The joy and pain of being 197cm tall

PHOTO: The joy and pain of being 197cm tall

SEREMBAN - Standing at 197cm, it is no surprise that friends have nicknamed Sheikh Akmal Sheikh Imam, 15, "Panjang", while his teachers often call him to help them put up posters and banners around his school.

Though he is happy with his towering height, there are times when Sheikh Akmal felt abnormal when compared with his classmates.

He said due to his height, it had been more than a year since he travelled as getting on board an express bus was always a painful experience.

"The last time I got on a bus was to go to Kota Baru, Kelantan. When I got there, I suffered severe cramps in my legs as the seats were just too narrow for me."

The youngest of three children, Sheikh Akmal, who studies at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Senawang, said it was also very difficult each time the family wanted to go out together.

"I usually just prefer to stay back or we would have to take two cars," he said, adding that even at home, he was forced to sleep on a mattress as the bed was too small.

"Sometimes when I go out, I feel like a celebrity when people take photographs with me, as they have not seen anyone this tall before.

"There are even those who have asked for my autograph," he said.

His father, Sheikh Imam Mohammad, 47, said they realised his son's unusual height when he was 13 years old. "He was so much taller than his sister and brother, who are 16 and 20 years respectively," he said.

However, he said doctors have told him that his son is healthy and does not suffer from any illness.

The Public Works Department driver said among the major challenges for him and his wife was to find clothes and shoes that would fit their son.

"Each time we needed to buy him clothes, we would have to take him to Kuala Lumpur as there is nothing suitable here. "We can normally find clothes that fit him at 'bundle shops', while his mother would have to sew on additional cloth to his pants which were always too short," he said.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Akmal said he accepted his condition as the will of god and was confident that he would grow some more. Asked if he had a girlfriend, the shy, lanky teenager just smiled.