Sometimes accidents in life do not end it but rather give a new beginning for a more active and purposeful life
I am dedicating today’s column to my friends who have practically demonstrated the saying, “Difficult can be done now, and impossible may take some time!” If a man has a will, he can overcome any difficulty.
The first friend is Major HPS Ahluwalia, popularly known among his friends as Harry, of the Everest fame. He was a summiteer in first successful Indian expedition to Mount Everest. However, after his climb he suffered a spine injury and was paralyzed below waist. This type of accident would have crippled any normal person for life. Not Harry! He rehabilitated himself and continued his adventures. He would travel on his wheel chair not only throughout the world but took part in a number of adventure activities including a Central Asian Car Safari. He was elected the President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of adventure in India a number of times. However, above everything else, he established the Indian Spine Injuries Centre in Delhi which is supposed to be the best in Asia. Thousands of people have benefited from the facilities available in the Centre and have been fully rehabilitated. The greatest support and inspiration to Harry came from his wife, Boli. Then Harry got connected to Kashmir through my other friend.
My other friend is Khurshid Malik, a retired senior IAS officer. He retired few years back as the Secretary to Government. I know Khurshid from early seventies. We were both members of the Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering and Hiking Club and trekked and climbed together. He used to be a great lover of outdoors and would often go trekking and trout fishing. Earlier he used to be lecturer but later on joined Kashmir Administrative Service. Unfortunately, while travelling from Jammu to Srinagar in car, he met an accident and suffered a serious spine injury. He was totally paralysed and that would have been his tragic end. However, his brother who is a doctor took him to UK and USA where he spent about two years and was fully rehabilitated. On his return to Kashmir, Khurshid was somewhat depressed about his acceptability in his changed life style. He had not joined his duties back in the secretariat being always on a wheel chair. Luckily a few days after his arrival, Harry came for a Mountaineering Meet in Srinagar. I told him about Khurshid and he immediately asked me to take him to his home. We went there together. Khurshid was lying in the bed. Harry told him why was he lying in the bed during day time? He asked him to get out of the bed and start moving round. He told him that he had just flown in from Delhi and was flying to London after few days for a conference. Harry gave him a pep talk for an hour. This inspired Khurshid and he joined his duties in the secretariat after few days. After that it was a missionary zeal and Khurshid had his own specially designed car for specially challenged persons which he continues drive himself even now.
Taking inspiration from Harry, Khurshid set up the Shafaqat Rehabilitation Centre in Srinagar in 2006 through the Voluntary Medicare Society of which he is the Vice-President. This is the only Centre of its kind in the state of J & K. It is fully equipped for rehabilitating spine injuries patients and is a sister concern of the Shafaqat School for the children with special needs which has been working since 2000. A large number of people have benefited from the facilities available in the Centre. Earlier people had to go outside for rehabilitation but now they are taken care here. The International Red Cross has also set up a unit there for providing artificial limbs to the people. Recently the Centre has added a facility for mental rehabilitation of traumatized people supervised by Kashmir’s famous psychiatrist, Dr. Mushtaq Margoob. There is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Shafaqat Rehabilitation Centre and the Indian Spine Injuries Centre for training of staff and provision of other facilities. The entire effort is voluntary without any assistance from the Government. The Centre has some beds for patients who need to be admitted for continuous rehabilitation and it also operates an outpatient department where people come for daily treatment. There is very well equipped Gym and many other facilities. However, not many people know about the availability of these facilities. In different parts of India moneyed people always come forward to take care of such causes but not in Kashmir which has not only millionaires but billionaires. We like to spend on huge festivities, expensive automobiles and all sorts of luxuries but not on humanitarian causes! A real pity! However, this activity of setting up these centres in Delhi and Srinagar has one lesson that for people with a will, the life does not end with an accident but it has a new and more purposeful beginning.