Have a dream? Go for it – My Take by Gulfam Ahmed, winner of 23 medals in national, state-level events
An attack of polio in childhood left Gulfam Ahmed disabled in both his legs. But listen to this 27-year-old’s life story so far, and you are left awestruck by how much he has packed in. Now Gulfam has his set sets on getting a racing wheelchair so he can go for gold in the Asian Para Games this year. In My Take, he tells us how he keeps himself going.
I had a very ordinary beginning, in a small town in a regular family. My father was a tailor in Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh and my parents were illiterate. There was very little awareness about polio in my family and I was infected as a child. My parents moved to Delhi seeking better treatment facilities for me.
Gulfam is also a stand up comedian, bodybuilder, model & motivational speaker
My parents were very unaware about the importance of education so I started going to school only when I was eight years old, that too at my insistence. But I had no idea where studies could take me in life. I was always interested in looking good and all I knew was that I wanted to do well and become something in life.
TV and Hindi films were a big influence, especially Salman Khan. Since my legs were disabled, I used to move around by crawling on my hands, As a result, I had a very well developed upper body and I joined a gym when I was in class 8. I realised that I could get very good results as my body structure was good.
“In Class 11, I signed up for a bodybuilding camp by Jugal Dhawan, who was an international-level powerlifter and a Dronacharya awardee. He told me about para powerlifting for the first time and I was very excited. This was where my future was. There was an event in Nagpur in para powerlifting and I packed my bag and sneaked out with Dhawan’s team as my family was worried about sending me.”
My name was sent for the national championship and I won a medal but my family was not interested. All they wanted to know was whether I would get some money. But I was very excited.
Won the title of Mr Wheelchair India 2015
I went on to win silver medals in 2010 and 2011 at the national level, but had to stop for 2-3 years because my father fell sick and stopped working. The responsibility of the family came on me.
I underwent a hip surgery in 2013 that changed my life. I was able to stand for the first time with the help of calipers. But I had to stop powerlifting as it put pressure on my legs. I switched to shot put and participated at the state level. In 2015, para taekwando was started in India for the first time and I took part in that too, and won medals at national levels.
Now I have my sights set on wheelchair racing. Wheelchair racing is a set category in many tournaments unlike taekwondo so I wanter to master this. In my ordinary wheelchair, my timing is 19 seconds faster than the world record at the Olympic level. But the wheelchair costs Rs 15 lakh, and I am hoping to raise the money through crowdsourcing. My dream is to win a gold medal for my country in the Asian Para Games.
How do I keep myself going? By moving the milestone further and further.