An alcoholic father and an ailing mother who got separated, a shattered childhood confined to a rented house and travails of college days – Hanan Hamid's struggles are quintessential stuff for a typical melodrama.
Instead, what she has landed is apparently a thriller – Arun Gopy's 'Irupathiyonnam Noottandu', starring Pranav Mohanlal.
Hanan became a social media rage after a photograph of her selling fish in college uniform went viral. Netizens in Kerala were quick to hail the perseverance of the girl.
But the same voices that showered praises are now throwing brickbats at her after talk that all this was a cooked-up story.
What's the truth? Who is Hanan? What is she struggling for? The 19-year-old discloses her life, struggles and dreams to Onmanorama.
Wealthy childhood, struggling teenage
Hanan was born as the eldest of two children of Hamid, an electrician, and his wife Zuhrabi in a wealthy joint family in Thrissur.
She spent her joyous childhood with her cousins, who soon became strangers following an ugly partition spat.
Hamid moved out to a rented house with his wife, daughter and toddler son.
Hanan was barely eight back then.
Fate's cruel twist
"My father ventured into a lot of businesses, including a pickle company, an electronics agency and even jewellery manufacturing from home. Me and my mother helped him in all ventures. He admitted us to the best English medium school in the town where I shared space with children from elite families. But then fate had other ideas," Hanan recalls.
After signing a contract of electrical maintenance with one of the popular bars in the city, Hamid became an alcoholic.
"He started to drink daily and became abusive to my mother. Once he even hit her on her head with the holder of a ceiling fan. She started behaving abnormally after that. But nothing changed him. With no other choices left, I took over his jewellery making unit, started making beaded chains, earrings and necklaces and sold them among my teachers, friends and neighbours. I also started taking tuition classes to lower primary students. I was studying in seventh standard back then."
Hanan funded her own studies, mother's medicines and her brother's school fees with her meagre earnings. Zuhrabi worked for a short while in a private accounting firm but Hamid's misbehaviour and her health issues forced her to confine herself to home.
Hanan's parents got legally separated just before her higher secondary board exams. Hamid took his son along with him and Zuhrabi's brother agreed to look after his ailing sister.
The day before her board exams started, Hanan realised that she had no house to go back to, the next evening.
"I moved with my best friend Athira's family where I stayed for almost a month. After the results came, I went to Kochi in search of a job. I started working at a call centre, where I handled both day and night shifts. I couldn't have afforded a hostel accommodation before getting my first salary”.
A month of sleep deprivation and constant exposure to sound waves damaged her left ear and she lost her hearing ability partially. Her employers then expelled her from her first job. Without losing hope, Hanan joined another private firm as a data entry staff.
She brought her mother to Kochi and accommodated her in a paying guest centre. Later, she rented a house in Madavana and moved in with her mother.
Dreams and struggles
"Right from my childhood, I have been dreaming of becoming a doctor. After moving into our Madavana house, I sought admission in Al Azar college, Thodupuzha, for B.Sc. Chemistry. But I needed income to support my mother and my own studies. I started making fried chicken and sold it in our college canteen. I knew I was a good cook. I mocked the KFC style, which got popular among the students. By the time, my teachers discovered my hearing problem and arranged a free surgery in a hospital owned by the college management," Hanan says.
A real life warrior
When Hanan was selling banana bajjis at Aluva beach during a festival season, she met two young men who tipped her about the possibilities of selling fish.
"They asked me to raise Rs 10,000 and call them once I'm ready to sell fish. I started the vemture next month itself. I learned the basics of street vending during that time. I also sought roles in films and attended the auditions of television channels. But soon, one of my partners misbehaved to me following which I dropped my association with them," she said.
She then started collecting and selling fish on her own after college hours.
Hanan's day starts at 3 a.m. She rides her bicycle for about 3 kilometers to Champakkara fish market and heads with a load of fish to Thammanam junction. She keeps her freezer-box in a nearby house and goes to college 50 kilometers journey.
At sharp 3.30 pm, she starts her journey back to Thammanam, where she opens her fish-stall by 5:30 p.m
Hanan finishes her daily lot usually within half an hour. Afterwards, she rushes home to prepare dinner for her mother. Of late, Hanan's brother also comes to stay with her occasionally.
Hanan wishes to become a doctor. She makes money by doing odd jobs, not only to look after her mother and support herself, but also to raise Rs 35 lakh with which she could go to Mauritius to study for MBBS.
"It was one of my acquaintances Anil, of Chethana Film Studios, Kochi, who told me that I just have to clear NEET exam and raise Rs 35 lakh to go to Mauritius and join a medical course. I joined for B.Sc. Chemistry so that I will be in some way connected to science discipline. I am good at maths and organic chemistry. I can easily prepare for NEET exam when time comes," the real life warrior says.
Hanan also works with event management groups on holidays to make additional earnings.
Sorrows and crises
"I got media attention only because I make it to the college amid all my struggles. There are a lot of girls, those in my age and those younger than me, who sell fish, meat and vegetables on road. I know at least 20 of them personally. All of them have tales of sufferings, crises and sorrows to narrate. As many wealthy people have come up to support me financially and fund my higher studies. I have received enough. I urge kind-hearted people to support more people like me because every struggling girl deserves a good life," Hanan said.
Silver screen offers
After Hanan's story went viral on social media, several people approached her with employment offers, promises to fund higher education and financial support. One of them was filmmaker Arun Gopy, whose directorial debut Ramaleela was a huge box office success.
Gopy has announced that he'd offer Hanan a key character in his upcoming movie.
"I was rejected in movie auditions quite a number of times. Cinema is one of my biggest dreams. I would be delighted to start my film career with Arun Gopy. I don't think I have to think twice to accept his offer," Hanan said, with the same sparkle in her eyes that prodded her to overcome giant odds.