This year, while HSC students take their three-hour-long examinations, 18-year-old Hemita Shah chooses to stand throughout the duration of each paper. The Vashi resident suffers from muscular dystrophy, which causes muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue, since birth. Standing, she believes, will increase her writing speed.
Shah, a commerce student from St Mary’s Multipurpose High school and Junior college, Vashi, says that standing and writing has almost become a habit.
“Since I was in Class 5, I have written my examinations like this. I did have the privilege of taking a writer during my boards, but I feel he/ she will not be able to do justice to what I have studied,” says Shah, who adds that standing through three hours tires her out but at the end, it is all worth it. “I am not comfortable sitting on the benches at the examination centre. My school authorities have taken every effort to make me comfortable during class hours. If not for the constant help and support of my principal, teachers and my family, I would have never been able to achieve so much.”
Explaining the condition, Dr Pawan Ojha, neurologist, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, says, “Muscular dystrophy is a rare disorder. The bones grow fine but muscles are underdeveloped. It affects two to three individuals in almost three lakh people. In fact, this condition is even rarer in girls.”
Shah’s mother, Pravina, who is a housewife, accompanies her to the exam centre every day. “I was unaware of my baby’s situation during my pregnancy. We came to know about it when Hemita was two years old,” says Pravina, who adds that Shah’s condition worsened after she met with an accident at the age of six while the family was returning from Gujarat and Shah fell off from one of her relative’s arms.
“Someone pushed my relative, who then lost her balance. We fell down on the platform. I ended up with a fractured leg and was required to sit in one particular position for six months, which further aggravated my disorder,” recalls Shah, who gets 20 minutes extra time for every hour of the examination.
KB Patil, chief conductor from Karamveer Bhaurao Patil College, Vashi, which is Shah’s examination centre, was surprised to see the girl write her papers effortlessly, despite the disorder. “She comes to the centre and revises her lessons before the exam starts.”
The Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education chairman Sarjerao Jadhav said the girl is an inspiration for other students. “She has clearly shown the world that if someone is determined to do something in life nothing can ever stop him / her.