Parvez Imam Part 1 Doctor and Film Maker from India

Part 2 - Part 3

Childhood and early influences

Growing up in Aligarh I grew up in Aligarh, a university town about 120 km from Delhi. It is really difficult to say what my early influences were... coming from a middle class family I had a very simple upbringing. School was terrible. I was never great at studies. In fact I was mostly standing outside my class (as punishment) and when inside, would try to hide behind others to avoid most teachers, especially in the History & Arithmetic classes.

I had lots of friends in my childhood. They were usually love-hate relationships... fighting and playing together. I do not recall any major influences from my childhood friends.

Since very early, I knew names like Indira Gandhi, Nehru chacha and Gandhiji. I had picked up these names from my eldest Mama (Mom's brother) who was a dedicated Gandhian. He also used to run a children's club where I used to go as a child. He has certainly had a positive influence on me. He was a practical man and believed in doing Parvez Imameverything himself, and I admired him and his personality.

Family influences My father was an English Professor (now retired) at the Aligarh Muslim University. My mom was (is) a housewife. They have always been supportive of whatever I would do, and did not put undue pressure on me for studies. Despite my getting a supplementary exam in Maths every year from 6th until 9th grade, they never tried to change or define my priorities, but supported me through these times. This meant that while mom & my sisters & younger brother would travel during summer vacations, I would be at home and dad would teach me maths so that I could clear the supplementary exam and get to the next grade. But it was never an issue.  He still encouraged me to continue with my sports and whatever else I wanted to.

My father was (is) quite unconventional in a lot of ways. We were never told anything about religion. I remember a survey (perhaps that was the census) in school when a teacher asked students to raise hands indicating their religions. I was about 6 or 7 then. I did not raise my hand on any religion because I simply did not have a clue. The total headcount obviously did not match with the total number of students in each religion. The process was repeated thrice before my teacher caught me and told the surveyors that I am the 'idiot'/culprit and shouted back at me... "You are a MUSLIM, don't you know". Of course, I did not. Back home both me and my sister (who is an year younger to me), asked dad what is this Muslim thing. He told us categorically that you have no religion. You are free to choose your religion when you are an adult. In the small town of Aligarh this was a big thing. Friends would try to tease me and call me names, like 'atheist & ‘communist' but I was proud to have the power to choose my 'religion'.

We are 2 brothers & 2 sisters. I am the eldest. Next come two sisters (Sehba and Zeba, 1 and 5 years younger), and then our youngest brother (Shavez, 10 years younger to me). We all are very close to each other despite running separate lives.

My sister Sehba and I had had many fights (as kids) but we are also the thickest buddies. As children, we made our younger two siblings do all sorts of things; trying to teach them gymnastics at home, make them jump through a cycle tyre onto a bed... until my father would discover and call the practice to a halt.

The other major influence has been an elder cousin (sister) who was a biology teacher in a school. She began teaching me in her free time (evenings) in a most unconventional manner. She would keep talking/telling about whatever we were discussing while doing her household chores. So, she would be making chapattis and talking about evolution or genetics, as I would stand leaning against the kitchen door. Sensing my interest she often said, “You do like biology. You can become the first doctor in the family... its not difficult.”

She died later in a road accident and I guess that's what spurred me to turn towards the medical school.

School Sports attracted me, so I was trying my hand at anything and everything. I took to swimming seriously and the swimming coach finally took me in for the advanced training camp. I also loved playing Table Tennis. A senior (national) player noticed me and my friend and decided to coach us... so I gave up swimming for it, since the timing clashed.

Final school exams were terrible. It meant cutting down on all my sports activities. It also meant trying to cram up things that really didn't mean much to me... in terms of their applicability. I was so tired of 'trying to' study that I preferred English Literature over subjects. The reason was simple, it would have meant reading stories & essays and I didn't mind that... in fact I loved that kind of reading.

The torture was over when the results came. As expected, to add to a bundle of certificates for being in all the sport’s teams in the school was the mark-sheet that showed a bad 2nd division with just about 55% marks or so. I was among the 8 students in my school who had achieved this feat of a second division, in a batch of about 150 students. Most teachers & the principal looked at me as if I was the scum of the earth who let the school down.

The only positive influence in this was the support from my family. Knowing me, my parents were actually happy with my second division because that also meant that I had passed

It was also around this time that my cousin who had got me interested in Biology died in an accident. She suffered a head injury and went into a coma and was declared dead the same night. Apparently, there was a bit of callousness shown by the doctors, who possibly could have saved her had they acted faster.

Some months later when I was applying for college, I ended up selecting Biology instead of English Literature, to the surprise of my father. He asked me if I really wanted that. I sounded sure so he did not say anything. The problem was that my school marks were not good enough for biology in those days. But I was able to use all my sports certificates and got through the sports quota (which used to exist in my university).

That year I gave up all sports and began studying day in and day out. Everyone noticed the change. I also began taking part in more literary activities, debates etc. I did quite well in 11th & repeated a good score (1st division) in the 12th as well. And after that, came the three months that I had for preparing for the medical entrances…I became a bookworm in those months. My parents were worried. In fact on quite a few occasions, my father would come into my room late at night and switch off the lights and order me to sleep. But the moment he was gone I was back at the books. That was my preparation for cracking the pre-medical tests. And I did it.

Friends, family, my school teachers & especially my school principal were zapped.

End of Part 1 - Read Part 2 - Part 3

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