Gender bias does not figure in 16-year-old Ilayasi Begum's dictionary. Afflicted with polio and unable to walk, her father is going extraordinary lengths to help her stand on her feet.
Forty-year-old Abdul Saheb, an illiterate man from Ekggam village in backward Adilabad district, is firm that his daughter will fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor. After Ilayasi passed the high school examination with flying colours, relatives had a word of advice for Ilayasi: Find a boy and marry her off, lessen the load of lugging a physically-challenged person.
But Abdul, who is employed for only part of the year driving landowners' tractors and making Rs 1,500 per month, refuses to draw the curtain on Ilayasi's life. He has got her admitted to a college in Bhainsa, the nearest town, nearly nine kilometers from the village. But since the college has no hostel and since there is no public transport from the village to the town, Abdul drives his daughter to college everyday. Every morning, he sets out on his bicycle with Ilyasi riding pillion and drops her off before going to work. Again, after finishing his day's chores, he ferries Ilayasi home. On an average day, he cycles 36 kilometers to and fro to see that Ilayasi does not miss a single day in college.
Everyday, the father and daughter talk of the future on their way. "Why should I get tired? It is a mission for me. I want to educate my daughter. I am uneducated myself and I am suffering for it. I want to stand on her own feet," he says.
Ilayasi is the eldest of three siblings. Her mother rolls beedis to supplement the family’s income. Having suffered because of poor medicare, Ilayasi is preparing for the medical entrance test. "For all the hard work and sacrifice of my father and family, I will make them proud one day," she says.