I am impelled to write about an aged man, who, God willing, will be turning a century-old in less than two years’ time. He valiantly fought a certain death, survived and is walking straight today.
Eight years back, when Mohammad Zaki was 90, he walked into his orthopaedic surgeon’s room and stood before him without any support. His silver grey hair flowing majestically and a broad smile on his face, he asked: “Salam, Doctor, do you remember me?” The puzzled doctor who had treated him earlier replied with an apologetic look, “Sorry, I do not”.
“I am the same Mohammad Zaki who was brought to you in a vegetative state, following a road accident,” he said. “You had pulled down and set my pelvis bone after it had crashed into my ribs.”
“After a three-month stay, when I was getting discharged from this hospital, I had asked you if I would be able to stand up and walk again? And your reply was, “at your age, perhaps no”.
“Doctor, see, here I am, standing right before you without any support whatsoever,” he squealed in childlike delight.
The doctor was flabbergasted. He could not believe his eyes. Zaki, his once-upon-a-time patient, had the same verve and gusto in his voice that he had demonstrated when he had given orthopaedic surgeon a parting assurance: “One day I will come back to you walking on my own two feet.”
And Zaki had kept his word. The doctor stood up, hugged him and shook hands and admitted that he was really astounded at what was nothing short of a miracle. He kept complimenting him profusely for his exemplary courage and resolve.
It was after a long period of 35 years upon my return to my hometown of Lucknow, in northern India, that I had got to meet Zaki, my neighbour for very many years. During our tearful reunion, he narrated this near-miraculous story of his. Zaki and his sons shared with me how big an impact his will-power had played in his superfast recovery. We discussed how in these times, the life-span of an average human being has increased. But this man is a living example of how sheer grit, courage and resolve, teamed with a hard-core disciplined life, can help one tide over challenging times.
When the doctor gave up on Zaki, he cried a lot as it broke his heart because the doctor was someone he looked up to. Initially disheartened, Zaki wondered why he even expected help from any quarter.
At the age of 90, Zaki challenged himself to test the very limits of his physical, emotional and mental capacities one more time. Having built a hugely successful business empire in the past, he was well-known for his tough decision-making abilities coupled with a disciplined lifestyle.
Zaki says his objective was not to show his doctor in poor light, but to focus on being independent. His life-long achievements, and more specifically, his mental alertness, toughness, perseverance and passion towards a regulated diet and exercise resulted in his ability to walk again without support. It took him a year-and-a-half to achieve the impossible, but for that to happen, his mental toughness and discipline were important.
Waking up at 4am to offer prayers, he would try to walk without a crutch. After a brief session of light physical exercises, he would have a cup of tea at 5am. Stickler for a strict dietary regime, he would read the newspapers and have his meal at 8am. He avoided lunch and would take a nap between middday and 2pm, followed by an arduous stint of gardening. He would never ever snack on anything.
Early in the evening, he would make it a point to walk to his shop and monitor things personally. Later, he would spend some time chatting with his friends over tea. The day’s schedule would end with a very frugal dinner at 9pm. There would never be any deviation. He disclosed with a smile that he kept sipping water every hour scrupulously. Maybe, that also contributed to his good health.
Will you not agree then that in modern times, medical science may have taken giant steps, but there is no substitute to the sheer will-power of a person to live?
Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.