Malu Sheika: The Real Princes of Courage and Determination!

April 13, 2017 0 Comments

On Feb 19th 2017, each and every Keralite focused their attention at the Vembanad Lake with huge enthusiasm. That day, a woman at the age of 20 swam across the dangerous Vembanad Lake from Kumarakom to Muhamma, which is around 9 kilometers. She took just 4 hours and 20 minutes to achieve this great success. That day, she also created a record by becoming the first female swimmer to cross the Lake at its widest stretch. That too by learning swimming for just 16 days!

Before mincing the word “Wonderful”, you should know the real fighter in Malu Sheika. She witnessed the separation of her parents in a courtroom at the age of 7. Her fight against the adversities in life started from that court room. With an objective to keep her life up, she had to do various jobs such as a domestic help, auto rickshaw driver, restaurant employee, container truck driver, heavy-goods vehicle driver, driving instructor, and an insurance adviser. She can speak, write and read 6 languages excluding her mother tongue Malayalam. Now she concentrates her focus on civil service. She is the real inspiration in the whole mankind! So, everyone should know her life hitherto!     

Question: How could you swim against the currents in Vembanad Lake and Periyar and break the record? Kindly elaborate your preparation for achieving this success?

Answer: I started learning swimming as a survival skill rather than a competition item. I approached the swimming coach Saji Valasseril when I saw a newspaper advertisement. He asked me to come with my parents. I cannot do it because I am alone in my life. Then he told me that he cannot teach me swimming without the help of my parents. Either my mother or father should be with me for learning swimming under his guidance. Then, I told him that if this is the rule, I cannot learn swimming in my entire life. I became very sad. When he saw my disappointment, he decided to teach me, which makes me very happy. The training centre was 12 kilometers away from my hostel. So, I woke up at 4am to practice swimming. I could learn the skill very fast. I could float for 5 hours in a 30-foot deep river within 15 days of practice, which was a record. Then, Saji sir told that Malu is capable of swimming even in the Vembanad lake. So, I decided to undertake the challenge. I myself arranged the money for meeting all the expenses to undertake this task.

Q: How you became alone in your life? How was your life with your parents?

I became an orphan at the age of 7 years. I was studying at 3rd standard then. My mother Fatima and father Basheer got divorced legally. When I stood in the courtroom, my major worry was who will give me food and where will I stay. I was also worried about my studies. I was very small, so I was not able to think beyond that. My brother was holding my hand so closely. But, we were pulled apart. My mother and father found new partners in their life. My mother took me to Bangalore, where she lived with her second husband. My brother was sent to an orphanage.

Q: How was your life with your mother and stepfather? Could you lead a happy life with them?

At the age of 7, I became a servant. I could do all the household works. They didn’t show mercy to me. My mother delivered again and I had to look after those children too. My name was Shakeela in my birth certificate. My father called me Shieka. But, my mother changed this name and called me Malu. Though my life at Bangalore was miserable, they sent me to the school till 10th standard. But during this period I learnt many languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, and Telugu. People from all states come in Bangalore. When I speak to a person, I tried to speak their own language. I also tried to read and write these languages. I can speak Oriya because I was in Orissa for one month.  

Q: What did you do after your schooling?
ANS: My mother wanted to discontinue my education. So, she sent me to her house at Aluva. They did not even collect my transfer certificate from the school. The members in my mother’s family also treated me like a servant. They considered me as a burden and always tried to conduct my marriage. It is not because of making my life safe. They considered me as a burden and they wanted to get freedom from this ‘burden’ somehow. They didn’t even think about my age. I always wanted to study. But, they were not ready to continue my education. When I became 16, my mother’s family members compulsorily tried to conduct my marriage. I struggled hard to avoid this marriage proposal, but I could not. At last, I decided to end my life by jumping into the Periyar river.

In a shivering December night, I left the home and walked up to Aluva River. But, what followed was incredible. I was intercepted by a person. I saw him 2-3 times previously. I still believe that he is really God in human form. He encouraged me and infused courage in my mind. He told me that accepting failure is very easy. I realized the importance of fighting against all adversities. He enumerated the blessings in my life. He infused my mind with the great dream IAS. Still I have good contact with him. I consider him as my father, mother, brother, and everything. But, it is not the right time to reveal his name. I will surely reveal his name once I get IAS.

Q: what did you did after this incident?
ANS: I compelled my grandmother to accompany with me to Bangalore. I convinced her that I will continue my education by funding myself. She came with me and obtained my transfer certificate from my former school. Then, I joined higher secondary course in a parallel collage at Aluva. I arranged money for my studies by doing all the domestic chores in the morning. I also went to the local tea shop and worked as a helper to find more money for my studies. It was very hard for me to attend all the classes. So, I spent sleepless nights to study collage lessons.

Q: What was the mentality of your mother’s family members when you start studying again?

ANS: There were no changes in their attitude. They always scolded and cursed me. They didn’t allow me to study when I reached home. I didn’t take even a single rupee from them for my studies. But, they did not allow me to live peacefully. When I became 18, I got more control over my life. During that time, I decided to learn riding two-wheeler. Then, I learnt to drive auto rickshaw. I also ride auto for finding more money for my studies. I obtained licenses to drive cars, buses, and 16-wheeled goods vehicles. I was the only girl who passed the test to drive a bus in the first attempt in that day in Kochi. Even though I prepared food for all family members, nobody asked to me whether I had food or not. 

Q: Why did you obtain these many driving licenses? What did you do after obtaining them?

I had a strong passion for driving vehicles. After obtaining driving license for various vehicles, I approached a driving school with a request to join the team of instructors. The senior instructors teased me. But they were unable to neglect my request because I was very confident. Initially, the students were doubtful about my experience because I am very young. However, I overcame all these problems with courage and confidence.

Q: Could you continue your education together?

Yes, I passed my plus-2 course and joined B.Com at Aluva. At most I get 2 hours to attend my classes. So, I took notes from my classmates and studied at night. Even though I could attend the class for just 2 hours, I became the chairperson of the students’ union.  

Q: What was your experience as a container truck driver?

When I started driving container truck, I was greeted with ridicules from all corners including the male drivers. But I simply neglect everything. Some people sympathized and advised me to do the job assigned for girls. I explained to them that there is no job a girl could not do. I told to them that if a woman is determined, she can do anything. I was so adamant, so, I obtained all-India permit for driving a container truck. I also drove massive trucks across Kerala. 

Q: Didn’t you face any challenges from anti-social elements?

Yes, I suffered a lot, but I was not ready to give up. I was the target of many anti-social elements. Once, I walked to Binanipuram police station for getting support for living with dignity. I told my story to the cops. I got full support from the police officers especially from Sub Inspector Stephen John. I am aware of the unwanted attention I am receiving. In order to protect myself from all those things, I am trained myself in various martial arts such as kalaripayattu and Karate.

Q: Are you still staying with your relatives?

My mother’s family members strived very hard to conduct my marriage by force. They threatened me that they will register my marriage by force. Problems at the home intensified day by day. I was unable to suffer all those miseries. So, I decided to leave my mother’s house. I packed all my belongings in a bag and left the house. I approached lots of hostels, but nobody was ready to give an accommodation for a 19-year old girl who left her home by making quarrels. That day, with greater disappointment, I sat in front of a church. My eyes were filled with tears. I was completely clueless where I will spend that night.

I sat there by thinking and thinking. Suddenly, somebody touched my shoulder. I lifted my head. It was the next wonder, the person was the church priest Fr Jose Thanneppalli. He was one of my student at the driving school. He arranged me a hostel at Athani, near Aluva. 
It was the next turning point in my life. I started sleeping without hearing abuses and curses. I got freedom from scolding and I started sleeping peacefully.

Q: Did your parents contacted after you after watching the news of crossing Vembanad lake?

Yes, my father and mother contacted me. When my father contacted and invited to his home continuously, I told him that I will surely visit his home once I reach in a position. He told me that the media did not mention his name when I became famous.

Q: Do you have any ill feeling towards your father and mother?

No, certainly not. Why should I? I think I could attain all these achievements because of them. If I grew up like a normal child, I do not think that I can reach these heights. They gave me shelter till I became a young child. They also didn’t kill me. So, I do not have any ill feeling towards them. 

Malu’s life is really a motivational story for not only women but men also. Even if you do not get any support from your family or the society, you can do wonders in your life. Malu is a living example of confidence, determination, and motivation. As a recognition, she received a special award from Megastar Mammootty. (He is also the chairman of Kairali TV, so the name of the award is Chairman’s Special Award. The award money was One lakh rupees.)

Opinion from her couch, Saji Valasseril

When Malu approached me with the interest to learn swimming, I asked her to bring her parents. Parents must be with the children when they start learning swimming, which is the rule in my swimming school. But, when I see the enthusiasm of Malu, I decided to give her training. She was shivering when I asked her to enter the river. At first, she held me very tightly.
When she was a little child around 6 years, she went to see ocean with her mother and relatives. She was playing at the shore. Suddenly she disappeared in the huge wave. Everybody thought she was dead. But, after around 15 minutes, the waves pushed her to the shore. Very rarely such things will happen. (While reminding this incident, Malu said she is an unwanted person for the sea, the sea sent her back to life.) Because of this incident, she was very fearful to swim. I have experience in handling all types of people. So, it was not a problem for me. Besides, she is very brilliant and adamant. Initially I took classes for two hours, then I increased the time. By the second day onwards, Malu started swimming. She also could float on the water for hours. I told her that if she is able to swim for 5 hours continuously, she can swim in the Vembanad lake. She was ready to take up the challenge. 

Opinion from Megastar, Mammootty
Malu is the real princes. Sheik in Arabi means, the Price, so Sheika is princes. What she suffered during her 20 years of life is really heartbreaking. But, no child should undergo such a sympathetic situation. Once the media telecasted the story of Malu after she crossed Vembanad lake, it was watched around 25 lakhs people. She is a real inspiration to all people. It is very difficult to find a person like she. I admire her courage and determination. Therefore, I decided to incur all her expenditure towards her journey to become an IAS officer. I am very happy to help her financially.

The Biggest Mistake Her Parents Did to her

In her birth certificate, her name is Shakeela and her father’s name is Basheer and mother’s name is Fatima and her birth year is October 1996. Her father liked to call her Sheika. She had to start her education once again when she shifted to Bangalore. Her mother liked to call her Malu. While taking admission at the school in Bangalore, her mother not only changed her name but her parents too. Thus, according to her school certificate, her name is Malu S and her father’s name is Sudarsan and mother’s name is Sudha and the birth year is 1995. In her birth certificate, she is a Muslim, and her parents are also Muslim. But in her school certificate, she is a Hindu and her parents are also Hindu. The year of birth is also different in birth certificate and school certificate. She already approached to pillars and post to solve this problem. If the mistake is small, it can be corrected by publishing in gazette and newspaper. However, according to her birth and school certificates, there are two persons. She approached district collector, civil governance, additional chief secretary, but they are unable to give her a solution. She is afraid whether this problem will block her dream to become an IAS officer.

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.