“If we threw our problems in a pile and got a look at everyone else’s, we’d fight to get back our own.” – Regina Brett
So true, isn’t it?
Month 2 began with a bang – anniversary celebrations, barbecue party, good book reviews and yes, I finally got back to blogging. It’s very easy to smile when everything’s going well, isn’t it? But the moment life takes a detour from our well-chalked-out plans we’re like fish out of water. Of course, feeling bad about a situation gone wrong is completely okay, but wallowing in it till it eats into your everyday living is something else.
Many a time, I have wondered if it is humanly possible to be thankful for your circumstances in the middle of a storm? Do all our troubles justify a similar, “Oh My God, my world’s falling apart” reaction.
So this month I decided to set up an interview with a dear friend whose ordinary life is very different from most of our lives. One fateful night, his life changed irreversibly, but what did stay intact is his spirit. In his own way, he inspires me to stop and be more grateful for all I have because there are many like him who have much lesser and are still happy because they make that choice every single day. Gratitude is a choice!
Let’s hear what he has to say.
Donna: Let me begin by saying a big thank you for coming aboard ‘The Ordinary Life Project’ and agreeing to do this interview with me. For those who don’t know you, please share a little about yourself.
Afzal: The pleasure was all mine, Donna. I’m more than happy to do this interview.
Hello Readers. My name is Mohammed Afzal Hamid Shaikh, and I am a 34-year-old paraplegic. As per the doctor, my disability term is called complete paraplegia. I live in Mumbai with my mother, grandfather, younger sisters and an aunt. I wasn’t born with this disability, but life had its own plan for me. My paraplegia is a result of an injury I suffered because of a car accident.
Donna: Afzal, can you tell us a little more about your injury?
Afzal: I remember it like it was just yesterday, Donna. Back then, I was working in Kuwait. My life changed forever on April 07, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.
I was on my way to pick up a friend; we were supposed to go together to drop my uncle to the airport. My grandfather was scheduled for a spinal injury operation the following day, and hence my uncle was heading to India.
At the time of the accident, my friend’s elder brother was with me too. Call it a miracle or call it destiny, he walked out unscratched. Coming back to that day, I was driving at 80 km/hr when out of nowhere there was a flash of light, and as my memory permits, all I remember is seeing headlights of other vehicles in the rearview mirror. At first, it just seemed like a bad dream. After five days I came out of a coma. I didn’t understand what was going on around me; there were doctors asking me to lift my hand, while others were encouraging me to try and remember what happened that night. It was then that my uncle told me about the accident. I had no memory of it whatsoever. I tried to get up and when at first I couldn’t, my heart sank. I thought my legs were amputated. But thanks to Allah they were there. All I knew was that I had to go to a rehab centre and in time everything would get better. Yes, I thought that even after breaking my spinal cord, neck down, things would fall into place.
I did what I was told to do. I got physiotherapy treatment, until one day I was asked to select a sports wheelchair and I asked why? At that very moment, I thought my life was over and that there was no need for me to live. I even cursed myself and wished that I had died in that accident. I couldn’t walk on my own or take care of my personal hygiene. It was too much to soak in and the doctors till date don’t have any answers about my recovery. That’s my truth that I live with every single day.
Donna: Afzal, I know these five years have been very challenging for you as it would be for any other person in a similar situation. Besides the obvious physical challenges can you tell us how this life-changing experience has reshaped you as a person? Are there any specific life lessons?
Afzal: I’m not the same person, Donna. You can’t be the same person you were. I have seen both ups and downs. But the one lesson that it has taught me is to stay on the right side. Choose Life!
Donna: After the accident, when I met you I was beyond words to see your positive outlook despite your circumstances. I’m compelled to ask you then, what is it that keeps you going?
Afzal: BELIEF is the only thing which is keeping me going. Where there is sorrow there will be joy one day; believe in happiness despite your circumstances. I believe someday I will walk on my own legs again, InshaAllah. Never give up even if you cannot see an immediate solution. Just keep doing your best and move forward. Also, my mother and sister have been my constant support. My mother puts on a brave front for me, but I know the smile she wears, she is a mother, after all, it isn’t easy for her to see me like this.
Donna: Is there anyone who has been your source of inspiration in this journey?
Afzal: Don’t be surprised, but your sister, Sonia, used to be my inspiration. She taught me to believe in the best in every situation, to be thankful for the life I have. Days when I felt low, I knew she would be able to infuse some positivity in me. Her mobile number was one of the most dialled numbers on my phone. We’d talk for hours and then before ending the call, we would pray together. Each time she visited me I experienced a burst of energy. I guess in some way her own battle with cancer helped her understand the fragility of life.
Donna: Afzal, what is your daily routine like?
Afzal: I’ve recently begun an online business. It keeps me mentally alert, and I enjoy the newness of the space as I’ve never done this before. I’m ready to try new things! On the social front, I do enjoy getting out of the house with friends and family.
Donna: What are your future goals?
Afzal: None, Donna. And it’s not because it is stupid for a completely paraplegic person to have them, but because I like to live in the present. I want to live these days that I have to the fullest. As I read in your blog “Now is the only moment we are guaranteed.” And I can say from experience there is no greater truth than that! I am an ordinary man, I can’t predict the future, but I will continue to hope I walk someday.
Donna: Do you have any advice for others living with physical disabilities?
Afzal: Believe in yourself no matter how hard the situation may seem. There is always a way out. Like, they say “Where there is a will, there’s a way!” The moment you quit believing and carrying hope in your heart that’s when everything will turn against you, and you could probably lose life’s battle.
Donna: Would you like to share any specific thoughts with my readers today?
Afzal: I am not your thinking man haha! But one tiny thought that I’d like to share, stop thinking about the events of the past. The past is no indicator of your future. Focus on how you can make your present joyful. No point overthinking life. What has to happen will happen. Choose to be present in the moment.
With that, we conclude our interview, dear readers. Afzal reiterated what most of us know, where there is gratitude, there is hope. A hope that confirms that after every harsh winter there is a pleasant spring. And so this month, I am going to make a conscious effort to focus on the little gifts that fall in my lap every single day and be more thankful. I’m pretty sure it will aid my effort at being light-hearted too, so until next time … put on your thankful heart and spread good cheer.