A Mountainous Feat

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A young boy from a modest background put in his all efforts and managed cracking NEET examination with flying colours. Now the tensions in the family are about the costs that they would require to make him a doctor, reports Aaqib Hyder

Shabir Kohli’s home at Hardu kichr, Ashmuqam. KL Image: Aaqib Hyder

Shabir Kohli’s home at Hardu kichru, Ashmuqam. KL Image: Aaqib Hyder

On June 5, 2019, in Hardu Kichru, a nondescript village of Ashmuqam Anantnag, a three-room mud house was beaming with joy and celebrations. Reason: the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) results showed the family’s eldest son Shabir Ahmad Kohli had qualified the examination with flying colours.

Hailing from a hamlet situated literally on the top of a small mountain and in the lap of another, Shabir has become a household name in his district. Hardu Kichru village was recently connected to Ashmuqam plains by a macadamized road.

Shabir, 21, made his family and community proud by passing NEET with 559 points. Visibly shy and an introvert since his childhood, his neighbours describe him as the most humble guy in the whole village. Shabir studied in a local school located outside his home up to the fifth primary and later shifted to Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) Ashmuqam for further studies. After completing his twelfth standard, Shabir straightaway sat to write the NEET examinations.

Scoring only 374 points in NEET 2018, Shabir didn’t make the cut. To be on a safer side, he decided to get enrolled for BSc in a Jammu college and prepare for next year’s NEET simultaneously. While he was yet to sit in his first-semester college examinations, NEET date-sheet was out forcing him to prepare vigorously. He restricted himself to the college hostel for several months and avoided getting enrolled in a coaching academy or a tuition centre.

“To be honest, I prepared for the examination only for five months,” Shabir said. “If it wasn’t for my friend Aabid Farooq from Srigufwara who is pursuing MBBS in ASCOMS Jammu, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to qualify. He guided me at every step.”

Shabir couldn’t be happier for achieving something he had dreamed for a long time but he knows how hard the journey lies ahead. “This is just the beginning,” admits Shabir. “I know I have to face bigger hurdles and hardships in future but I have to be strong and prepared.”

Until a few years back, the family lived in a typical thatched mud house. Then they constructed a three-room structure made of raw bricks and mud with a tin-roof next to the old one.

Shabir Kohli

Shabir Kohli

Despite all odds, Shabir’s parents made sure they give education to their children. Shabir has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Two of them study in the local middle school while as another one is enrolled in JNV Ashmuqam. Only the eldest sister didn’t go to school as she learned to tailor at an early age to support the family. Over the years, she has made a good name in tailoring in the area and earns handsomely.

“We don’t have to only tend cows for generation after generations,” Hajira, Shabir’s mother said. “I want to see my children living a better life.”

Shabir’s father Ghulam Hassan Kohli has been a farmer his whole life and is not keeping well for the last couple of years. Despite that, he tends to the cattle and fields himself every day and toils hard just not to make his son’s studies suffer.

“We never ask Shabir to help us in the fields,” Hajira said. “Also, he doesn’t know his way around cattle and fields; he was interested only in his studies right from his childhood.”

Suddenly, the wide smile on Hajira’s face got overshadowed with waves of sorrow and concern. A few days back, a visitor at her home had told her that she will have to spend more than Rs 60,000, a year for Shabir’s 5-year MBBS degree and it has been keeping her mind occupied since then. “I don’t know how we will manage that every year but I know Allah will find a way for us,” she asserted.

Old mud house of Kohli family. KL Image: Aaqib Hyder

Old mud house of Kohli family. KL Image: Aaqib Hyder

Hajira has been working as a cook in the local state-run school for the last 14 years. A job she had started to supplement the family finances has failed to do so even after more than a decade. Currently, she gets a meagre Rs 1000 a month for the job. “As prices of products are skyrocketing, working for Rs 1000 seems like beggar (forced labour),” she said. “Moreover, I don’t get my money at the end of every month but after every eight to nine months usually.”

Shabir had asked her mother to get him a bike as a gift if he cracks the NEET examination, but now, he is more interested in having an android phone. “He will be away from home for at least five years from now,” one of Shabir’s sisters said. “He is still using a simple phone and can’t browse the internet on it. He surely needs a better phone for studying and other purposes.”

Shabir’s dedicated pursuit of excellence is an inspiration to all but he has always looked up to his parents as an inspiration. Their hard work and strong conviction to educate their children has helped him to keep going in tough times. “My parents are my real inspiration,” Shabir asserted. “Despite weak financial conditions and other constraints at home, they never drew back their support from whatever I was doing. They are my heroes.”

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