Emblems of empowerment: She stood her ground to become the change
She was afflicted with polio when she was only two months old but that didn’t stop her from studying and becoming a doctor. At 38, Dr Shabnam Nahid is a single parent of two who lives life on her terms.
“I grew up hearing, ‘Arre yeh toh langdi hai (Oh, she is lame)’. Even today people call me langdi but their words make me stronger to the extent that I call myself langdi on their face and ask them if it’s a crime and if I should stop working?” says Dr Nahid, who runs a tent and catering business in Jammu.
An MBBS graduate from Government Medical College, Jammu, she quit the medical profession in 2006 for varied reasons, such as lack of facilities at the girls’ hostel for differently abled students, ragging and unethical practices besides her deteriorating health.
“I was not only disappointed but also getting depressed at the hostel. There were no lifts, no ramps or bathrooms for the differently abled. I quit medicine in 2006 and got married. It was a love marriage,” she says.
Dr Nahid’s parents were upset with her decision to quit the profession. “I too was disappointed. I had two children, a son and a daughter, after which my husband abandoned us,” she says.
Being a differently abled woman with no source of income and two children to raise, Dr Nahid sold all her gold. “In 2017, when I was struggling to be financially independent, I came across the Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojana. In 2018, I decided to set up a tent house and my aim was achieved in 2019,” she says.
Considering her health, her parents suggested she open a boutique or a beauty parlour, but she refused.
From the government scheme, she took a loan of ₹6.5 lakh and sold her gold for ₹2 lakh to start the business.
Children her biggest strength
“My parents were not convinced. All tactics were used to discourage me. It was heartbreaking,” says Dr Nahid, who is now recuperating from cataract surgery.
“The support which my parents and husband should have extended was given by my children, Shaeryl and Abbrar. My daughter helps me in wearing the calipers and knows how to handle my needs,” she says.
Today, she stands tall as the only woman in Jammu to be running a tent house. But she has her own set of challenges. “Some people don’t pay in time; others clear their dues in instalments. Labourers are not easily available and goons in slums create problems for my staff but I’m managing,” she says.
“This was a profit-making venture before the Covid-19 pandemic struck and now things are improving,” she says.
Dr Nahid admits the mindset of society has not changed even after two decades into the 21st century. “Society and the system are insensitive to a differently abled woman. But I stood my ground and didn’t give up. It’s important to be yourself and be the change.”
She dabbled in politics and social work by joining the Aam Aadmi Party and launched a drive against drugs and prostitution in her area.
Her aim is to do her bit for society and take her business to new heights.
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