Ali Shihab has faced many tests in his life. Some he had no control over: his
father died when he was 11, his impoverished mother sent him away to an
orphanage, he was forced to stop studying to take up a peon’s job, and family
circumstances forced him to drop out of even Civil Services coaching. Others
Shihab took on himself: an Arabic medium-student, who has cleared 21 exams so
far conducted by various government agencies for all kinds of posts, yesterday
joined the ranks of India’s successful Civil Service Examination candidates.
It was the 31-year-old’s third attempt, and he ranks 226th on the list. However,
for the boy who spent 10 years in a Muslim orphanage, who wrote his Mains in
Malayalam and appeared for the interview with the help of a translator for want
of proficiency in English, it is a giant leap.
When his father Koroth Ali died, Shihab was a student of Class V. The family
made its living from a makeshift paan shop in their village Edavannappara in
Malappuram, and Shihab shared a two-room house with four siblings, including a
brother and three sisters.
His mother Fathima, a housewife, had no means to feed the children. “As a
last option, mother took me and my two younger sisters to a Muslim-managed
orphanage in Kozhikode district in 1991,” recalls Shihab. Fathima’s only comfort
was that her children were good at studies.