Islamabad - In a developing country like Pakistan where the disabled are often marginalized and live in extreme poverty, Muhammad Shahid, a handicapped self-employed bicycle mechanic, earns enough money to live a happy and respectable life.

Muhammad Shahid, 38, the second eldest amongst six siblings, originally hails from Chatta Moor village of Murree. On the fifth day of his birth, he got a fever. It was poliomyelitis. His parents tried different traditional remedies (totkay) but all in vain. Finally, the fever disappeared but his body was ravaged by the poliovirus. As he grew up, he realised that he would not be able to walk on his legs throughout his life and would be confined to a wheelchair.

“I would love to go outside of home with my siblings. I really felt deprived when my brothers and sisters would go outside for playing. Even I could not join them inside when they would play some games like hide and seek. Going outside of home was something beyond imagination, as the mountainous area of my village was not wheelchair friendly,” he said.

Muhammad Shahid spent almost 17 years in Chatta Moor village while leaving on others’ support. He did not have any hope that his life could change. One day his parents decided to shift to Islamabad and the main reason was to settle in such a place where Muhammad Shahid could move around in his wheelchair. In 1994 they migrated to a village near Rawal Town. The life of Muhammad Shahid took a change.

“My life took a new turn; now I could go outside in my wheelchair. In true sense I started enjoying my life. Earlier in village I felt like a caged bird.”

After spending some months while moving around the locality in his wheelchair, he started getting bored with his lifestyle. He wanted to earn his livelihood with his own hands, as polio had paralysed his legs but the rest of his body was working as normal.

“The first available occupation for me was tailoring. I started work in a nearby tailor shop. Within a period of one year, I learnt the tailoring skills. The owner of the shop hired me on daily wages. You can’t imagine the inner satisfaction when you earn your own livelihood. Later on, I established my own tailoring shop; now I was not only earning my own pocket money but was also helping my family. I was satisfied with my profession. One day a lump appeared between my neck and shoulder area, which increased with the passage of time. Although I recovered from the disease but doctors advised me to leave the occupation, as the growing was caused by tailoring work.”

It was very difficult for Muhammad Shahid to adopt a new profession but he did not lose heart. One day, a friend advised him to learn the art of fixing bicycles and he visited Chah Sultan Bazaar in Rawalpindi where Mehmood Ustad welcomed him in his workshop.

“It was a difficult task to daily visit Rawalpindi in wheelchair but with the help of Allah SWT I managed it. After spending two years with Mehmood Ustad, I excelled in fixing the problems of all kinds of bicycles. He also provided me with all important tools to run my small workshop. I thought that in Margalla Town there must be many bicycles, so I selected this area and the selection of area was not bad,” Shahid said.

Today, Muhammad Shahid sits in the backside of main market in the town. His small shop is full of bicycle parts like spokes, chains, tyres and tyre-tubes etc. He can fix and oil bicycle chains and exchange ball bearings. He has a small air compressor to pump air in tyres of cycles and motorcycles. He uses pressure gauge to check pressure in the tubes.

“I thank Allah that once again I am earning my own money. We live in a joint family system and I contribute a good share. I’m so grateful. I am still disabled and still cannot walk but I’m respected due to my profession and my hard working. I feel sorry for those who beg instead of earning their own money.”

A few years back the family of Muhammad Shahid has moved from Rawal Town to Bhara Kahu. To come to his shop Muhammad Shahid covers almost ten kilometres to reach his shop in Margalla Town.

He has bought a three-wheel handicapped motorcycle. Apart from Muhammad Shahid, all other siblings are married now, as his physical conditions don’t allow him to marry. However, he feels happy while living with his brothers and their children.

In Pakistan, most of the people with disabilities resort to street begging for alms to survive. But Muhammad Shahid says that they (disabled persons) can earn money through some other respectable way instead of begging. “If the government supports me to establish a workshop, I can train a number of disabled persons to earn their livelihood with a dignified way,” he said.