Despite losing his right arm at 10, Sayer Abdullah, 23, now drives an SUV and goes on off-road trips, reports Khalid Bashir Gura
On the morning of September 17, 2007, a school bus carried students wearing neatly ironed uniforms to school. A fifth-grader always liked to sit near the driver. He watched with awe as the driver shifted gears, applied brakes, accelerated speed, and made way in traffic jams. But that day this proved fatal as the bus met with an accident.
When little Sayer Abdullah, now 23, a resident of Anantnag opened his eyes he found himself at a hospital. His worried parents were consoling him but he was in shock.
The school bus’s brakes had failed. It had collided with a rock and turned upside down. One of Sayer’s schoolmates died while he was referred to Srinagar’s Bone and Joints hospital. After his condition deteriorated, he was referred to Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura. There, the doctor’s had to take a tough decision to save his life and amputated his right arm.
Little Abdullah was oblivious to the doctors’ consensus and his parent’s agony.
“Later I realized that my right arm was missing,” Sayer said. I told my parents not to worry. I had accepted my fate”.
Deep inside, he was worried about his future. The scary images of the amputated beggars on streets and the tough life of specially-abled people in the society would routinely flash on his mind.
“I thought I may have to spend the rest of my life in a room and be dependent on people,” he said. “But my parents and friends consoled me and never let me feel that a part of my body is missing”.
Sayer gathered himself and pursued his childhood dream of driving. He drives through roads that any regular driver will hesitate to do.
“As a child, I was always fond of driving and after the accident, for sometimes, I had lost hope of driving a four-wheeler,” Sayer said, adding that now he does off-roading and is a member of ‘Kashmir Off Road’, an adventure and motorsport club.
Recalling his days at the hospital, he said his parents and friends helped him to heal physically as well as mentally. “They also inspired me to excel in his academics as well as driving motorsports cars,” Sayer said.
Sayer was recapturing on the hospital bed when his father brought a pencil and paper for him to practice words and numbers with his left hand.
“I used to write with the right hand and now I had to do it with my left hand. “It was a painful struggle for me and still in Class 6th I was practising cursive writing and relearning to write and reprogramme my mind,” Sayer said adding when he was struggling his father would never allow anyone else to help him including his mother. “My father told my mother that even if it takes time to let him grow independent”.
Over time, he learnt to tie shoelaces, wear clothes, bathe, comb, write, eat, drink, play and carry out other activities.
“My parents have taught me to cook as I had to leave home to pursue higher education,” Sayer said. Presently, Sayer is pursuing LLM at NALSAR University, Hyderabad.
Similarly, his friend did not let his dream of driving die. “My close friend, Shafat, did not give up on me. He taught me driving till I learned to do so with one hand,” he said, adding that he used to bring his own car for the practice.
At games time in school when all kids used to rush to a playground, he would sit alone on his bench. But soon his sports freak friend spotted him alone and convinced him to play cricket, badminton and football.
“That help of my friend exorcized the remaining fear out of me,” he said.
Licensed To Drive
At 18, Sayer passed the driving test and got his license but he admits to concealing the fact that he has an arm amputated.
He did not want to drive on metalled roads. His dream of driving was off roads, pass through roaring streams, rocky terrains and in woods- and all this with his one arm. “The challenges of driving, bumpy roads, unexplored paths did not deter me,” he said.
“I drive big cars like SUVs and I had Tata Safari,” he said. “It is all about calculating the next move. My brain does calculations beforehand. All driving actions have become automated.”
Sayer wears a prosthetic arm now but it is just a cosmetic façade.
When it came to driving on metallic roads and negotiating the labyrinth of lanes created by traffic, Sayer said his friends abandoned the car. But soon he found himself traversing the zigzag, down-slope roads of Srinagar-Jammu highway and travelled to Jammu and other cities of the country with his family. I have driven to Chandigarh and Aligarh with them. “I have been to Jammu many times even through Pir Ki Gali,” he said.
When young he always liked road rallies. He followed ‘Kashmir Off Road’ on a social media page, and finally, after approaching the club, he faced the test and got its membership.
“Initially I did not apprise them of my amputated arm,” he admitted but seeing my passion to drive, they tested my skills and soon I was included in the club.
“When I was in the rally I could not believe myself,” he said, adding that joining a club and driving with a team was altogether a different experience for me. “It was a dream come true for me.” Sayer has been on off-roading trips to Tosa Maidan, Batakhsar and Bangus Valley. “I want to participate in motorsports and off-roading events that happen in India and internationally.”