By our Special Correspondent
‘Where there is will there is a way’, the cliché has been proved true by a petite and fragile girl from slum who has achieved what others dream for years.
The delicate Ummul Kher, 28 is hardly five feet tall, but has an everlasting smile on her face. Her eyes twinkle like stars. She is soon going to join the elite India Administrative Service (IAS).
Ummul Kher’s story is no ordinary. She is a lady, a Muslim lady, and a differently abled person. She was born and brought up in a slum in Delhi.
Near the historic tomb of poet Abdul Rahim Khanekhana, there stood a stinking shantytown where Ummul Kher once lived. A dirty drain passes through this place which carries most of city’s filth. Sometimes in 2001, this shantytown was demolished to give way to the construction of gigantic Barapullah bridge which connects south Delhi to the east. The development of the city cost heavily to Ummul Khair. She and her family were rendered homeless.
Her father had a small tea shop nearby. This didn’t help much. The family, after struggling for a few months, migrated to their hometown Pali in Rajasthan.
Ummul Kher, who was then in Class 8 in a government school, stayed back. She was all alone. Her family almost disowned and abandoned her.
She says: “My mother thought I have studied enough. She was an uneducated woman from old Delhi. But this happens even in educated families that they undermine daughters. Big competitions are not meant for girls.”
She did exceptionally well in school. A teacher helped her get admission in a private school in east Delhi. Ummul Kher took a small rented room in Trilokpuri neighbourhood. Though her studies were funded by the school, she had to generate some money for her survival. She gave tuition to the children in the neighbourhood.
“My students were mainly children of rickshaw puller and labourers. They paid me Rs.50 or Rs.100,” recalls Ummul Kher. She completed her schooling with flying colours and got admission in Gargi College of Delhi University.
But poverty was not her only obstacle. Ummul Kher has a genetic disease called Fragile Bone Disorder. Her bones were very weak. Even a small injury can cause multiple fracture in her bones.
She says: “Travelling from Trilokpuri to Gargi College in a bus was the biggest challenge. Many times I got multiple fractures. I was on wheel chair for about a year.” She somehow completed BA in Applied Psychology. She then got admission in a Masters course in International Relations at JNU.
Ummul Khair got associated with several voluntary groups working on disability. She was honoured as a Role Model for her extra ordinary work on disability by the National Commission for Women in 2015. She has represented disability rights groups in various countries.
Currently enrolled as a research scholar at JNU, she qualified the UPSC exams in her first attempt. Ummul got support from NGO Zakat Foundation to prepare for the prestigious civil services exams.
Though Ummul ranks 420 in the list, she is likely to get IAS under disability quota.
Her research is based on disability rights in Russia. She hopes to work for the under privileged groups in the society. Talking about her parents, Ummul says: “My father is in Pali in Rajsathan. He is a daily wager and my brother sells bangles. They may not know what IAS is. But yes my father may know what a collector is. I am looking forward to see them on Eid.”