The Struggling Scientist

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An inspirational story of a boy from a very humble origin who fought odds and to finally study in a prestigious global university, reports Saifullah Bashir

Mohammad Burhan gave up many opportunities only to grow in a line he had decided for his future.

He is Burhan, 27, whose life is interesting and whose story is an inspiring one. Despite a lot of ups and downs in his life, he secured his admission in one of the world’s best universities without spending a penny from his pocket. His ultimate goal is to become a scientist.   

Mohammad Burhan was only six years old when his father passed away. As a result of the death, the family faced enormous difficulties.  Burhan’s siblings were minor and there was no source of income. After some time his uncle married his mother and he became a mentor to Burhan.

At his school, Burhan was an average student. He used to secure more than two-third per cent of the marks. But poverty remained part and parcel of his life.

“In my primary classes my parents used to implore teachers to let me study for free”, said Burhan. Despite all these hardships, he qualified his twelfth class with 80 per cent of marks. Later, he decided to study Mathematics and Physics. And to everybody’s surprise, he qualified All India Entrance Examination (AIEEE) and got rank 28 in Jammu and Kashmir in architecture.

Burhan opted to go for mechanical engineering. He got an opportunity to choose the college where he wanted to study. Finally, he opted for LPU (Lovely Professional University) but the problem for him was how to pay his tuition fees. He took an education loan from a commercial bank. By 2014 he walked out of the institute with a bachelor’s degree.

Though he completed his degree, the family was in a dire need of financial assistance. Burhan had to repay to the bank as well. His family comprises of two brothers, a sister, mother and step-father. Burhan said he didn’t study to earn money but at the same time, money is the material elixir for life.

 Lands In A Job

 Burhan got employed at a Construction Company in Srinagar as a mechanical engineer.

“I used to earn Rs 30,000 a month and as a bachelor, it meant a lot for me”, Burhan said. For three years, he worked in the company but remained a reluctant worker. “I remained tense and depressed. This was not something I liked doing. My goal was something else.”

 Due to this mental agony, Burhan finally resigned. It shocked his parents and relatives. Some even scolded him. “This company was becoming a barrier to the achievement of my goal. So, I resigned,” Burhan said.  

Burhan did not listen to anyone. He decided his own course. “I sat alone in a room, worried, confused and scared,” he said. “Then, I started studying for the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) examinations for 40 days and finally I qualified it.”

In NIT

Burhan got a seat in National Institute of Technology (NIT) and in many other institutions. He refused to take admission there and went to Hindustan University, a prestigious university located in Chennai.  Again the issue of tuition fee aroused. “I would say that I am very lucky. There was a time when I did not have money to pay tuition fee but I never lost hope,” he said. “Whenever I needed help, Almighty intervened.”

 Burhan got a scholarship through the National Scholarship Scheme and completed his Master in Aeronautical Engineering (M.tech).  

 In France

He did not stop there. He applied for advance Masters in France and qualified another examination and got one more scholarship from the French government. “I used to get 750 Euros per month just to study”, he said. It was during his studies in France, Burhan travelled to Spain, France and Germany. Finally, he completed his advance masters in France and won the gold medal.

Mohammad Burhan is a scientist who is fighting odds to keep going.

In 2019, Burhan flew home. He decided to join some job until he got his degree. His programme was to go back to France for research.

You Are Kashmiri?

Burhan applied at an international airline as a flight dispatch engineer but there was only one vacancy. It was extremely difficult to secure that position. He had to crack five competitive interviews. Fortunately, he cracked all of them and filled the vacancy.

“There was no limit to my happiness. I thought let me collect some money and then leave for France”, Burhan said.

Burhan received appointment letter and other documents and on September 10, 2019, he was supposed to join the office. He reached Chennai International Airport but was not permitted to join his job. “When I reached there, Managing Director told me that you are from Kashmir and they had orders not to let Kashmiris do the job there,” Burhan said, insisting on every single word.

 In DRDO Instead

Though this was extremely disappointing,  the setback didn’t break his will. He remembered that there is a scientist in defence Dr Ramanijachari, who has also worked as an assistant with APJ Abul Kalam. Burhan got in touch with Dr Raman and he sent his profile to the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) for an internship. For this, he was criticized by his who told him that getting into DRDO was not everyone’s cup of tea.

 The request was accepted by the DRDO and after the police investigation, he got a green signal. Burhan worked in defence in the department of aerodynamics for eight months and returned home.  

His profile was getting too strong but on the family front, he was facing the music because they wanted him to do some work. But he stuck to his decision. He applied for research in many foreign universities but there was no serious reply from any one of them. The rejections did not bother him.

A Neighbour’s Call

It was at this crucial juncture that one of his neighbours told him that there was a job-seeking visa in Germany and that one had to just apply for a visa and do the job there. Burhan went to Chennai for an appointment.

Another unexpected development took place. At the embassy a woman, probably a staff member told him that he should complete The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination and that will enable him to easily go for a research programme.

There was very less time left for the particular language examination. After 15 days of day-night study, Burhan scored seven out of nine. This score was enough to get a visa.

In Queens’ Finally

Now Burhan applied for doctoral and post-doctoral research at Queens University Belfast, which is one of the 100 top universities in the world.

Queen’s University is not a private but a public university of Belfast. Burhan has to pay for his studies.

“It was another challenge for me”, Burhan said.  He applied for scholarships and got three out of five. “My tuition fee is Rs 20 lakh per year and it was absolutely impossible for me”.

Securing admission there was not easy. He went through multiple interviews, written tests and succeeded.

Burhan had unshakable faith in God. So the intervention came. Kashmir Education Initiative (KEI), an NGO, arranged around Rs eight lakh for him. With the scholarships and help, Burhan’s dream came true. He has started studying from home since October 1. Visa has been issued and he will work as an assistant research scientist at the Queen’s. “It was something that Allah had planned for me. Without His help and will, it was not possible”, Burhan said.

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