Conation is my prop indeed ( Rabeea Hameed )
Written By Khalid Irshad
After passing through zigzag streets of Lohar Banday area of Mansehra, I emerged on a hilly road that started ascending steeply. It appeared that my motor would soon get stuck while negotiating unusual climb on which I put the handbrake on and also placed some stones beneath rear tyres to retard any spontaneous backward drifting before taking an ascending path to reach my destination a small house built on the peak of the slope.
As I reached in front of a door painted in green, I was breathing much heavily. This short journey had revealed how towering was Rabeea Hameed’s determination to seek knowledge? Before knocking at the door, I had found a befitting answer to the question cropping up in my mind as to how and with whose support this handicapped girl would have been traversing this risky slope daily. It transpired later that this support was solely her firm resolve that indeed enabled her to undertake her academic pursuits while all the odds were heavily against her.
A man wearing a beard opened the door. The paragon of virtue, humbleness and modesty took me inside where his wife and daughters were seated. Rabeea Hameed, with the support of another woman, headed to greet me. How this girl, who can’t move a few feet without anyone’s help, would have been attending her schools and colleges, I wondered. At the outset, I wanted knowing the secret behind Rabeea’s such a classy and sublime rearing by her parents that filled this handicapped girl with an enormous conviction to get her faculties recognized. Tears flooded Hameedullah’s eyes when I asked him to narrate his story. Every word he uttered, however, reflected gratitude to Allah Almighty for throughout helping them in braving this ordeal with fortitude.
I belong to a hilly village, Bhimber, situated nine kilometers away from Balakot. My father was a poor cultivator of a very small chunk of land. Our village had no school, so my father sent me to Jamia Ashrafia in Lahore to take admission in Dars-i-Nizami. After graduating, I got married and started performing duties of a prayer leader at a mosque in the vicinity of Mansehra. In 1964, I also got a teaching employment in a government school. This way, I remained simultaneously associated with the school and the mosque for the next five decades. Allah gave me a befitting reward of this service and protected my dignity and helped me out in every hour of trial besides inculcating in me an urge to impart knowledge to my children, especially my daughters.
God gifted me five sons and three daughters. The elder son discontinued studies owing to an ailment. He is now doing a job after earning a diploma in engineering. Second son is a graduate, while the third one had to stop studies after matriculation and he would take Rabeea to her school and then bring her back. About polio attack on Rabeea, Hameedullah said: When she was just one-year-old, she had severe fever that lasted for many days. We took her to different medical practitioners but to no avail. Then, we went to a specialist who diagnosed Rabeea with polio which had affected her right side of the body.
This disclosure left me and my spouse high and dry. As I was a poor man, I had limited resources at my disposal to get my daughter treated. Also, the apprehension that Rabeea will permanently become a handicapped girl made us spending days and nights agonizing over how she would lead her life like a normal woman. Anyhow, constant treatment improved her right side of the upper limb to some extent. However, her leg did not register any improvement.
When Rabeea turned four, we admitted her to a private school where girls would tease her owing to her disability. We also sent our younger daughter Sameea to the same school so that she could look after her elder sister. Both the sisters studied together till F.Sc. What difficulties you faced at your school? I asked Rabeea in a bid to know about her ordeal. The determined girl began narrating her awful wretchedness with maturity and poise.
The greatest difficulty I faced was my inability to perform daily-life chores myself. I wanted visiting canteen, using toilet and playing with other kids during recess on my own. I was very fond of playing. Once, I was watching some kids playing cricket that the ball hit me very hard because I could not duck it owing to my immobility. The ball injured me and I got frightened and never saw playing any one from such a close distance subsequently. My brother would take me to school. I would remain seated where he would sit me down until he lifted me to bring me back. My sister would fetch food items for me from canteen but being younger in age, she was unable to lift me. When I was in Class-III, our school got closed down and we shifted to another school. However, by that time, I was able to move with a prop and had schooled myself to patiently endure privations of life. My brother Qasim would lift my schoolbag, take me to school and then bring me back.
Had my brother not supported me,I would have not been able to complete my studies. I am still unable to walk without anybody’s active support. Since childhood, I had the will to grow and excel under inauspicious conditions. Garden Public School’s Principal Muneer Sahib kept on encouraging me. He had also waived half of my tuition fee. He used to persuade me to study medical, so I started endvouring to become a doctor when I was in Class-X.
I topped my school in matriculation and wanted admission in a standard college but my father had not enough money even to buy me F.Sc books. All my class-fellows took admission to private institutions with good academic arrangements. Allah Almighty helped me again and Haider Public School’s Principal Raja Naeem offered me free admission to his institution. Principal Naeem and the faculty magnificently nurtured me and I also bagged excellent grades in F.Sc. My father again had scarce resources at his command to finance my medical entry test preparatory classes at any academy in Abbottabad. I was unable to travel to Abbottabad daily and also my father had no friends and acquaintances in that city who could arrange for any concession in fee, thus I stopped hoping against the hope of any miracle.
I got dejected for the first time in my life when I could not take medical entry test. All this overwhelmingly perturbed me. However, during these horrible days my family again instilled into me innumerable courage and fervor. My father was filled with remorse for not having provided me an opportunity to become a doctor. My siblings convinced me take admission into B.Sc at the local government college which I did. Here, I was informed about a rehabilitation centre established by an NGO, Helping Hand, with whose cooperation I started some exercises to strengthen my weak leg. When medical admissions opened the following year, my urge to become a doctor became alive yet again. I was preparing myself to take the entry test when I saw the advertisement of a private medical college for women in Abbottabad. The tuition fee for M.B.B.S was over Rs500,000 with a very few days left behind closure of admissions. However, my admission to B.Sc Physiotherapy was on the cards.
I could better understand the role a physiotherapist could play in improving the quality of life of a disabled person, so I decided to get admission to B.Sc Physiotherapy. The annual tuition fee was Rs55,000. I applied for a waiver in tuition fee but the administration declined to entertain my request. Then a girl told me about the Karwan-i-Ilm Foundation (KIF) to which I wrote a letter mentioning all my circumstances and likely expenditures on my proposed studies. The KIF promised to help me out soon. My entire family was in seventh heaven. We were totally taken aback by the KIF’s quick response and had a conviction that still an institution existed on this earth which can reach out to a needy student in response to merely writing a letter. After a few days, I received Rs55,000 tuition fee and I got admission in B.Sc Physiotherapy. The KIF also provided me stipends to purchase books and pay fares for travelling from Mansehra to Abbottabad daily on a special van.
I can’t find words to describe incalculable peace of mind I am in and colossal satisfaction I am enjoying because of the Foundation’s timely help. My family especially my father always supplicates for the betterment and well-being of the KIF and its management. I believe that the KIF is fulfilling my all needs like any parents would fulfill their children’s. Whether any institution had offered sponsoring your leg’s surgery or any treatment that could have helped you walk independently? I asked Rabeea exquisitely. A disabled girl had given me the visiting card of a Lahore-based doctor who treats polio patients. We are poor people, having no friends and acquaintances in Lahore, so we discarded the idea of going there for treatment. I am still unable to walk without anybody’s active support. My brother sacrificed his studies and employment and took the responsibility of my schooling. It is still my greatest desire that one day I could walk unaided, so that my brother could be relieved of this responsibility to earn his livelihood, however, this is unlikely to happen in given circumstances, she said somewhat regretfully.
Your house is situated on the peak of a slope. How you go to your college daily? I asked zealous Rabeea. This is a rented house arranged for us by the management of the mosque my father is prayer leader in. We are living in this house for the past one year. The fear of stumbling grips me throughout while I descend this slope every day. Similarly, my college is also situated on a slope. But, I have never given in to circumstances and that’s how I am pursuing my academic pursuits with full devotion, Rabeea added.
About her future plans, Rabeea said she would work for the disabled after becoming a physiotherapist. As Rabeea concluded her heroic tale, I told her: When you will be free after taking your exams, the KIF will arrange for your leg surgery in Lahore. Be hopeful that Allah Almighty will always help you out.
My words brought tremendous happiness to glum Rabeea and her family members, especially her sisters and father. Descending the slope after leaving Rabeea’s house was equally difficult like ascending, and I was thinking that it is Allah Almighty who always eases hitches in one’s journey of life.