Wahid Gul may not be rich, but he is brimming with spite for people who live off handouts.
Having lived in Islamabad for the past two decades, the physically-disabled cobbler has witnessed several changes in the map of the capital city. However, his own fate has remained unchanged during this period.
Gul, whose legs were paralysed when he was only nine, has no permanent workplace. However, he mostly prefers to stay around the G-sectors of the city. Most of his clients are low-ranked government employees and after working all day, he earns Rs150-200.
Though he spends his nights under the open sky in green belts, under bus shelters or in mosques, he seems to be satisfied with his life. Unlike most people, he never complains of loadshedding, as it doesn’t affect his life.
Apart from being paraplegic, Gul is faced with several other hardships. His workplace keeps changing whenever the Capital Development Authority (CDA) launches its anti-encroachment drives, while the police keep interrogating him at nights.
“The cops keep looking at me with suspicion just because I talk in an [Pashto] accent,” he told The Express Tribune, while repairing shoes in his makeshift shop underneath a tree in G-6.
The clouds of uncertainty are still hovering over his head. Having his bags all packed, he is ready to surrender to the CDA anytime. However, unlike other people, moving from one place to another isn’t an easy task for him, due to his disability.
He says it takes him around one hour to travel a kilometre, which is what is keeping him from getting cheap accommodation in the suburbs.
Apart from that, the intense traffic in the city poses a constant threat to his life.
“I am often this close to being hit by a car, whenever I cross a main road. I have no words to thank God and those who help me cross safely.”
Despite all his miseries and hardships, Gul does not complain about anything. He is satisfied with whatever he manages to save for his children. All he wants from authorities is to realise his compulsion so he can get rid of his constant uncertainty.
His biggest fear is being dependent on others for survival. That is the reason why he has turned down financial assistance from his brothers.
“It would be a shame to sit all day home and rely on others for sustenance. The fact that my legs are paralysed cannot stop me from living a life of dignity as I still have both my hands to work with,” said Gul, passionately.
Gul is married with three children — two sons and a daughter, whom he visits every three months in Charsadda.
Though he could only attend school for 20 days when he was a kid, he wishes to see his children receive the best education. This, he says, is his biggest motivation towards his work.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.