This quadriplegic veteran has made Mohali rehabilitation centre his home
On January 25, 1990, Gurkirpal Singh Multani, a 22-year-old aircraftman with the Indian Air Force became quadriplegic (paralysis of all four limbs) after he fell on the ground during an exercise session at Kalaikunda Air Force Station, West Bengal. Three years later, the Gurdaspur man got admitted to the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC) in Phase 6, Mohali, and has now spent 26 years at the centre, the longest of all residents.
But as someone who has an elderly mother, two sisters and two brothers, who are all married, the 51-year-old army veteran says he never wanted to return home as the rehabilitation centre gave him the will to live a dignified life, so much so that he wanted to die here too.
One of Multani’s brothers is settled in West Germany while the other is working as a clerk in the Gurdaspur deputy commissioner’s office. His father was a retired subedar from the army and died in 2011 because of a lung ailment.
“I don’t want to be a burden on my family because whenever I visit my home, there is a lot of chaos with my family members calling up my relatives and other people to take care of me, which bothers me,” he said. “My elderly mother will not be able to take care of me. Moreover, my brothers are settled and I don’t want to disturb their normal lives,” he said.
Rising above the pain
Recalling the day when he met with the accident, Multani said, “We were busy with the exercise rehearsal and had to climb a rope. Unfortunately, I overturned and fell on the ground, which left my head injured.”
He said, “I was unconscious and immediately taken to the Command Hospital in Alipore, Kolkata, for a few months and then was shifted to Command Hospital in Chandimandir for a year. As my health failed to improve, I was shifted to this rehabilitation centre in March 1993.”
Multani said that he had lost the will to live, but ever since he was admitted to the centre, he regained all hopes and now wanted to enjoy the rest of life with the other residents of the centre,” he said.
“We are given the best treatment in the centre. People here are cooperative and care for us round-the-clock,” said Multani, who does not let his bedsores get in the way of enjoying boccia, a precision ball sport played on wheelchairs.
There are around 31 veteran soldiers admitted in the rehabilitation centre, of which eight are quadriplegic and 23 are paraplegic, and for them, Multani is a ray of hope and joy.
Mohammad Latief Bhat, 47, a veteran sepoy in the Indian Army’s Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Light Infantry regiment, who hails from J&K’s Anantnag, said Multani is much connected to him. “When I was admitted to the centre, I did not have any hope to live, but he inspired me by his talks and told me to live for myself and my family,” he said.
For 38-year-old Arun Pal, a sepoy who was posted with the Army’s 55 RR in J&K’s Pulwama district, Multani is the most grounded person he ever met.
“Being a quadriplegic with vast experiences and knowledge, he always has long discussions with us on multiple topics. During lunch or dinner time, we all gather around Multani as he shares his experience of staying in the rehabilitation centre,” Pal said.
Centre director Guljit Singh Chadha said, “We feel proud to give shelter to a brave soldier like Multani. He is the face of our nation. We always stand by those who represent our country.”