Shaikh Ansar Ahmad was all of 15 when he saw his father, an autorickshaw driver in Selgaon in Jalna, Maharashtra, bribe a tehsil official to clear his documents for a Union government housing scheme. It rattled him and that’s when Shaikh resolved to pursue the civil services. Shaikh came to Pune as advised by some elders and took admission in Fergusson College for Arts and joined Unique Academy to achieve his goal. He stood 361st in the exam.
Shaikh cracked the tough UPSC exam in his first attempt, but had to cross several obstacles to get there. From searching for accommodation to his attempts at learning English all by himself, he overcame the difficulties and “biases or prejudices” he encountered. “I was looking for a place to stay near my college and coaching centre as there was a two-month wait before I could join the hostel run by the Students’ Welfare Association. I was told point blank that I would not get the accommodation, but I took it in my stride. Sure enough, within a few days I got a place easily at a Hindu family’s house, just a few places away from the first place I had checked,” he told The Times Of India.
Shaikh said he gave a friend’s name (Shubham) and not his real name for the mess services to do away with more roadblocks. “I don’t believe in biases, but I have seen them since childhood in my native place. It happens in society even today. I want to work towards better harmony and eradicate these biases and sensitise people using technology and social media,” he said.
Shaikh said he owes a lot to his mentor Tukaram Jadhav, director of Unique Academy. “Ansar has been realistic, but has a steely determination and an innate smartness. I had no idea about the discrimination or the hardships he faced or his family background till now. He never spoke about them. He was also the first to take advantage of the academy’s English coaching library,” said Tukaram. Tukaram, also from a small village in Marathwada’s Latur district has seen misery, but talks about Ansar as “an outstanding student who developed his own model of study and was persistent.” Shaikh’s close friends and family call him Ansar.
Shaikh’a father Ahmad, and younger brother Anees (19) played a big role in his success. His younger brother selflessly transferred his entire salary to Shaikh’s account every month to help him realise his dreams. “Anees works in a grocery and told my uncle to transfer his entire salary to my account. During the first year in Pune, I made friends, got to know the city and also took part and won elocution competitions, including a national-level contest. I studied on my own in the final year for the civil services exam, but kept visiting the academy where the teachers solved every query, and I had lots of them,” Shaikh added.