Hands that heal

With a successful career as a leading ENT specialist at his back and academic feats in his kitty, Dr Mir Mabool was not content. He wanted to do something more, for the society. Shazia Yousuf reports

For him, this special school is an orchard and its children, the bloom. He doesn’t remember how many awards he has received. He cannot recall the number of research papers he has written so far. But when it comes to these special children being trained and educated in his school, Dr. Mir Mohammad Maqbool knows everyone. By name. And by heart.

“I don’t dream of owning a hospital or an orchard. This school is my orchard where I see these wonderful children blossoming,” says Dr. Maqbool.

It was during his tenure at SMHS Hospital when he first felt the need of special school for deaf, dumb and mentally challenged people. “Our department was providing good care to the patients with ear and throat impairments but patients with congenital abnormalities could not be treated. Such patients would be returned as our hospital was not equipped to treat them. The scenes of parents wailing on knowing about their child’s abnormality would kill me from within,” he recalls.

In 1970, the then governor of the state Bhagwaan Sahi was one of the patients of Dr. Maqbool. “I discussed the issue (lack of medicare for special children) with him and he got speech and hearing equipments worth Rs 11,000 donated by Red Cross,” he said. With these equipments, Dr. Maqbool established a Neurotology and Speech and Hearing centre in the hospital.

Born on August 1, 1936, Dr Maqbool was selected for MBBS in Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Indore in 1953. After graduating in 1958, he returned and worked as resident doctor in ophthalmology-ENT department at SMHS hospital.

In 1963, Dr. Maqbool went to Lucknow to do MS in Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat). He received the best thesis award from University of Lucknow in 1966.
Dr. Maqbool was appointed as professor and head of ENT department in 1973. As HOD the first thing he did was to bifurcate the department into ophthalmology and ENT. He also started post graduation course in ENT at GMC.

His book, Text book of Ear, Nose, and Throat diseases, was adopted by GMC Srinagar and is also taught in many medical colleges of India, Bangladesh and Middle East.
But the genius medico was destined to do other things. In 1970, Dr. Maqbool established Voluntary Medicare Society of J&K to treat and rehabilitate poor disabled and mentally challenged people.

Comprising of a team of doctors, the society would go to far-flung areas and treat needy patients, “Our Sundays and other holidays would be spent in treating patients who cannot come to the hospital. Though we treated hundreds and brought hundreds of others to hospital for surgeries, still we found it of very little help to the people,” says Dr Maqbool.

However, whatever “little” they did came to a stop after militancy broke out in 1989.
in1994 Dr. Maqbool was invited by Saudi government to establish ENT department at King Abdul Aziz University Hospital Riyadh. He went but returned as soon as he finished the job – within 8 months.

With the money from his own pocket and some from relatives and friends, Dr. Maqbool started a treatment cum training institute for physically challenged at Bemina Srinagar on November 7, 1995.

Soon the school became functional; the Composite Regional Centre (CRC) offered help in upgradation of infrastructure.

“They said they wanted to render help to these children if provided with accommodation. I thought it is the best way to serve.” But a few months with the CRC and Dr Maqbool was unhappy with their way.

“Rather than building, our own assets suffered, so I took it back from them and made it an independent school in 2000.” It was named as Special School for Deaf, Dumb, Mentally Challenged and Associate Disabled children.

The center was perhaps the first initiatives for physically and mentally disabled children in the state, “though there is a full-fledged act in Indian law, but the government never came up with any plan,” says Dr Maqbool.

The school now known as Shafakat- special school for mentally challenged and multiple disabilities, has 70 students. The poor among them are not charged any fee while those who can afford pay Rs.500 a month.

The schools financial requirements are too big for his pocket. Most of the funds come as zakaat from Dr. Maqbools friends and relatives. Very little money comes as charity, though the institute is open to donations.

Besides basic education, the special children are trained through special therapies, trainings, physical and mental exercises, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy by qualified people.

The school also runs a home management programme for the disabled persons of rural areas through its intensive out station programme.

“Besides therapies and basic education, the children are trained in drawing, sports, IQ improvement, table manners and social activities to make them self-dependent” says the founder. “These children can do wonders if trained at the proper time,” he added.
Apart from getting a plethora of awards, Dr Maqbool received various awards and more than 65 of his papers been published in foreign and national journals.

Dr  Maqbool also founded the Islamic Study Circle and Iqbal Memorial Trust in 1980 and served as its founder president for 13 years.

However, his outstanding contribution in the field of social work and healthcare do not satiate his hunger for serving humanity. He plans to establish a modern Rehabilitation and Neurodiagnostic centre with modern testing facilities, well equipped to train patients with spinal injuries.

“At present our rehabilitation is restricted to the patients with congenital disabilities only,” laments Dr. Maqbool.

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