Rafiq Ibrahim came from a low-income family background in Wayanad. He used to sell tea at the Nilambur bus stand in Malappuram district as soon as he cleared his Class 10 examinations.
Son of a tea-shop owner, 34-year-old Rafiq had a hard childhood due to extreme poverty. But his zeal and willpower never let him down. He worked as a jeep cleaner and later worked in hotels. He even had to drop out of his studies at one stage of life. However, despite all the hardships, he kept reading books and pursued a doctorate, The New Indian Express reported.
"During my childhood days, I watched with disbelief how time stood still there, almost ignorant of the world outside," Rafiq said.
On November 6, Rafiq joined the Nileshwar campus of Kannur University as an assistant professor in the Malayalam Department.
"I am no hero," Rafiq expressed. "But the reality should not go unaddressed, as there are thousand other marginalised people like me."
Poor Family Background
Rafiq's parents did not attend school, and even with the financial constraints, their children ——both Rafiq and his older sister, Bushara, cleared the SSLC examinations.
"Though I had a first-class, my first thought was to try some manual jobs. Once I passed out from school, boys would work in a jeep as a driver or cleaner, and girls would be married off. That was how it was in Echome. I used to call it a dead village," he said.
Rafiq's father had to sell the tea shop after he was caught in debt and the family's income also dried up. So he sought his friend's help in Mysuru when he was 19-year-old and became a tea vendor. He had enrolled himself in a BSc course and passed the first-year examinations. But he caught typhoid and had to return to his village.
"As my family's condition had not changed, I shifted to Wandoor in Malappuram district where I managed to get a job in a hotel at the bus stand," he said.
Rafiq's Love For Books
During his free time, Rafiq used to read books and magazines. "Reading makes me happy, and took a liking to the ideas expressed by renowned writers," he shared.
However, Rafiq lost his job for the second time as the hotel had to be shut down after the authorities decided to renovate the bus stand. "When I was travelling back home, I read an article by Sunil P Ilayidom about politics of identity and class. That instilled a spark in me," he recalled.
Rafiq then worked as a salesman at a local footwear shop in Kalpetta for two years. Later, his sister also got a teaching job in a parallel college. Encouraged by his friends, he got admission to the BA Economics course at Calicut University. "During that time, I read a lot of books at Kalpetta district library," he says.
Later, he attempted the entrance examination for the MA Malayalam course at the Sree Sankara Sanskrit University in Kalady intending to meet his idol, Sunil P Ilayidom, who was the head of the Malayalam Department. "I enjoyed each and every moment, and the atmosphere helped me change my outlook as a student as well as a human being," he said.
From there, things became much more accessible for Rafiq, going on to complete his MPhil, and earning a doctorate in 'literary form and cultural history under the guidance of Ilayidom. Rafiq says his life is an example of generosity changing fortunes. "All that people need to come up in life is a helping hand at the right time."