Mohsin Nawaz: A story of courage and perseverance
It is common in Pakistan for people to not like to work hard. Perfectly healthy people prefer to get others to do their work for them. Asking for help while doing nothing on our own is customary practice for many of us healthy Pakistanis – and by our government.
But what if someone is blind and paralyzed? What would your immediate perception of him be? You would definitely excuse him for leaning on others.
But how would you feel if you knew that in a world of such slothful souls, this sightless person whose legs are paralyzed is enthusiastic about earning his own living? I am sure you’d be surprised.
Yes, Mohsin Nawaz is a person who wrote his own life script. He had the courage to break down barriers and lifted himself up by sheer willpower. He reached out to the horizon of his field.
Undoubtedly, he is an inspiration for all youth. He is the executive director of Willing Ways, an institution in Pakistan that is famous for the rehabilitation of addicts.
Below is Mohsin Nawaz’s story in his own magical words.
The Mighty Sun
by Mohsin Nawaz
The glory of the mighty sun was faded as the appearance of night outshined its presence, making it nothing but a meager, worn-out, miserable eyeball futilely staring at me before it dies. As if I, playing random rhythms on a flute, was soothing its tired pale gleams, pretending to be shiny and strong all day long whilst departing weary, melancholy and alone. But the sun did not know that I played the soft, melodic tunes of a flute to give the tattered wounds of my own soul some words, some moments to cry, yell, pronounce its pain and then empathize with itself before it faces the world again ready to fight for another day of survival, with a smile and determination. Each dusk we used to see each other, both ragged from the pities of the world, shabby and alone. Me and the mighty Sun!
With every new day and a newer and brighter sun, I was also ready to face the world again. With my polio-crippled legs moving step by step on a kid’s tricycle, since the age of two years, I explored the world outside my home. People welcomed me with sympathy, ridicule and panic, but I always kept moving with a smile on my face and arms dragging me forward on my tricycle. Allah had blessed me with the unique power of faith and confidence, and I believe that overwhelmed the darker, sadder emotions inside me triggered by people’s behavior, which gave me a deeper psychological battering. At dusk, I would soothe my soul again with my flute and only friend, “the mighty Sun.”
I remained home-bound most of the time, isolated from the world in the shelter of my mom’s strength and in my father’s company. I dedicated myself to reading, fiction mostly, and listening to the radio. I was having literary and political conversations when I was seven, an age when most kids do not even understand what literature means or maybe even politics. It gave me a new outlook on life. It made me think it might be worth surviving. It may be worth exploring the world Allah has put me in. I may be able to do something, something in my life worth living for. I started writing stories at the age of seven and sent those to the children’s magazines I used to read so keenly. I kept waiting to read the issue in which my story would be published, and I kept waiting, forever… My story was eventually published but by then I was not able to read it, as I had lost my eyesight.
The blindness snatched my sight within a six-month span at the age of 13, and I lost my only friend, “the mighty Sun.” I felt devastated and miserable.
Death is the scariest thing one can ever imagine, no matter how shattered and pathetic your life is. You want to live every bit of it, as long as you can breathe
Playing the flute was my only source of solace now and listening to the radio was my only hope. No rationalization could justify the purpose of my life. People came to sympathize with my parents for being my parents. One of those was an old and oblivious woman who came to my mother and asked her to pray for my early death. This came as a huge jolt to me, as death is the scariest thing one can ever imagine, no matter how shattered and pathetic your life is. You want to live every bit of it, as long as you can breathe. I wanted to live. I wanted to live life to its fullest. Allah did not send me here to die. This was a turning point in my life. The desire to live raised the urge in me to learn and do something. This is where I started my journey.
Meanwhile, playing the flute helped to heal me and attracted some friends. I traded my unintended talent for playing the flute for the recording of academic content on cassettes so I could prepare for my secondary school exams. I insisted that my father teach me how to use a typewriter, but he was uncertain. For days, I kept practicing one sentence assigned by my father – “A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” – until he was sure I could do it proficiently. I was one of the earliest users of Roman Urdu, which we frequently use these days to send texts to each other, and after some effort, I learned Urdu typing as well. There my literary taste tweaked me to write and write even more. I wrote many letters to different radio programs where my Roman writing was appreciated. I continued my studies through the Braille reading and writing system and audio cassettes. Being an avid reader of Urdu literature, I chose to do my Masters in Urdu Literature in 1999. I had a full command of screen-reader software. This led me to another huge change in my life.
She arrived as a tender soft breeze and wrapped my wounded soul with her unconditional love. She was a friend at first. We met me through radio calls. But soon I realized that she was much more than that. She entered my life and suddenly life was no longer a struggle. She became my counselor, my defender, my caretaker… she is my wife. She is also my co-host on my radio show. She made my life beautiful and gave me my sons, Ali Ahmad Awan and Salman Ahmad Awan.
Time has passed pretty fast since then. Allah blessed me with some useful traits – adaptability and the urge to learn and challenge myself – that helped put me where I stand today. I, Muhammad Mohsin Nawaz, director, sales and PR, at Willing Ways, decided not to surrender to any challenges I face now or will have to face in future.
I owe much of my success to my mentor, Dr Sadaqat Ali, who is the driving force behind the refinement of my skills. He brought about a major change in my life when, in 1997. he gave me an opportunity to serve as a telemarketer for a book series project, One Minute Manager – Urdu Version. The remarkably successful sales campaign that followed became a milestone in my life by providing me with a career foundation, and so I started working at DIP in March 1999.
Allah made my voice the heartthrob of thousands of people when I joined the most popular radio channel, Mast FM 103, in 2004.
A popular YouTube channel, Change O’Clock, also helped to introduce me to the world by presenting my motivational videos.
I have also hosted many TV shows on Din, Vibe and SBN TV channels.
Currently, I am the first host in the world on FM radio and TV with multiple disabilities and have also been awarded the Best Icon award by Voice Society (www.voicesociety.org.pk) as well as the honorary Chairmanship of the society.
Today people invite me to different institutes and universities for motivational talks, including Punjab University, the University of Sargodha, Highnoon Laboratories, the Diabetic’s Institute Pakistan, Thanet Hall school systems and Tevta. I was honored to be invited to give a presentation to the National Cricket Academy for Pakistan under-19 cricket team in 2007.
I counsel, motivate and encourage people to progress in life, surpassing their fears, inabilities and insecurities. At dusk each day, I still take some time to enjoy my own company. Then, I gaze upon my past, where a flute tune mesmerizes me like some hypnotic moment and my thoughts hover around that mighty Sun. But it does not remind me of the miseries, loneliness and gloom anymore. I now realize that just like the mighty Sun, I may get tired, shattered and faded but I will never give up. Every new day, just like the mighty Sun, I will rise and face the world as a new, even brighter and stronger being.