Against all odds

Greater Kashmir

Despite poor financial conditions and ailing parents at home, Mehnaz worked hard to realize her mother’s dream

Mehnaz Rashid Shalyari used to stammer as a kid. She was an average student. But now this girl from Chinkra Mohalla, Habba Kadal is on her way to become a doctor. She says her success was possible because of the sacrifices made by her brothers, her sister, and her parents.
Mehnaz, 23, is the eldest daughter of Abdul Rashid Shalyari, a retired postman. She did her schooling from an Urdu Medium New Light School and grew up in a modest family. Given her father’s monthly income of Rs 5000, it was quite difficult for her to continue her education. “My mother always dreamt of me as a doctor. She was so obsessed that during my childhood when anyone used to ask my name, my reply used to be I am Dr. Mehnaz,” she recalls. Mehnaz’s mother left no stone unturned to change her dream into a reality. She knocked at all the doors and did everything for her daughter.
“I remember one day when once my mother went to one of my teachers with a request of fee concession, she was rebuked by the teacher,” Mehnaz recalls.  “The teacher replied that for all these things I should have chosen Arts as a subject and not Medical-Non Medical.”
To prove her mettle and fulfill her mother’s dream, Mehnaz worked hard. Since she could not afford to purchase books, she would go to the library for her studies. It was 2009 when Mehnaz tried her luck for MBBS for the first time, but she was not selected. “I thought I can’t study further,” she recalls. “It was my brother who encouraged me at that time to move on and study harder.” Following year she again appeared in MBBS entrance test. Her hard work and dedication finally got her selected for MBBS in 2010, in Jammu region.
“My brother who is just two years younger to me wanted to qualify the MBBS exam as well,” she says. “But he sacrificed his dream for my sake. This was because our family could not afford the expenses of the two children due to financial instability, so one of us had to sacrifice his career,” she says. Mehnaz is proud of her brother though. “I know my brother is very efficient and can achieve whatever he wants, but I know he sacrificed his dream and his career for me,” she says.
 Mehnaz’s father is a retired postman. He has always supported her daughter’s education, even taking loans for her. He is even now working hard to make his family comfortable. All alongMehnaz’s mother has been her strength. Mehnaz’s ancestral house was consumed by fire in an accident. The family lost everything in that fire. Without much financial support, they were given two rooms to live in by the Muhalla Community.
Mehnaz says it was her mother who was the engine of the family.“It was my first year MBBS when one fateful day I got a call informing me that my mother has severe chest pain and she has been shifted to the hospital,” recalls Mehnaz. Later X-ray revealed that her mother was suffering from carsonima. Mehnaz and her brother decided to take their mother to TATA Memorial hospital in Mumbai for her further treatment. “We didn’t reveal the fact to anybody and not even my father knew about it,” she says. “Our society declares such people dead even before their death.”
She and her brother took loans from the parents of their friends, tapped all sources and finally managed to take their mother to Mumbai. “I remember when my mother was admitted in the hospital here in Kashmir, we used to keep her erect for the whole night by holding her at the back as she felt breathlessness and we could not manage to purchase an elevator for her,” recalls Mehnaz . When tests prescribed by the doctors in Mumbai were conducted, they came positive and M-cells had appeared, proving the cancer was malignant and it was the last stage. “We went for the chemotherapy sessions which made her feel much better and soon we returned and I cleared my exams,” says Mehnaz. The tumor had regressed and her condition was stable.
Mehnaz was in Jammu when one day her brother again called her, informing her that mother has a hepatitis B infection. Her health was deteriorating. “He requested me to come home soon,” says Mehnaz. When she came back, she came to know that even her father had been suffering from pneumonia. On 25th February her mother was kept on the ventilator. She breathed her last on February 26, 2012.
After her mother’s death, Mehnaz was shattered. All the responsibilities were now on her. She decided to look after her family as well as continue her education in the best way as it was her mother’s biggest dream.
Although she gets a modest scholarship from Ministry of Minority Affairs, she is still struggling to pay her fee as her family’s financial condition has not improved. Presently in third year MBBS, Mehnaz is now looking forward to complete her degree so that she can help her family financially.
“My struggle is still on..,” she says with a smile.

 (Saba Tariq is Izhar Wani intern in GK. Feedback [email protected])