What’s in a name? Many would ask. But it was his name that was proving a stumbling block for Ansar Shaikh of Jalna in Maharashtra as the autorickshaw driver’s son chased his dream of acing the tough UPSC test.
Doors to all paying guest accomodations and mess were slammed shut as the 22-year-old landed in Pune three years ago to prepare for the civil services examination the moment he uttered his name. Finally, he assumed the name of his friend ‘Shubham’ to secure a roof over his head.
“I came to Pune to pursue civil service examinations in 2013. However, during the search for a PG (paying guest) accommodation and mess, I faced a lot of hardship as I was denied both because of my name,” Shaikh who stood 361st in the all-India rankings, said.
“After facing discrimination, I started hiding my real name and started using the name of my friend Shubham, a Hindu, and thereafter never faced any issues while getting admission into a mess,” he said.
Instead of getting the better of him, the identity crisis motivated the youngster to get into the system responsible for discrimination so he could erase the collective bias from within.
“I never got angry or frustrated. In fact, I used to get motivated and inspired by all these things. It became a driving force during my preparation so that I can see myself there (at the top),” he said.
Hailing from a poor family, Shaikh, whose father Yonus is an autorickshaw driver, said he was unruffled as he had seen indifference and discrimination all his life.
“Every society has such elements. So there is no need to get frustrated, instead, we have to see how we can put an end to such things,” he said. Shaikh hopes to get into the coveted Indian Administrative service so he can do his bit to eliminate discrimination in society.
A political science graduate from Fergusson College here, Ansar Shaikh prepared for UPSC at a private coaching class against great financial odds but never lost sight of his goal.
He attributes his success to his family and friends. “There is no alternative to hard work. During my struggle, my friends helped me a lot mentally and financially and even my coaching academy waived a portion of fees due to my poor financial condition,” he said.
His father and younger brother Anees, who had to give up his education due to poverty, defied all odds to send him money so he can chase the great IAS dream, he said.