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Pani Puri Funds Infosys Dreams


Visakhapatnam, May 24: The wife of a poor pani puri vendor has become a software engineer in Infosys, thanks to her husband's support. Sheik Salar, 26, a street hawker, used every rupee he earned to help his wife Fatima Bibi Sheik, 21, achieve her academic ambitions. And it was not in vain. Fatima completed her course at Gayatri Vidya Parishad College of Engineering with high marks and was given a plum posting by the software giant in a campus selection.

In fact, she is the first student from the college to get into Infosys. Fatima and Salar stay in a slum at Rajendranagar. While Fatima went to college, Salar roamed around the city with a pushcart selling puffed rice, corn, chilli bhajjis and pani puri, earning Rs 150 per day. When she was married off to her distant relation Salar by her parents in 2001, Fatima was just 15 and felt that she would never achieve her dream of being a software engineer.

"I did not want to marry since I wanted to study further and achieve something," she said. She was crestfallen since Salar merely nodded when she told him about her dreams. But his nod meant a lot and he started savingmoney to help her study. By living frugally, Salar somehow got together Rs 60,000 to pay Fatima's fee for the first and second year of her engineering course.

The Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Finance Corporation helped the couple pay the rest of the fee. "At the time of our marriage I was not sure how serious Fatima was about her studies," said Salar. "But when I realised that she got 536 marks in her SSC exams and stood first in her school, I decided to help her study." The pani puri vendor was adamant that her future should not get spoilt because she married him.

A junior college in the city provided her free intermediate education. She secured a decent rank in the Eamcet exam and opted to join the electronics and electrical engineering branch in college. "We decided not to have kids till she got a good job," said Salar. "For this, I took much criticism from my parents." Fatima's eyes moisten when she talks about her husband. "You can't imagine the hardships he suffered to help me," she said. "In the last six years, he was my strength. He sacrificed all his joys for me."

"Fatima was always first in our class," said Asha Kanthi, her classmate. "We did not know her story then. Now she is our inspiration." Though happy at the turn of events, the couple is a bit sad when thinking about their being apart for three months, when Fatima would go to the Infosys campus in Mysore for training. Have they ever quarrelled? "When we have issues, we sit together and discuss and sort it out," said Fatima. She plans to take her husband along with her when she gets her posting. Salar too is proud, for he has proved that behind every successful woman there is a man.

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