A labourer’s son had lost his arm while watching a scarp dealer struggle to extract valuable metals from an abandoned explosive device. It took him a lot of time to train his only hand and 11 years later, he got the eleventh rank in JEE examination and admission in IIT Delhi, Khalid Bashir Gura reports
Wedged between the excitement of cracking a national level examination and the phantom pain of his amputated hand, a teenager with a soft wispy beard is preparing to leave for home after a recent to a Srinagar hospital. In between, he found time to reveal his story of pain and progress.
A decade ago, on a cold grey December afternoon in 2010, a student of third grade was strolling near his house at Reddi in Kupwara’s remote Chowkibal belt. Unmindful of his itinerary and impending fate, his curiosity took him near a close acquaint who was busy sifting precious metals from a rusted and used explosive remnant of a gun battle.
Little Musaib Gani Pir, now 17, was shooed away by the scrap collector. But his curiosity tethered him. Relentless, in face of admonishments, soon, a loud thud blacked out everything for a moment.
“I rushed to open the main gate to call out my mother and as usual when I tried to open it with my right hand,” Musaib said. “I was shocked to see it missing. I was unaware till then.” Then he relooked around only to see the scrap collector in the backyard lying unconscious.
Trail of Blood
Tragically, Musaib eventually found he was alone at his house. His mother had gone to a nearby shopkeeper. Trembling with, now excruciating pain, and literally missing hand, little Pir started running towards the market as the blood dripping from his arm left a bloody trail after him. Then, he said, he saw his mother rushing towards him.
That was what he remembered before getting unconscious. “I woke up in a hospital, I do not know when,” Pir said. “Slowly, I began to recollect scraps of dreadful memories.” Now it was clear that he has lost his right hand.
“I was shifted to Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura, for treatment. After spending weeks at the hospital, my grandfather and family continuously consoled me and taught me to use my left hand to carry out routine activities. Initially, I struggled a lot to work with a single hand but now I am adapted to it,” Pir said with a sense of pride.
Musaib said he had to struggle for years to get adapted to using his left hand. However, learning writing, eating and doing other activities with a single hand took years of practice and patience. Finally, he was able to sail through new tests and trauma because of teachers and parents.
He not only survived but thrived.
“I did not visit home for many years as I was haunted by the incident. I stayed at my maternal home and continued my studies,” Pir said as he summoned the courage to turn the knob of the main door after many years.
Whenever there were encounters in his vicinity, the leftover explosives, unlike now, were not sanitized. “Locals gathered the metals of used explosives and sell it in the market,” Musaib said and in the processes of sifting through debris or abandoned explosive materials; an explosion would render people maim or at times dead.
This trend triggered serious crises for people who would instantly invade the gunbattle sites. It was after years of the campaign in media that the security grid started putting written cautions on these spots warning people against getting into the areas.
Once back home, he started focusing on his studies. Enrolled in a nearby government school, each year he outshone his contemporaries in academics. His hard work and results rekindled the hopes of his labourer father who also leads prayers in a nearby Masjid.
Pir passed his tenth class with 453 marks and the twelfth standard with 422 marks from Boys Government Higher Secondary School Panzgam.
In 2019 after the reading down of Article 370, when he was in class eleventh, the communication blackout dampened the spirit of his dreams.
However, his dreams to qualify for JEE examinations needed him to move out of his dusky village to Srinagar city. After twelfth, far away from home, he focused to crack the exam for engineering at the national level.
“Due to problems in accessing education, I thought I will not be able to make it,” Musaib said. As the restrictions were lifted, the pandemic triggered lockdown forced education to go online. But his struggle continued because of digital disparity as his village still struggles in accessing high-speed internet.
Hitting The Target
In order to get access to online education, Musaib travelled far away to stay at his maternal uncle’s home. Later, he shifted to Srinagar for JEE preparations and availed scholarship at a private tuition centre, he said.
This year as the results were declared, he qualified Joint Entrance Test (JEE) advanced and secured admission in IIT Delhi.
“It was my first attempt and I qualified JEE Advance with 11th rank in Person with Disability (PwD) category at all India level this year,” he said in a soft feeble voice.
Unassuming of his achievement, according to him, he worked hard for his family and is grateful to the teachers who guided him.
“I want to pursue engineering in mathematics and computing at IIT Delhi,” he said.
To break the academic monotony, he does not rush to a mobile screen. Instead, he prefers playing outdoor games especially cricket with his friends.
“I bat as well bowl with the left hand. However, I prefer lightweight bat,” Musaib said.
Pir is yet to avail modern prosthetic hand as it is unaffordable for him. Earlier, he had availed government-sanctioned prosthetic hand but it was too heavy for him and he gave it up. Heavy load, as they say, is the sign of hell. He opted to stay light as it helped up manage his life better.