Saina’s story is an inspiration to all. It is the story of a school dropout woman who educated her six daughters and made them doctors. Saina had to quit her studies after the fifth standard. She was married off to her cousin, TVP Ahammed Kunjammed when she was just 12 years old.
The first time she ever stepped foot in his house in Nadapuram, she was terrified about her new life and was sad about quitting school.
“At that time, my husband was running a business in Madras. We had our first daughter a while after our marriage. He went to Qatar after that and found a job in a petroleum company. He promised to take us with him. I was so excited,” They soon flew to Qatar and settled there quite well.
“He was a very knowledgeable person. He read a lot and was willing to tell stories about different places and things in different corners of the world,” she remembered.
Daughters are precious
The couple had six daughters - the eldest is Fathima, Hajira, Ayisha, Fayiza, Rahnaz, and the youngest is Ameera.
“Whenever the women in our hometown heard about my deliveries, they would worry about the future of our daughters. But I was never worried about raising girls or sad about giving birth to six daughters. I never thought of them as a burden. I was adamant that my children should study well and achieve good positions in their lives. My husband bought many books for our daughters saying that they should have general knowledge too," Saina said.
"As I said, I quit my studies when I was in Class 5. I was the most studious girl in my class back then and the teachers loved me. Recently, I went to my Maths teacher’s house after his wife passed away. He placed his hand on my shoulder and asked ‘Why didn’t you study?’ I became very sad upon hearing that. I was instantly reminded of my school time. Nobody encouraged me to study back then. My father and mother had many other things to worry about. I was always scared of my father," she added.
It was common in those days to marry off girls at a young age. One day, when I came home from school I was told that I was to be married off the next day. After my marriage, I used to tell my husband that he could have encouraged me to study. He consoled me by saying that we would educate our children well. That is how the education of our daughters became our most important goal and happiness,” she explained.
Respect for doctors
Saina had always felt that whatever be the job, the society must benefit from it. It had been imprinted in Saina’s mind that being a doctor fulfilled that aim. Both Ahammed Kunjammed also believed the same.
“There used to be a doctor named Kunjalikutty in Nadapuram. He was the first Muslim doctor from this area. My father's brother was also a doctor. I saw the respect that they earned from people because of their profession and realised how much people valued doctors.”
Saina's second daughter, Dr Hajira still remembers the evenings in her house. “Our mother used to call all of us together and tell us one thing. ‘You have to study. There is no excuse.’ Our father used to ask us what our plan was after 10th standard. We would all say the same thing as reply to that question - become a doctor. We all had the inspiration to take from the ones who became doctors before us. I looked up to my sister. Our younger sisters looked up to us. We had nothing else to worry about,” Hajira remembered.
Saina was over the moon as she saw all her daughters crusading toward their goal of MBBS.
“Our third daughter Ayisha expressed an interest to join LLB. I told her that she can first become a doctor and then go for whichever profession she liked if she was still interested. I feared that if she became a lawyer, her husband might not allow her to work. But that was not a threat when it came to the case of doctors. I also knew that women could work safely in that field in any corner of the world. I told my daughter: ‘I became a housewife. You should not have the same fate. Your father’s wish and my decision are that you should become a doctor." Ayisha took no time to assemble her dreams after hearing her mother’s words.
“There are many girls who pursue higher studies these days. But the unfortunate thing is that they are often married off while they’re studying. I know many who suffer that way. They are married off after two or three years of studying BDS, they get pregnant the next year and give birth to babies the year after that and are confined to the walls of their home. I was stubborn that I would not allow such a thing to happen in the life of my girls,” Saina said.
Greatest loss in life
By the time Saina and her husband returned to Kerala after ending three decades of expatriate life, two of their eldest daughters had become doctors. Dr Fathima and Dr Hajira. The third and fourth daughters were studying MBBS during that time. The youngest two were still in school. It was during that time, the greatest tragedy in her life happened.
“He wanted to stay in Qatar until the completion of our daughters’ education. But I was the one who told him that we must return to our homeland and spend our last years together in our home. After almost two years since our return to our home, he suffered a sudden heart attack and passed away following that,” she recollected.
With that, Saina lost the biggest strength in her life. That loss was not easy for her to overcome.
“We had married off only two of our daughters during the time of his death. The others were still studying. Once, a woman in my family came and told me, ‘I did not make my children doctors, not because of their inability to study, but because they would be alone if anything unfortunate happened to us. That is why I got them married off soon.’ What that woman intended to say was that I was trapped since I chose to educate my daughters instead of getting them married off. I did not say anything, I was still in shock after my husband’s passing. But even at that point, I never felt that I was all alone with my children," she said.
“Once a man phoned from Thiruvananthapuram with a marriage proposal for my daughter. He asked me what we were planning to give to our daughter. I replied that I would not give them anything for my daughter. He was surprised, so I asked him what his intention was. He told me that he has a son and a daughter and that he had to get his daughter married off using the dowry obtained from his son’s marriage. I told him one thing - ‘I have not kept my daughter for sale.’
It is Saina’s greatest strength that she is able to make strong decisions and say it aloud in similar situations.
“My eldest daughter Fathima’s MRCP Graduation ceremony will be held in London soon. She is asking me to go with her. She keeps telling me that I am the captain of all these dreams.”
Saina is happy and content with her life. She dreams of women sprouting wings and soaring up in the skies. Limitlessly.