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In the journey of Positive India for so many years, I wrote many stories of struggle and success, but perhaps every story of success is not indelible and immortal.  Relevance and meaningfulness of many stories fades out according to the time. There are few stories whose lifespan is long lasting. But today we are going to tell an amazing story of such a wonderful personality that will encourage every Indian to move forward from every bad times till centuries. His full of struggles life story will inspire every youth, who want to find or achieve something in their life on the strength of their hard work and skill.

Meet Mr. Mohd. Ali Shihab, the real hero who experienced an amazing journey from the orphanage to the IAS

No matter how this life is troubled, if the inner desire to achieve the goal is strong, then no one of this world can stop you to reach your destination or in another way you can say that someone who has to achieve something by his own skill in life, does not need any facilities and resources. Without any support and complaint, they go ahead and achieve something, which is impossible according to environment around. This is not just a saying but a fact. There are many such examples in our society around us who wrote a new chapter of success facing with great struggle, financial, social and family challenges.

IAS Mohammed Ali Shihab is such a person, who has faced so many challenges since childhood, as his father passed away at his tender age, he spent his entire childhood in an orphanage due to poverty, but he never gave up and made himself capable to cope up with difficult situations. He had great passion to do something big, he broke the cage of being an orphan and achieved the position of an IAS officer.  Today he is working as a successful Administrative Officer (Collector) in Kohima, Nagaland.Mohd. Ali Shihab was born in a very poor family in the village of Edavannappara in Malappuram district, Kerala. His father was not capable to up bring his wife, three daughters and two sons. At a very young age, Shihab started to share his father’s work. He used to sell betel leaves and make bamboo baskets so that his siblings would not have to sleep hungry. The responsibility to take his sick father to poor workplace from home was on his shoulder, so very rarely he could go to school. Mohammed used to help his ailing father in work. At this time, his studies were a great challenge. Nonetheless, Mohammed continued to score well in school. 

Turning the pages of the past, Shihabji shares memories of his childhood and states that in the decades of 1980s like other boys of the village, I had a dream to open a shop. At that time a little boy like me could not think further even this. My father, Korot Ali suffering from asthma, was not capable enough to support the family.  So I had to go to sell bamboo baskets and sometimes betel leaves.  That’s   why   I often used to run away from school.  I had lot of interest for studies but huge burden of financial constraints and family responsibility used to took me away from books.


He went into mental trauma when his father died in 1991. At that time he was only eleven years old. There was an endless darkness surrounding Shihab’s life in which there was no place for his dreams. There was the responsibility of five kids over his mother and she had no way to feed them. To safeguard them for survival and to keep them away from starvation she shifted one of her sons and two daughters to an orphanage in Kozhikode. Any mother does not want her children to walk away from her, but Fatima, badly suppressed her feelings and  very next day of her husband’s death sent the children to a Muslim orphanage.  

Failed in 5th for the entrance of orphanage

Mohammed Ali Shihab had to fail in class Vth  to get admission in the orphanage. At that time Shihab was only 11 years old and spent 10 years in an orphanage. During this period, he worked as a laborer and   in a roadside hotel too continuing his studies. According to Shihab  the orphanage is an orphanage, and the formal school is a formal school, yet for Shihab, the life of the orphanage was better than his previous life where his family was forced by the situation to spend  life  as a laborer to get food after his father passed away.

If you have nothing to lose, then you have all the options to gain. So life was little bit better in the orphanage for Shihab  but there was a lack of formal schooling. He grew up with the study through Malayalam and Urdu madarasa. He easily grasped what he was taught.  Until the age of 21 he spent his life in the orphanage and during this period, he kept his courage alive and achieved his goal amidst all the troubles.

Shihab further states that many changes came in my life at the orphanage There was lack of discipline in my life and that was changed. I studied there through Malayalam and Urdu languages. There were limited resources and opportunities. I had great interest in studies, so I continued smoothly to move forward and passed 10th standard with good marks. After that I joined the ‘pre-degree teachers training course’. According to the rules of the orphanage, everyone used to fall asleep after eight o’clock. I used to get up at midnight for my study in the deem light of the torch inside the bed sheet, so that the people with me to be not disturbed. I wanted to complete my graduation as regular student from any good college, but due to poverty I could not find anyone to help. To meet out my expenditures I continued to teach in a primary school while also preparing for PSC. While working as a peon at the Kerala Water Authority, I took admission in BA with History at Calicut University. In this way, I continued my studies with small jobs for three years. During that period I passed the state level Public Service Commission examinations of forest, railway ticket collector, jail warden, peon and clerk etc. with limited qualification.

Was successful in 21 consecutive competitive examinations

It is said that the real hero is the one who comes forward after fighting all-round challenges, no matter how the situation is. Shihab never let his confidence down in the midst of all the challenges.  He also proved himself as being successful in 21   competitive examinations consecutively. After that, he decided to work hard to pursue   Union Public Service Commission examination. According to Shihabji, he started dreaming for Civil Services Examination from the age of 25.

Finally Mohammed Ali Shihab’s hard work and struggle won over the worst circumstances and his luck changed the track on positive matter. The Delhi-based Zakat Foundation selected 12 students from Kerala,   through a screening test for the free coaching of Administrative Services Examination which is running for meritorious poor students in the year of 2009. In that batch Mohammed shihab was one of the 12 selected students.

Shihab’s elder brother had become an Ayurvedic doctor by then and he advised Shihab to take chance on the government examination but Shihab did not know anything about the civil service at that time. Meanwhile, in 2009, Delhi-based Zakat Foundation conducted an examination in Kerala, in which the selected students were given free coaching for UPSC preparation. That was a big opportunity for Shihab, he was selected and went to Delhi for further preparation. At Delhi he started his coaching   but he did not have the money even to buy books and newspapers. That’s why he used public library to read the newspapers and other study materials for the preparation of notes. He had only one desire of having been able to do something for the brothers and sisters.In the year 2007-2008, Shihabji attempted the prelims test, by then he was going to be 30 years old, so he did not have much time. Meanwhile, he also got married. The endless challenges  still existed. Amongst all the family responsibilities, financial crisis he continued his preparation for the civil service examination. He failed in the first two attempts, but did not let his confidence weaken. Meanwhile, another big challenge knocked the door of his life.  His newborn baby became paralyzed just before the exam during the third attempt. He was badly occupied with hospital but he continued his studies and faced the examination. After all, his hard work paid off and the results came out in 2011, 33-year-old Shihab had achieved 226th rank.

The journey was not so easy

For Shihabji. from the early days to becoming an IAS officer, the journey was not easy at all . Shihab failed the first two attempts of the Civil Service examination, but he kept patience and tried for the third attempt. Due to less command over English, he also had to seek the help of translator during the interview. Despite this, he achieved 201 out of 300, which was a very good score. After this he completed his training in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, where he got training regarding all aspects of the job and the language of Nagaland cadre was also taught there. He was appointed as Assistant Commissioner in Dimapur district at first. In November 2017, Shihabji was transferred to Kaifir district. This district has been declared as one of the 117 ambitious districts of the country by the Prime Minister and NITI Aayog. It is one of the most remote and inaccessible districts of the India.

When a youth supersedes the situation of financially weak family and achieves the highest  administrative service of the country, becomes a hero for the whole society. 


In this world most of the people comes on back foot facing the adversity, but Shihabji was born    to fight against challenges only.  Great responsibility of the family since early age made him   much mature before time.IAS Mohd. Ali Shihab attributes his success to discipline, hard work and the urge to keep trying constantly amidst all challenges. Shihabji gives a message to present youth of India, who becomes frustrated to face  small difficulties,  that if a boy like me from the orphanage in Kerala can overcome all obstacles, then anyone can do it. If you are not successful in the first attempt for any test or challenge, then do not give up hope, try for the next with full courage, be confident, tomorrow will be yours.

A person like Md. Ali Shihab is the inspiration for those people who have big dreams, but they don’t have own sky to fly rather they have to create it themselves. If a person is determined then nothing is impossible, as Shihab has proved himself.

Has written a book to inspire the youth

Troubles are a part of our life or a bitter truth. Someone uses to face this and someone uses to complain life long. Everyone has a different vision to visualize these difficulties at every turn of life. Many people get shattered in front of the mountain of troubles coming in the life, but some people fights with  these challenges and uses to open a new path for others. Today  the story of IAS Mohd. Ali Shihab is also giving a new direction to the millions of people of the country. To inspire the youth, Shihabji has also written his auto biography named ‘VIRALATAM’ which every student must read.The story of IAS Mohammed Ali Shihab full of sun shade, who defeated the mountain of troubles by his passion must be spread to every corner of the country, every child should be taught, every young person should understand so that no one will ever leave life with fear of troubles, but learn to fight against challenges, learn to fight instead of kneeling down in front of  time . The story of  Shihab proves that it is no wise to kneel down in front of difficulties and spend a suffocating life. No matter how worst the condition is against you, we should always fight against our struggle, because fight and  fall, rise up again against the circumstances is THE LIFE only.


Story Translated By Gul Sarika Thakur
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