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Mohammed Rafique scored well in Class XI but his computer teacher didn’t admit him
PC Vinoj Kumar

Happy now: Rafique and his family
Mohammed Rafique has every reason to blame his headmaster at the Tondiarpet kss School for destroying his chances of becoming a computer engineer. The son of a glass factory worker, Rafique grew up in poverty, the third of four siblings. Desperate to study computers, he worked hard in the Class x public exams and scored 69 percent marks. Lower marks than these were sufficient to take several non-Muslim students into the school’s Class xi computer group, but not him. His headmaster refused outright to admit him to the course and he had to settle instead for a vocational group that had typewriting, accountancy and office management as subjects.

But Rafique is not one to brood. “I have a job in a private company as a supervisor,” he says. “My wife also works in the same company as a typist. We earn enough to run the family.”

Rafique’s father, K. Basha, had wanted to educate all his children, but was unable to do so and his first son and daughter could not continue their education beyond Class viii. Rafique is the first graduate in his family, having taken a commerce degree from Chennai’s New College, run by a Muslim management and active in community service. For a short period after college, Rafique worked under an auditor who treated him well on the whole, but once asked him to work on Id. Rafique soon found a better job. Today, he and his brother, an automobile electrician, jointly earn around Rs 8,000 a month, Rafique says.

The impression of dignified simplicity that we carry away from our meeting with Rafique is dispelled as soon as we leave, as we get a taste of what it is to live as a Muslim in these troubled times. A Hindu neighbour wants to know why we were photographing the family. He wonders if there is any connection between the headlines in the day’s papers about Saddam Hussein’s death sentence and our visit. Shocked beyond words, we move on.