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Cerebral palsy no barrier for Bareilly CBSE topper Mahima Shah

The phones are still ringing and visitors still streaming into Mahima Shah's Bareilly home since the CBSE results were declared. This 18-year-old is quite the star, and deservedly so, for scoring 79.2% in her Class 12 exams.

Mahima has spastic cerebral palsy. She has 80% disability and cannot stand, walk and needs help to turn the pages of a book. But her hard work and determination has helped her overcome these barriers.

I am very happy with my results and I worked very hard and struggled to get to this point. I am especially happy with my 95% score in biology as my focus is on taking the NEET. So, I am happy that my best marks were in that subject. - Mahima Shah, Bareilly topper with cerebral palsy

Mahima's parents were confident she would do well given her consistent efforts and dedication, but there were some anxious moments.

"The night prior to her physics exam, all the three scribes we had fixed for her backed out, recalls father Shailendra Shah. "This was at 9.30 PM and when Mahima heard the news, she started crying. I told her not to worry and that if needed, I would write the exam for her.

After much running around, Shah met someone who agreed to let his daughter write the paper for Mahima. "She was a Class 11 student and did not have much knowledge of physics and science, but she managed and Mahima scored 57 in physics, says Shah, who is a technical officer at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute.

Long, hard road

Mahima's journey to this point has been one filled with struggle. The challenges started mainly in class 7 when she broke her femur bone while doing stretching exercises. She was bedridden for one-and-a-half years and missed most of class 8. "We arranged for a tutor who would sit by her bed and dictate the course notes to her, says Shah. "We requested the school principal to let Mahima take the final exam and she scored over 75%.

However, in class 9, the CBSE failed to respond when Mahima's school asked for certain documents needed to register a student with a disability. Shah claims his appeals to higher-level authorities were disregarded and he approached the Uttaranchal High Court.

"All I asked the court was that Mahima be registered and granted concessions due to her, says Shah. "I told the judge that as a rank holder in her class, she could set an example for society. The judge was moved and ordered the CBSE to give her all the facilities needed for class 10. Mahima went on to score an overall cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 8.8 in class 10.

Mahima, who loves animals, wants to study biological sciences and aims to become a veterinary animal behaviourist. "I have always loved animals, all of them, and want to do something for them.

But here too the road ahead is filled with challenges. The NEET is scheduled for today, but the guidelines don't mention if a scribe is allowed for children with physical disabilities. "I wrote to the CBSE chairman and the Prime Minister's Office, and all other relevant ministries, says Shah. "The Rehabilitation Council of India has said my letter has been forwarded to the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

Her family says that if Mahima is not allowed to take the NEET, they will approach the Supreme Court. Clearly, they are determined to stand by her and enable her to fulfil her dreams.

For now, mother Smita is happy to savour this moment of celebration. "Mahima is telling me what she feels like eating and I am making that. She loves besan ke laddu and rasmalai and I have ordered lots of that.

Smita believes Mahima has many strengths, the biggest one being self-confidence. "She never loses faith, never gives up. So many children who would come to our home for tuitions with Mahima have said she would motivate them when they were down and out. Sometimes even when we were filled with doubts, she would tell us, 'don't worry, I will show you'.

Mahima has certainly done that.

ALSO READ:Lavanya Balakrishnan, class 12 CBSE topper in arts, dreams of a future in graphic design

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