Defying stereotypes, a Muslim boy and girl have bagged all three medals instituted for the BA course in the ancient Indian language by the Gujarat University.
Two of the medals for Sanskrit were won by Taiyab Sheikh, a student of Y S Arts and Commerce college in Devgadh Baria in Panchmahals district. The third went to Yasminbanu Kothari of the Adiwasi Arts and Commerce college in Santrampur in the interior of the state’s tribal belt.
Sheikh got 75.5 per cent marks and Kothari 68.5 per cent. The medals were awarded at the convocation Tuesday.
Sheikh, 23, who is now studying for a B.Ed. degree in a Godhra college, said he was inspired to learn Sanskrit after hearing stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharat told by his teachers in primary school in his village of Tokarwa.
He said he wants to be a post-graduate in Sanskrit and pursue teaching it as a career. Sheikh enrolled himself for a BA degree with Sanskrit as his main subject as he failed to get a teaching job in a primary school after doing a teachers training course.
His elder brother is a head master in a government primary school and there was no opposition in the family to him studying Sanskrit. “My parents, who are farmers and not educated, only wanted me to perform well,” Sheikh said.
Kothari said she developed a liking for Sanskrit when she was in class 12. The daughter of a fruit-seller who studied up to class 12, she too said she did not face any opposition to her choice of the language. “In fact, my father and his friend Rafiq Sheikh, a college teacher, encouraged me to study it,” she said
Kothari teaches at a primary school in Santrampur and like Sheikh, she too wants to do an MA in Sanskrit and work as a teacher.
“A language does not belong to any community. Anyone can learn any language provided he or she has interest in it,” said J R Machchi, Sheikh’s Sanskrit teacher.
“Muslim boys and girls diversifying into other educational fields is a good sign,” added J S Bandukwala, a retired Physics professor from M S University who runs Zidni Ilma Trust, which promotes professional and technical education among poor Muslim students.
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