2010
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: Shah Faisal dreamed big. In a state where few go in for civil services, the 27-year-old put his medical career on hold to appear for the examination. Today, as the results came in, his name was at the top - a giant leap for a boy from a government school in a remote village, whose father was killed by militants, and a big, big step for Kashmir. “There was nothing in my background that would make anybody think I can achieve this,” a jubilant Faisal, who had been hoping to be among the top 50, said today. “But I did it. So can thousands of other students with similar difficult backgrounds.” “It is not only my own success,” he adds. “I feel I have broken the jinx that Kashmiri students cannot reach the top. I am the first from J&K to top this examination and I am sure my story will become a model for our students who fear to dream big. I am an orphan with a scarred childhood. There was a tragedy in my family, my father was killed. I was raised by my mother who is a schoolteacher. I belong to a far-flung village in Lolab and I studied in a government school.” Faisal says he was motivated by the idea of “doing more than what forms success in Kashmir”. The civil services examination is not something Kashmiri students generally opt for. “So I thought to make an attempt...” The first person he called up on learning about the results, at 3 am today, was his mother. Mubeena Begum hasn’t had an easy life. After her husband, Ghulam Rasool Shah, a schoolteacher, was killed by “unidentified gunmen” eight years ago in Sheikhnar village, located in frontier Kupwara district, she migrated to Srinagar with her three young children for a better life. She raised Faisal and his siblings on her schoolteacher salary. For her, the news of Faisal’s success was “like a new birth”. While he had always been an achiever, Mubeena didn’t expect him to do this well. “I didn’t see him with books all the time. He did study but in a very normal way,” she says. What the family had no doubts about was Faisal’s determination to become an IAS officer and to do something for the state. “He always wanted to do something big. Even after qualifying for MBBS, he didn’t seem satisfied. It was his passion to qualify for the civil services exam. He would store photographs of Kashmiri IAS officers in his cellphone,” Mubeena says. Faisal’s one regret is that his father isn’t around to savour his success. “I’m missing him today... He taught me that I could take on any challenge, only if I work hard. He was my guide and my teacher and can you imagine, the basics that he taught me in Class XI came as a big help during the (Civil Services) preliminary (examination).” Faisal didn’t take any formal coaching for the exam. “I took Public Administration as a subject and for sometime studied geography too. But then I decided to study Urdu literature. I an emotionally attached to the language.” While he put his doctor’s training aside to prepare for the exam - unheard of in a state where medicine and engineering are among the most coveted professions - Faisal picked up another vocation in the meantime. He is also an active RTI activist. Among those who inspired him to take the civil services exam were his late maternal grandfather Mohammad Maqbool Wani. He qualified for the Indian Forest Service 45 years ago, but disappeared while on his way for training. “We never heard of him again,” Faisal says. “But my mother always talked about him during my childhood and the family was proud that he had qualified. I think that pride with which my mother remembered my uncle became a reason for my interest.” Abdul Gain Mir, who qualified for IPS in 1994 and belongs to Kupwara too, was also a big inspiration and kept motivating Faisal. A Deputy Inspector General now, Mir is a delighted man. “Faisal has made all of us proud... His success has sent a clear message that there is no dearth of talent in Kashmir,” he says. Equally proud is Khursheed Ganai, who in 1981 stood second in the civil services exam - the highest rank for anybody from J&K till today’s results. Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah now, Ganai says he hopes more from the Valley take the exam inspired by Faisal, calling it “the need of the hour”. “I hope his success does what mine couldn’t.”


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