For years their diminutive stature made some wonder if they would do anything meaningful with their lives, but the Idrisi sisters—Zubaida (23) who is 3.5-foot tall and Humaira (22) who is 3.9—have already become mini-celebrities in their Nagpada neighbourhood. They qualified in this year’s medical entrance exam (NEET) and recently secured their MBBS admission; Humaira has got into Topiwala Nair Medical College at Mumbai Central and Zubaida at Government Medical College in Jalgaon.
The Idrisi sisters who live with three other siblings and parents—father Ahsanullah who is a tailor and mother Rukhsar a homemaker—in the crowded Kazipura near Nagpada junction could have not made it to the MBBS course but for a chance meeting with Ashfaque Moosa of Khidmat Charitable Trust last year.
A local NGO runs a dispensary in a corner of P T Mane Garden at Nagpada, which Zubaida and Humaira visited to pick up medicine for their grandmother. Moosa, who is called Ashfaque Bhai, was at the dispensary then and asked the two about their education. On hearing that they had abandoned their dream to be doctors and subsequently graduated in science from the nearby Maharashtra College, Ashfaque Bhai told them not give up on it. “If a six-footer needs 600 marks in NEET to get into MBBS, you need less than half of that,” he joked. On further enquiries, the sisters found their condition was covered in the reserved category of “differently disabled” and they could take a shot at NEET.
“Ashfaque uncle hamari gudiyon ke liye farishta bankar aae (Ashfaque uncle came as an angel for my dolls),” says the sisters’ burqa-clad mother Rukhsar. “He showed them the path and my beloved daughters never looked back since the day they met him.”
Ashfaque Bhai says the girls had full support of their poor parents but were discouraged from even trying to clear NEET. “Someone told them to become lab technicians or join BUMS, a Unani medicine course. But I saw the burning desire in them and that desire only needed a proper direction,” says Ashfaque Bhai who helps arrange scholarships for needy and deserving students.
Next, with a revived MBBS dream in their eyes, the sisters landed up at a coaching institute in Ghatkopar and were almost turned away by a staffer citing their “inadequate” height when the director saw them and asked them to wait. Their photographs were sent to the institute’s headquarters in Kota, which approved their admission with 60% concession in fees. Every day, the sisters would travel by crowded local trains from Byculla to Ghatkopar and back, till the lockdown began. They even took help of lectures on YouTube. “They got so involved in studies that I had to remind them about dinner and lunch,” says their mother. “My dolls have made us proud.”
Rukhsar says she and her husband found out about the insufficient growth hormones in Zubaida and Humaira after they turned five and stopped growing. One doctor said their treatment would cost over Rs 11 lakh. “We had no money to go for costly treatment but I wanted my daughters to get educated and stand on their feet as I didn’t want them to depend on anybody’s mercy or charity,” says Rukhsar.
Career counselor Kazim Malik, who knows the sisters well, says they will need to work hard to complete MBBS, which they have resolved to do to achieve great heights.
Mohammed Wajihuddin, a senior journalist, is associated with The Times of India, Mumbai. This piece has been picked up from his blog.