Interview: Tabassum Shaik on how she overcame hijab row to become 2023 Karnataka 2nd PUC topper

Tabassum, in a candid chat, recalled the effects of the hijab ban controversy and the methods she followed to achieve results.

ByDeeksha Devadiga

Published Apr 22, 2023 | 7:00 PMUpdatedApr 22, 2023 | 7:01 PM

Karnataka's 2nd PUC Topper

Karnataka’s 2nd PUC results were declared on Friday, 21 April, and 18-year-old Tabassum Shaik emerged as the topper with 593 for 600 marks, scoring 98.83 percent.

Tabassum, in a candid chat with South First, recalled the effects of the hijab ban controversy and the methods she followed to achieve results.

Karnataka hijab row

A dispute started when Muslim girls wearing hijabs were denied entry to an Udupi college on the grounds that the head covering violated the college’s uniform policy.

Karnataka's 2nd PUC 2023 Topper Tabassum Shaikh.

Tabassum Shaik’s family are proud of her achievement. (Supplied)

Hijabs were disallowed on educational premises after Karnataka High Court upheld the hijab ban.

“A handful of my friends dropped out of college in the second year because they couldn’t tolerate the fact that they had to sacrifice their religion for the sake of their education. I, too, felt that it was very sad and unfortunate that we had to sacrifice an integral part of our identity and our religion in order to pursue an education.” Tabassum told South First.

The Arts stream student said her college was initially tolerant of hijabs, but was quick to introduce uniforms after the verdict and was very strict about it.

Students were allowed to wear a hijab up until the gates and were provided with a room to change, which she said was uncomfortable to do every day.

It was her parent’s support and encouragement which helped her in times of difficulty, she said.

“My parents told me that education was the right path and the only way for me to reach a position and uplift others and prevent such injustices from happening again,” said the daughter of an electronic engineer and a homemaker.

Also read: TN police arrest 7 for threatening to remove woman’s hijab

The effects of the pandemic

Originally from Andhra Pradesh, Tabassum was born in the US. Her family moved to Bengaluru when she was just two years old.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, schools and colleges were one of the first things to shift to online mode. The transition from offline to online affected her in the beginning, but she was quick to overcome it, she said.

“The transition from 10th to 11th grade was a totally different environment — a new college, and most of my peers were all strangers. Everything was online at first. So, obviously, I felt a bit isolated. They eventually started hybrid classes, where I became a bit familiar with my friends and eased into the new environment” she said.

She credits her teachers for making learning fun and interactive.

“My teachers are very well-versed and they made, the sessions very interactive and fun. I used to take notes very meticulously in the class itself and go over them at home”, said the student.

The pandemic was a stressful period for many. Tabassum experienced this as well and underwent counselling for help.

“My mental health was not really that good after the pandemic. After studying at one school for a long period, I found the sudden transition to a whole new environment a bit stressful. My college offers counselling services and my counsellor helped me cope with that process. So I’m grateful to her,” she said.

Hijab ban timeline: How the controversy ended up in Supreme Court

Exam preparation methods

Shaik started preparing for her exams right from the very first day of college at NMKRV PU College in Bengaluru. She collected previous years’ question papers from the library.

Talking about a technique which helped her study, she said, “Energy management was the technique I used, in which I would figure out at which point of the day I had the most energy level. For me, that was very very early in the morning — like from 4 am to 8 am.”

Tabassum added: “During that period, my mind would be completely blank and I was able to absorb a lot of information. So, that’s when I would wake up to study, and then I would finish all the difficult topics. Then I would space out the other simpler topics throughout the day.”

She plans to become a clinical psychologist and has applied for a Bachelor’s in psychology. She intends to go abroad to for her postgraduate degree.