“Our financial strain was rising. Even getting the loans I had taken to ensure that the children get a good education was tough."
Parveen Akhter is no stranger to adversities or the strength to stare them down into submission. While the country rejoiced at the success of her children, she stood behind them, her pride and happiness quiet and deep.
“There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing my children do well and become successful,” she tells me.
Parveen has been a strong influence in the lives of her children—IAS officer Dr Rehana Bashir and IRS officer Amir Bashir, who learnt the useful lessons of patience and resolve looking at the way their mother fought with the challenges in her life.
In this exclusive interview with The Better India (TBI), Parveen shares her ups and downs with us.
Life in Jammu
“In 1985 my husband, Mohammed Bashir, migrated to Jammu from Poonch before we were married. He did so in search of better opportunities and took up the job of a motor mechanic with the State Forest Corporation. For more than a decade, life was comfortable and we did not have any complaints,” she says. Parveen was working at the time as the Head Assistant at the Agriculture Department.
It was almost ten years after the birth of Amir Bashir, their second born, that his father developed motor neuron disease where the nerve cells that send electric output signals to the muscles are impacted, thereby affecting the muscle’s ability to function.
Unfortunately, no one could even diagnose his disease correctly which had made his condition worse.
Looking back at that period, Parveen shares, “There came a time when we weren’t able to afford even the basic necessities and here I had three children to look after and a husband who was unwell. It was a very trying time for us as a family—financially, emotionally, and physically.”
Despite Parveen’s job, the family faced a financial crunch due to the cumulative expenses of the children’s studies and her husband’s medical bills.
The Children Rally Around the Mother
Parveen believes that looking at their father’s deteriorating condition and their mother’s struggles, her children became highly sensitised to people’s pain.
“Amir and Rehana developed a strong bond for each other especially due to the fact that most of my time was taken up with hospital visits. The pain transformed them both into very mature and sensitive individuals,” she says.
Unfortunately in September 2006, when Amir and Rehana were just 13 and 14 years of age respectively their father passed away.
Speaking about her son, Amir, she says, “Our financial strain was rising. Even the loans I had taken to ensure that the children get a good education was tough. Amir got through NIT, Srinagar as well as a local engineering college in Jammu.” When the time to make a decision came, Amir decided to study in Jammu only because of the financial strain that studying at NIT would further put the family in.
“I remember how difficult it was for Amir to make that choice then. In fact, as he was studying in college he started helping me by giving tuition classes to a few children.”
Amir Bashir—Cracking the Civil Services
“Amir wanted to take up a job that would help him make a difference to society at large and it was then that he decided to appear for the UPSC examinations,” recollects Parveen.
As a child, Amir would often visit his grandmother who lived in an area that was constantly under the threat of shelling and that impacted him deeply. The hardships that the people in that area went through hardened his resolve to get into the services.
The hardships that Amir went through while growing up perhaps shaped his future, says Parveen. “He was sure of only wanting to get into the civil services as that offered him a bigger platform to make a difference to people.” In 2017 he cracked his way into the Indian Revenue Service.
Dr Rehana: Her Mother’s Pride
Parveen’s first born, Dr Rehana, encountered the harsh realities of life during the time she was interning in Jammu during her medical college years. Speaking about Rehana’s journey, Parveen says, “In 2017 she attempted the civil services for the first time and did not clear, not one to get deterred she wrote the examination again in 2018 and cleared with an All India Rank of 187.”
In doing so, she also became the first woman aspirant from Poonch to clear the examination and become an IAS officer. “What my children have done is open the door for many other aspirants in the village. So many look up to them and see them as an inspiration. As a mother, what could make me happier and prouder?” she dimples.
Life is the biggest and the strictest teacher. The ones who stand up and take these lessons as challenges are the ones who can tame life. Parveen, with her calm demeanour and forbearance in face of tribulations, seemed to have conquered life. Her children are shining examples of that.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)