At the age of 13, he donated blood to save the life of his friend. Three decades later, his passion for saving lives continues. His name is Khan. Shabir Hussain Khan.
Now 45, the Srinagar resident has donated a total 126 pints of O negative blood, or an average of three pints per year of his life (almost 2 litres).
In 2004, Khan spent 75 days in tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu and Andaman, donating blood and aiding relief operations. He also pitched in when an earthquake rocked Kashmir in 2005, and again during the Valley’s volatile summer last year.
A lifetime member of the International Red Cross, Khan established his own non-governmental organisation, Ahlibait-e-Tahireen Charitable Trust, in 1993. The organisation has 1,500 members and has donated around 2,500 pints of blood.
“My father suffered from cancer and needed 20 pints of blood. We were poor and had to arrange blood at R900 per pint. In the 1980s, you can imagine the value of R900,” says Khan. “My father could not defeat death but I set out to donate my life to humanity.”
But noble deeds and the kind words can’t feed his family. Khan earns his living by working on paper-mache arts and crafts. It doesn’t pay much, but he has no regrets.
Although the state government never recognised his efforts, Mother Teresa, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning founder of Missionaries of Charity, invited him to Kolkata in 1988.
“Mother Teresa was impressed with my work,” Khan says. “She told me the meaning of khidmat (social service), the same thing that the Quran and Prophet Mohammed have taught us.”