Gentleman who’d be officer
Misunderstood by all, laughed at by many and pitied by many more, we are a hilarious world nonetheless...’ This is how a blog by Civil Services topper Shah Faesal, written about his fellow Kashmiris when protesters swamped the Valley’s streets during the Amarnath land row, begins.india Updated: May 08, 2010 22:52 IST
Misunderstood by all, laughed at by many and pitied by many more, we are a hilarious world nonetheless...’ This is how a blog by Civil Services topper Shah Faesal, written about his fellow Kashmiris when protesters swamped the Valley’s streets during the Amarnath land row, begins.
Today, however, Fa, right to information (RTI) activist, journalist and doctor, has brought glory to his ‘hilarious world’. He is the topper among 875 candidates who qualified the exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission this year — the first Kashmiri to have done that.
He cracked the exam along with two other Kashmiris, Showkat Parray and Rayees Mohammad Bhat. A milestone not just for the 27-year-old but a step forward for the rest of the Valley as well. “I think I have broken a jinx. Now Kashmir’s students will look beyond medicine and engineering as a career,” exclaims a jubilant Faesal.
Till now just a handful of Kashmiri Muslims have qualified for the civil services. In 2008, Imtiaz Ismail Parrey cleared the exam after a 14-year gap. Before him Javed Geelani and Abdul Gani Mir, a top official in the state Criminal Investigation Department, had cleared it in 1994.
His mother Mubeena Shah says her “peace-loving” son always wanted to “do something big”.
When Faesal first called his mother from Delhi to announce his result, Mubeena was rendered speechless. “I am thankful to God. Now is the time to serve my people. I will work for peace in the Valley,” he had told her.
Faesal’s is a remarkable tale of courage and resolve to fight odds. Having initially studied at a government school in Sheikh Naar, Kupwara, about 95 kilometres from Sringar, he managed to score good grades in class 12, after shifting to Tyndale Biscoe, Srinagar’s most prestigious school. “When Faesal got a distinction in class 10, it was something unheard of in Kupwara,” recalls his mother.
The last few years haven’t been easy for Faesal. The biggest shock was the death of his father Ghulam Mohammad Shah three days before his medical entrance exam. Shah, a schoolteacher from the frontier district, fell to militants’ bullets in 2002. “Not only did he take the exam three days after his father’s death, he managed to secure a high rank,” said his mother. “The day I went to take my paper was a turning point in my life. I thought if I managed to do this, I could do anything,” Faesal said. Eyes brimming with tears, Mubeena wishes her husband were with her to share her happiness. “He was a good maths teacher,” she recalled. Faesal agrees. “What he taught me in class 10 helped me in my civils.”
Though the family is tight-lipped about the reasons behind his killing, sources say Shah had protested about an eve teasing incident by a foreign militant in Kupwara. “It was for the first time the town saw anti-militant protests for a month,” said a police officer.
This was the second violent death in the Shah family. Earlier Mubeena had lost her brother, Irshad, who was caught in firing between security forces and militants in Kupwara.
Against all odds
Shaken by the incidents, the family shifted to Srinagar. “Mubeena and her three kids never wanted to return to the village after that,” says a neighbour who doesn’t wish to be named.
Those who know Faesal say the boy never lost his focus. Not only did he clear his pre-medical exam but topped the 2008 batch in his college.
Besides his father, Faesal counts his late maternal grandfather Mohammad Maqbool Wani among his inspirations. Wani qualified for the Indian Forest Service 45 years ago.
After his medial internship, Faesal began preparing for his civils and also joined the Jammu and Kashmir RTI movement, which includes doctors, engineers and lawyers.
“He has a steady head on his shoulders. He knows what he wants and puts in everything to achieve it. He believes young people can make a difference if they join the civil services,” said Dr Muzaffar Bhat, a fellow medico and RTI activist. Besides being a grassroots worker, Faesal also wrote for English dailies in the Valley about the need for good governance. “He wants to make a difference to people’s lives. He’ll surely make a great officer,” adds Bhat.