No room for gloom

A physically challenged student overcame odds and poverty to pursue his studies. Mir Iqbal reports

He manages everything like a normal student. After losing an arm in an explosion, he did not let himself slide in sorrow and gloom. He continued to pursue formal education.

Aijaz Ahmad Bhat, 25, from a small village Ahagam, in District Shopian is now pursuing masters from Kashmir university overcoming difficulties posed by his physically challenged condition.

 “It was very tough initially. I had to overcome hardships and train myself to do small daily chores, which were an uphill task now,” says Aijaz.

He has trained himself to do all the things he needs to. Be it scribbles notes or getting dressed or putting on shoes, he does everything with his only hand without any assistance.

“I have adopted a lot over the years. I use my only hand to wear clothes, comb my hairs, put on my shoes, put on my socks or flip pages of a book. I can do almost everything with my only hand,” he says.

Despite his physical disabilities and little financial resources, he has competed successfully with normal students. While others spend hours and thousands of rupees on tuition centers, he slogs silently in his home.

The disability, it seems, has strengthened his resolve. He wants to become an IAS officer.

“Many would have cursed themselves for being left with such handicap, but I have accepted it as a challenge. Being left without my limb is something that shouldn’t have happened to me. But since it has, I try to make most of my life,” says Aijaz.  

When a team of doctors from Army visited his home to plant an artificial limb, he was ecstatic, he says. “But I refused to take the artificial limb when I came to know that the limb can’t work. That would only have added burden to my shoulder,” Aijaz said.      

Aijaz received primary education from Government Middle School Ahagam and then joined Higher Secondary School, Pulwama. He then completed his graduation in Arts from Government Degree College, Pulwama. And is presently pursuing Masters in Arabic from University of Kashmir.

“My education journey has been full of hardships. Boarding of bus during the rush hours was very difficult for me. Even there is no special provision for physically challenged students in the State Board of School Education like separate seating arrangement in classes and sports facilities for specially challenged students,” he said.

At the university Aijaz is studying, Dean Students Welfare has started career counseling for physically challenged students from last few years. The DSW office also disseminates information about various scholarships and schemes available to the physically challenged students.

Aijaz had expected to get special facilities at the university but even there physically challenged students are treated the same way as other students.

“My parents have always supported me all alone. Nobody came forward with help, except a few of relatives,” he said.

There are certain areas where physically challenged are at a distinct disadvantage. “I am pursuing Master’s degree. I am eligible to appear in the IPS exam but even if I top the exams, I can’t get the job, just because I can’t pass the fitness test.”

Apart from overcoming the physical challenges posed by their handicap, Aijaz and many others like him have face negative attitudes among the people and social stigma.

“There have been the times when I wanted to give up my studies because of some negative-minded people in our society, who sometimes used to tease and discourage me. But then, I thought it is my life and I have to carry on,” he adds.

Being the elder son of his parents, Aijaz wants to shoulder some the responsibility in running the house. His poor parents want him to do good in his life so that he is not dependent on anybody.

“We know our son can’t work in the fields. We supported him fully in pursuing his studies, in spite of very scarce financial resources so that he can stand on his own,” his parents say. “He may become a helping hand in our old age.” 

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