December 16, 2016
22 years ago, Awais Ahmad was born in Sargodha, a city in Punjab, Pakistan. He was a healthy child, growing normally with every passing day. Around his first birthday, he got fever and he was prescribed some medicines. Poor intramuscular injection technique affected his right leg; there wasalmostimmediate post injection nerve damage. His family sought medical care and looked in to various treatment options for him. With proper care and treatment, he started to walk a little, but it was not an easy walk for a child. He was enrolled in a regular school, and he tells me first through seventh grade was the most difficult time for him. Kids from school used to make fun of him, and teased him in all the ways they could think of. All this was too much for him to take. He says that was the only time in his life when he stayed depressed and sad.
In seventh grade, he underwent three surgeries, one after the other, and he started to walk better, but still needed support. After surgeries, the doctors had advised him to take complete rest and do not walkunaided until he reached a certain level of recovery. He was bedridden for many months with plaster all over his leg; he grew tired of it, and started to walk with little or no support. This affected his recovery. He says because of this, he could not recover to the full potential, but still these surgeries made a huge positive impact on his mobility. The walk, no matter how imperfect that might have appeared to people around him, he says, was perfect for him. Also, he says people can think what they want, but I do not consider myself a person with any disability.
When Awais grew older and wiser, he started to focus on things that he had rather than on what he did not have. That made all the difference. He became more mentally stronger, and he never let himself be overwhelmed by the difference between him and the people around. It gave him courage, which is why he can stand up for himself and for other people like him, and speak for them without hesitation.
He told me, ‘I could not change what had been done, but I knew I could write my destiny. I accepted the way I was, and I focused on blessings that I had been bestowed upon. It gave me courage, and I became good at doing what I wanted. When I look around, I see many people who do not have what I have. Why should I not be thankful?’
He is enrolled in a four year degree program at the department of communication studies at the University of Sargodha. His degree completes next year. He is the head of the dramatic society of his department. He is passionate about photography, and we can see him with a DSLR camera doing photography in university and elsewhere. He participates in various co-curricular activities and organizes different events, and also likes to spend his time volunteering for different causes. Last year he was a member of a team of six people that visited the SOS Children’s Village Sargodha on two weekends and did different activities with children.
The only way this disability-about which he says again and again that he does NOT pity himself for, and that he does NOT consider himself disabled- affected his life was his career choice. He wanted to join Pakistan Army, but he accepted that he had to go for something else. He changed his aim and he is happy now.
He is a source of strength for other people. He leads a carefree life, and it shows on his face. He says many students with different disabilities in his college days looked up to him, and now in university, people talk to him about how he manages to be so happy, content, active and strong. He himself reaches out to people and helps them be stronger and focus their energy on the bright side. He says, ‘I believe in ‘pass it on’’, so when he reaches out to help people, he is passing it on.
I was interested to know what his source of strength was. His biggest strength lies in his trust in the Creator, and in the belief that He will never leave him alone. Also, he says his family is very supportive of him, and if he were to name one person who stood by him always, he would say it was his big brother Khurram Shahzad, who encouraged himconstantly with fun and serious discussions and with acts of support.
In future, he views himself as an entrepreneur, who started his own business from grass root level, without any financial help from his family. He wants to generate resources for himself and he is willing to take risks.
I interviewed him, and I can summarize his talk in these words which he really lives by; ‘Have faith, stop overthinking about what you do not have, and focus your energy on finding what talent you have been given, because when you are deprived of something, you are blessed with something else, there must be a strength unique to you, a talent that is there, you just need to find it and work on it. Do not worry about the hand that you have been dealt, you cannot change the cards, but you are in control of how you play that hand. You can be a good player!’
By Sajiha Batool