KANHANGAD: Eight years ago, when Mahmood Ahmed was in Class IV, he could not even write his name in his mother tongue, Urdu. Now, he has grown into a promising poet and orator, having won A grades in Urdu poetry and extempore speech competitions at the ongoing State School Festival in Kanhangad. It was the burning desire to escape from his home in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir that changed his fortunes. After his mother Asmath Begum died when he was six, he felt he no longer belonged to his house. Some years later, a Kozhikode-based organisation called Markaz conducted a test for bright children from poor backgrounds.
The selected students would be taught free of cost in prestigious Markaz Boys Higher Secondary School at Karanthur in Kozhikode. “Around 500 children applied for the 50 seats. All of them were trying to escape abject poverty. I failed because I did not even know to write my name. ,” says Ahmed, a class XII student of Markaz school. But he stood in the corner of the class and kept crying till an ustad took notice of him.
“I told him about my mother and how I wanted to escape from Poonch and he took me along,” he says. Ahmed’s metamorphosis has been remarkable. He has been scoring A grades in the Urdu poetry writing and extempore speech competitions for the past five years. This year, the topic for the poetry writing competition at the school arts fest was ‘Broken Dreams’. His poem on his longing for mother won him the A grade.
“I learned to read my mother-tongue in Kerala,” says Ahmed. He is in love with the state. “I will never leave Kerala. I want to teach Urdu in a college or university here,” he says. His cousin Asrar Ahmed, a Class X student of the same school, also got A grades in Urdu poetry writing and speech. They are lucky. Mahmood Ahmed’s elder brother Dawood Ahmed, 20, did not get a chance to go to school. But he followed his younger brother to Kozhikode. He makes a living making parotta for a restaurant in the city.