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'I will write exams with my feet'

While many students use the excuse of poor results to drop out of school and abandon academic pursuits altogether, Nadeem Sheikh is appearing for his HSC examination for the second time this year - to redeem himself after a heartbreaking failure in two subjects last year.

Nadeem Sheikh
Nadeem Sheikh (19) is a student of Ismail Yusuf College in Jogeshwari. Pic/Nimesh Dave

While this itself is a laudable feat, Nadeem’s efforts are rendered more heroic, and Herculean, in light of the fact that he lacks what most students take for granted when they sit down to write a paper - the use of their two hands. Born without two arms, Nadeem had everybody’s sympathy when he failed in two papers last year - everyone’s but his own, that is.

Nadeem Sheikh
Nadeem Sheikh’s unflagging determination to pursue a career in Arts spurred him on as he began preparations all over again, steeling his resolve to repeat the laborious task of writing all the papers with his dexterous right foot. Pics/Nimesh Dave

The 19-year-old boy’s unflagging determination to pursue a career in Arts spurred him on as he began preparations all over again, steeling his resolve to repeat the laborious task of writing all the papers with his dexterous right foot. Sheikh is a student of Ismail Yusuf College in Jogeshwari and lives in Prem Nagar, a chawl in the same area. His small apartment is crowded by his large family of three sisters, two brothers, and his widowed mother.

Still standing
HSC results came as a shock for Nadeem last year, when he learnt that he had failed his Philosophy and Psychology papers. He explained that his preparations for these two subjects were hampered by the fact that he could not find textbooks for the two subjects written in Hindi. Though the failure came as a big blow to the boy, he got back on his feet soon. With the guidance and encouragement of his mother, Nadeem quit the two subjects and took up Geography and Political Science.

After completing Stds I-VIII in a private school for handicapped students, Nadeem enrolled in a BMC school for his SSC, passing the crucial exam with 46 per cent in the first attempt. The board offers the service of writers to examinees suffering from handicaps, temporary or permanent. While Nadeem is an obvious candidate for this kind of assistance, he has repeatedly refused the help of one, saying that he prefers to write them himself.

Nadeem said, “I could not get textbooks for Philosophy or the guide and the 21-set book of Psychology written in Hindi. I was upset after failing but my mother encouraged me to appear again this year. Many professors told me to take the help of a writer for the examination and my friends too were ready to help out as my writers. But I never wanted anyone’s help.”

Best foot forward
Explaining why he is more comfortable using his own limbs rather than borrowing those of others, he added, “I feel that a writer cannot put down what I have in my mind, or what I think. We have to dictate to them and only then do they write. In the process of dictating, I might lose my train of thought and forget what I wanted to say. So I preferred to write my own exam papers.

I decided to appear again because I don’t believe in giving up easily. So what if I can’t write with my hands; I write well with my legs. It pains because I also use my legs to walk, but I manage to write my exam faster without any practice.”

Noorjahan Sheikh, Nadeem’s mother, said, “He was upset that he failed for the first time in life. But failing does not end life. I encouraged him to change the subjects for which he was not finding the textbooks, and give all the papers again.”

Laxmikant Pandey, chairman of the Mumbai Division of the state board, said, “I am very proud to hear about Nadeem, who is appearing for his papers despite failing once in HSC. Even though he is handicapped, he is not giving up easily. We have seen many students who take the undeserved help of a writer showing fake plasters. But here is a boy writing his exam with the help of his leg, and refusing a writer. He is an inspiration to others.”

Fighting the odds
>> 119 visually challenged students from the new syllabus and 38 from the old syllabus
>> 86 hearing impaired students from new syllabus and 15 from old syllabus
>> 8 speech impaired students from the new syllabus and three from the old syllabus
>> 697 dyslexic students 

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