Imran Qureshi: UP’s paraplegic man motivates wheelchair-bound people to live independently & confidently

Imran Qureshi: UP’s paraplegic man motivates wheelchair-bound people to live independently & confidently

Imran Qureshi: UP’s paraplegic man motivates wheelchair-bound people to live independently and confidently inspiring life 30stades

Lakhan Singh, 31, works with the Rajasthan State Electricity Board. In 2014, while working on a lamppost, he got an electric shock and fell to the ground. His lower body and one hand became paralysed. Lakhan was devastated and saw no hope till he met Imran Qureshi who coached him to be physically and mentally strong.

“I was working and living my life, but I was not happy. I would feel discouraged because people would pity me. Even activities like taking a shower, eating or going out were done with the help of at least two people,” says Lakhan.

He came to know about Imran through a friend and joined his training sessions in 2019.

“After training with Imran, I am able to independently take a shower, use the toilet, wear clothes and even travel in cars and public transport,” Lakhan says.

As he became independent and confident, his mental state also changed. “Now I don’t care what people say about me. I am proud that despite being in a wheelchair I am living my life independently. This change was only possible because of Imran,” says Lakhan.

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Imran, himself a paraplegic, has helped hundreds of wheelchair-bound people across India, teaching them to live independently and without shame.

Imran Qureshi (left) with Lakhan Singh, who received training in 2019. Pic: courtesy Imran Khan 30stades
Imran Qureshi (left) with Lakhan Singh, who received training in 2019. Pic: courtesy Imran Qureshi

Imran, 31, hails from Gyanipur village in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. His wife and daughter stay with his parents in the village while he shuttles between his village, Mumbai and wherever he has to go for training others.

His father earlier drove a taxi in Mumbai for a livelihood. Imran, who was interested in painting, joined his father in Mumbai in 2007 to explore his interest and hone his skills in painting.

He met a group of artists in Mumbai’s Koliwada area and started painting, mostly on walls and number plates. 

But all of a sudden, his lower body began losing power. “I would not be able to wear slippers and shoes or even walk for a few seconds. Tests and treatments did not help and eventually I became paralysed from the waist down” says Imran.  

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In 2009 doctors said Imran would need to use a wheelchair. He and his family were devastated and thought that life was finished.

Overcoming the trauma

Imran was treated at the Sion Hospital in Mumbai and then shifted to the physiotherapy centre. But his father could not pay the Rs6000 monthly charges for physiotherapy and he had to move out.

“My parents had already spent Rs7-8 lakh on my treatment through NGOs and with help from friends. They couldn’t pay for the physiotherapy.”

His parents had given up hope and he lived in an orphanage for some time.

Imran was depressed for several months but coming across other people who lived a normal life in wheelchairs gave him hope.

Instead of brooding, he took charge of life and after 18 months, he began performing daily activities independently. He would also do stunts in a wheelchair. “With practice, I could go to the washroom, take shower, go to bed and come back to my wheelchair on my own. I began travelling in a wheelchair on public transport,” he says.

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“Looking at my improvement, other paraplegics began approaching me for help. That is how I began training people on wheelchairs,” says Imran.

Yet, when he went back to his village, the neighbours would come home and talk about things that demotivated him.

Imran Qureshi in a training session. Pic: courtesy Imran Qureshi 30stades
Imran Qureshi in a training session. Pic: courtesy Imran Qureshi

“Some would say death is better than this life. Some would ask how I would live the rest of my life. It was irritating and disheartening to hear their discussions. It was also tough to get out of the house and roam around because of social stigma associated with the wheelchair,” he says.

However, by that time he was so strong mentally and emotionally that such things did not affect him.

Inspiring others

However, by that time he was so strong mentally and emotionally that such things did not affect him.

By 2013, Imran had developed a nine-day training plan to help paraplegics live life independently. 

The training plan tells them about daily living skills, high and low bed transfers, bowel and bladder management, and wheelchair and cushion fitment, physiology counselling, transport tips and techniques, and question and answer sessions for wheelchair users and their families.

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“The training is free of cost but people who participate in training contribute for food, accommodation and my travelling expenses,” says Imran.

So far, Imran has trained more than 200 wheelchair users in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and other states. 

“All the people I have trained are performing daily activities without anyone’s support. Earlier they would spend their money and effort on trying to walk, which is mostly not possible. After training they are seeing life with a new perspective,” he says.

 Lives that changed

Mukund Jadhav, 35, from Maharashtra became paralysed after a spinal injury in 2010. At that time he was doing a telecom distribution business. But he had to take a break and resumed work after a year to earn money.

“I would do my business from home. I did not like going out because of social stigma. I would feel dejected for being wheelchair-bound and living life with others’ support,” says Mukund. His brother saw some of Imran’s videos and got him to attend the training session earlier this year.

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Chanchal Sharma from Rajasthan is leading an independent life after training with Imran. Pic: courtesy Imran Qureshi 30stades
Chanchal Sharma from Rajasthan is leading an independent life after training with Imran. Pic: courtesy Imran Qureshi

“After days of practice, I am performing daily activities on my own and I am also going out without any shame. Apart from my business, I will also train other wheelchair users like Imran,” says Mukund. 

Chanchal Sharma from Rajasthan was left paralysed after a road accident four years ago. The 20-year-old spent three years in bed. “I used to think I would waste away in a few years because of lying in bed all the time. I had gained a lot of weight too,” says Chanchal. Her parents tried various treatments but all in vain.

She came to know about Imran’s training from social media and joined the training session in 2020.

“I don’t need others’ support for daily activities anymore,” she says, adding that wheelchair-bound should not feel less worthy.

Apart from training wheelchair users, Imran also encourages them to change the infrastructure in their houses and their wheelchairs.

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He suggests that the toilet should be western style, bed and wheelchair height should be the same, the wheelchair should be as per the user’s body measurement and also light-weight for easy folding and unfolding. 

The wheelchair cushion should be comfortable so users can travel easily and not get bruised.

He tells his students to not waste time and money on treatments and physiotherapy because after a point, it is impossible to walk, whether doctors say it or not.

“It is better to accept and be comfortable in a wheelchair. Spend the money on improving infrastructure and the wheelchair according to your comfort to live without anyone’s support,” says Imran.

(Bilal Khan is a Mumbai-based independent journalist. He covers grassroot issues, LGBTQ community and loves to write positive and inspiring stories.)

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