HARIPUR: Nadeem Khan managed to earn a first division in his Matric exams. While that in itself is a notable achievement, the 16-year-old’s success is underscored by an unfortunate twist of fate. Nadeem has no control over his arms.
Nadeem, who lives in Baka Purani village, some 12km from the district headquarters, was born without anything beyond his right elbow, and a fully formed but unusable left arm.
A few minutes with the boy — who is the second of three children born to a retired soldier, Chan Muhammad — speaks volumes towards the strength of the human spirit.
Muhammad, who now tends buffaloes, spent much of his savings on treatments for his son’s left arm, hoping he could one day use his hand.
Unfortunately, poverty was an obstacle, and local doctors told him that Nadeem’s arm could not be made functional.
“I was left with no option but to pray for a miracle that Nadeem could grow up as a normal child,” Muhammad said, with his eyes welling up. He said he had lost hope when doctors at a hospital in Lahore gave him the bad news, “but Nadeem proved to be more courageous than me,” he said, adding that when his son turned five, he insisted on being enrolled in a school like other boys.
Muhammad caved in to his son’s demand and enrolled him in the village school. Unsurprisingly, the teachers initially refused to let him enrol, arguing that the child could not even hold up a book, let alone write. However where there is will there is way; and Nadeem not only learnt to write using his right foot, but was something of a prodigy at school.
According to his father, Nadeem proved his commitment and passed all the exams up to ninth grade with flying colours.
Two months back, Nadeem sat for the Secondary School Certificate (science group) exam under the Abbottabad Board of Secondary Education (BISE), and managed to get 700 out of 1,050 marks in spite of failing the Chemistry paper, which he said was because he was sick on the day and could not attempt all the compulsory questions.
He told The Express Tribune that he never felt any problem reading or writing in the classroom and always earned appreciation from his teachers for the excellent home and vacation work.
However, as he was unable to hold anything with his left hand, his father had to help him get on and off the bus from his village to Haripur city every school day.
“My friends or other commuters would help me get on and off the bus in Haripur while my father would always wait for at the bus stop in the village,” Nadeem said.
Like any youngster, Nadeem needed playtime, and picked up on a sport where working arms are not a necessity — football. He regularly takes part in football matches with friends in the village and is treated as a “normal” outfield player, although his second sporting passion, cricket, is tougher to play as he finds it cumbersome holding the bat under his arm.
He also regularly uses a cell phone, and now a computer, which his father bought on credit from another villager.
Nadeem has also been working on his artistic skills, making portraits of his parents and other family members within a few minutes like a seasoned artist. “I can sketch a picture with a pencil within 15 minutes,” he said, adding that he received a Rs2,000 prize from Provincial Higher Education Minister Qazi Muhammad Asad during the latter’s visit to his school.
The boy hopes to study medicine one day, but acknowledges that his family cannot afford to support his dream.
“My disability has never been a hurdle, the only hurdle I fear is poverty,” he said.
However, he hopes to get some financial support from the government or philanthropists, promising to one day “pay back whatever they spend on my MBBS”.
Published in The Express Tribune, 25th, 2012.
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