“Acceptance helped me”: one-armed off-roading enthusiast from Kashmir

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Three days after his accident, Sayer Abdullah woke up on the hospital bed with his body covered in bandages and his right arm amputated. 

While traveling to school in 2005, Abdullah’s arm was damaged when his school bus skidded down the slope and hit a rock. 

The trauma of losing his arm stayed with Abdullah — a student of class 5th back then — for a long time after the accident. “For many years I was afraid of traveling in a vehicle. I used to be afraid of even looking out from the window. Fast speed used to make me scream,” said Abdullah, a law student from Vessu village of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. 

Over the years, Abdullah kept adapting to his new life where he had to do everything with just one hand but he kept longing for taking control of the steering, the dream he had since childhood. “The thought of not having an arm broke me. My father used to take me out for a walk in the hospital. He made me understand that my condition was much better than many other patients there,” he said. 

For years, Abdullah would be offered a seat while travelling in public transport which used to make him feel helpless. However, he made himself understand that “dependency is the greatest misery”. “We cause problems to people with disabilities by helping them,” he said. 

Around two years ago, Abdullah finally decided to tell his parents that he wanted to take control of his fear and follow his dream. “I told my father that I wanted a car. Initially he was worried but he always knew about my dream so he trusted me and bought me a car,” said Abdullah, adding that he started to learn driving from his best friend. 

Initially, controlling steering as well as the gear seemed to be impossible for Abdullah, so his friend would help him out. After trying continuously, he started to take control of the car with just one hand. “Now I stay conscious while driving. The process of learning to control gear shifting and steering simultaneously used to take time first, now it happens quickly. My brain has adapted to it. These are involuntary actions now,” he said. 

Soon after he learned to drive with one hand, Abdullah decided to join Kashmir Off Road – an associate member club of the motorsport federation of India. “I showed my parents how I drive and I told them that it was done while following safety guidelines. They trusted me eventually,” he added. 

After three trials at the club he was finally allowed to become a part of it, said Abdullah. “The professionals made me learn how to drive on offroads in a better way. I started with Tosamaidan. They guided me throughout,” he said. 

For over a year now, Abdullah has driven to far off places like Bangus Valley, Yousmarg, Bataksar and to few other remote places. “The toughest off road journey has been Tosamaidan. The road was so bad that the suspensions of my car broke down,” he said. 

For Abdullah, off-roading makes him feel excited and sets in the adrenaline rush, taking away his stress and anxiety. “If someday I cannot drive anymore, I will lose the most important part of my life,” he said. “Driving is like friendship to me.”

Abdullah believes that people should accept any circumstance they have and make it their power to lead a better life. “Acceptance helped me. It made my life better,” he said, adding that he has accepted his situation and does not wish to have a robotic arm. 

Currently pursuing his masters in corporate law from The National Academy of Legal Studies and Research Hyderabad, Abdullah plans on joining motor sports and circuit racing after completing his degree. “I am planning to participate in competitions through Kashmir Off Road so that I get a sponsor for entry in motor sports events,” he said. 

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