Dawn, dusk and her grit

Motivation is something that is quite indispensable to keep us going. Sometimes even to get off the bed, a poster with some catalyzing quote becomes a mandate. Inspiration is often veiled in books while sometimes it is the masked modesty of humans that deceives us. We usually look too far for something to inspire us while we overlook our environs. The international exposure that Stuttgart offers us is truly a bliss and we certainly get to socialize with people from different upbringings. While a cultural shock is customary, what we also learn is how different the conditions were as we grew up.

I had one such incident of late while after a group work, I was walking back to my dorm and started speaking to a friend of mine, Sohaila Nijat from Kabul, Afghanistan. The conversation started about how fun my childhood was and all the things I missed back home. Needless to mention, she had a story too. But, what I heard over the next few minutes shook me right amounts to get me writing this blog. If you have been whining about how better things could be in life, read this and I promise, you will bring it to a screeching halt. Well, I didn’t just pause but put a full stop to my grousing.

How it all began?

As a saying by Freya Stark goes, “Curiosity is one thing invincible in nature”. We often find ourselves in situations that we are totally unaware of and at the same time curious to know what actually is happening. Sohaila’s curiosity got the better of her dad when she heard her dad teaching her brother. Her dad found her interest in studies quite overwhelming. Such instincts are quite a rare occurrence, but when they do occur, one has to make sure it is given the courtesy it warrants. As opposed to what most men in his society would have done, he nurtured her inquisitiveness. That was how it all began, with her admission into the school at the age of five. This might sound quite normal to most of us, but let me try to drag you to the perspective, it is a society where the education of a girl child is considered trivial or for that matter unnecessary.

Society on the skids

Right when we think everything is going your way, life has its own surprises. These bombshells often change our lives to an extent that the whole course is disrupted and leaves us shattered. The road ahead turns so uncertain that in spite of putting all your efforts you fail to pull things off. Sohaila faced a situation that neither she nor her family had anything to do with, yet, had to pay the huge price of freedom. Those were the days when Afghanistan faced a social crisis and Taliban took over the country. What did that mean to her? Well, they were all against the education of girls and going a step ahead, had banned it too. Whoever broke the rule, they had to face the tunes of brutal punishment.

As the American author Zig Ziglar once said, “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there”. There is always a way out and Sohaila, with the backing of her parents, attended private schools that were conducted in a covert environment. Schools being surreptitious is a nightmare to any modern society. As she explains, “When I took the streets to get to these schools, I covered the books with a cover of Quran to keep any suspicions at bay.” She goes on, “Though these schools were conducted in the basement of some buildings, it was a horrifying experience as the fear of being caught by the Taliban while in the classroom is unexplainable.” As failure was no option to her, she went on continuing her education in these schools for around 5 years. As history has it, everything has to end. Good or bad. This time it was the terrible political situation that has its turn.

Capstone yet? No… But well on track

The recovery activity kicked off soon with the international community helping the new government in the transition. Education was now permitted for the female populace and Sohaila’s “You go girl” moment was here as she returned to school and much to her family’s expectation, she topped the country. With 75000 students battling it out for 120 places in the faculty of engineering, she got enrolled as one of the 5 girls across the country to manage the feat. Consistent performance had become a habit to her by now and as she graduated, managed a job as well. She was not someone who could ever be stopped by anyone for that matter and consequentially, she reached Stuttgart for pursuing her masters as a result of her undying spirit.

The way she fought all odds to make it this far, it wouldn’t be overstating to call it a tour de force. To this date, she stands apart from the crowd and keeps leaping ahead solely on the support of her persistence and hard work. May the force be with you. After having written this, the air reminds me of a quote by Malala Yousafzai, “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world”.

Here’s hoping the article found its way into motivating you to do what you have always wanted to. If it’s the comfy couch that has been keeping you from it, wreck it. Blues? Oh come on, Kick the blues and get going mate. Yes, you!



Saleem Javed is a master’s student at the University of Stuttgart doing an International course. An engineer by education and profession, who writes to make sure he doesn’t stack it all up there. Strongly believes in the quote “If you want to be remembered, do something worth writing or write something worth reading”. Plays safe, picks the latter!

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