New Delhi/Ghaus Siwani
At a time when the country is gushing over the spectacular performance of the specially-abled athletes in Tokyo Paralympics, the story of Gulfam Ahmed must be told to the world.
Gulfam was left incapacitated by a polio virus attack in his childhood; poverty at home additionally deprived him of a normal life and yet he is today an inspiration for all those who want to overcome hurdles in life and realise their dreams.
A fitness enthusiast, bodybuilder, speaker and stand-up comedian, Gulfam Ahmed won the title of “Mr Wheelchair India” in 2015.
There has been no looking back since and his motivational talks are a hit across the country.
Given his willpower and love of sports, Gulfam Ahmed competed in the wheelchair racing category in Delhi marathon and completed the race with good timing.
Gulfam Ahmed is a much followed person on social media and his online tutorials on fitness and grooming are a hit with netizens.
Gulfam Ahmed was born in a poor family in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh. His father was a tailor. He was barely a year old when polio struck him. Thereafter the family shifted to Delhi in the hope that they might get medical help for Gulfam in the big city.
His parents were reluctant to send him to school since he had to crawl and couldn't stand. Back then the concept of wheelchair and special facilities for such persons was not so common.
Gulfam told the audience during a Ted Talk that his life changed when the principle of a neighbourhood school noticed him peeping from the hole of the school gate into the compound and asked him what does he want. He told her that he too wanted to study.
Tears rolled down the cheeks of the listeners when he told them how he would crawl to the school and had to escape being bitten by the stray dogs by offering them biscuits each day. He would keep the pack of biscuits he was given as part of the mid-day meal in school for the stray.
Gulfam Ahmad completed his higher secondary education from a government school and took an ITIL course in computer operations.
He was a big fan of actor Salman Khan. One day he joined a gymnasium and started exercising to maintain a good physique. The Gymnasium instruction introduced him to the world of sports for specially disable persons. He won bronze in the first national weightlifting championship for wheelchair bound persons in 2008.
Gulfam Ahmad continued to win medals at national levels and today there are 26 medals he won in different sports categories like powerlifting, wheelchair racing, taekwondo, etc. in his kitty.
Gulfam didn't use a wheelchair till the age of 23. He was working in that condition. One day, a coach advised him to consult doctors for correctional surgery and explore the possibility of he standing up.
Eventually, after two surgeries and 45 days in the hospital, Gulfam was standing and walking with the help of crutches.
He may have left sports behind but today Gulfam is also a motivational speaker. He is invited by schools, colleges and the Corporates to deliver talk. Gulfam says he has lived his life on his own terms and has never been afraid to pursue his dreams. He also became a part of Showbiz and participated in the "Face to Face India" contest. He said that he had read about this contest on social media. "I was familiar with its tag as the biggest men's competition in India. However, I was not aware of his election process. In 2020, I read about its rules and regulations and applied for it. Like the other contestants, I went through the preliminary selection section and qualified for the finals. It's such a great platform and I'm glad to be a part of it," he said.
"My passion and enthusiasm compels me to try new things," says Gulfam Ahmed. I discovered my hidden potential and something new in me that I can be proud of," he said at a Ted Talk.
"We can get inspiration from anything and anywhere. My journey to where I am today has made me a confident, strong and determined person. You need to be aware of what is happening around you and the opportunities that come your way."
When a person asked him why young people in India often give up without a fight, Gulfam Ahmed told the audiences that even the longest journey of life begins with one step. "You will never know your potential unless you try. Success is not a destination. It is a journey with many beautiful milestones," his reply won him a huge applause.
"We only have one life to live," he saif. "It is better to focus on what you have and work towards what you do not have than to think about what you do not have. What you have today is because of your hard work and, of course, you have to work hard to get the things you don't have. Instead of wasting time, think about the goals you have set and work to achieve them."