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Future tense for promising differently-abled rider Aftab

Aftab and his 16-year-old steed Vertigo came up with a sterling performance in the junior show-jumping category, winning silver.

other sports Updated: Apr 12, 2019 17:39 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lance Daffadar Dawood Khan,Aftab Ahmed,Army Polo and Riding Club
A file photo of Aftab Ahmed.(HT Photo)

Lance Daffadar Dawood Khan cut a forlorn figure even as his son, 16-year-old Aftab Ahmed, was awarded the “most promising rider” award at the Delhi Horse Show on Sunday.

Had Aftab not been differently-abled—the lanky boy, who stands almost six-feet tall and looks every bit an athlete, is deaf and mute—he could have joined the 61 Cavalry, as almost everyone who comes from the “Kaim Khani” clan from Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district becomes an army man.

“You can say it is our right to be in the Indian Army. I recollect army scouts choosing youngsters from our clan and recruiting them, no questions asked. My ancestors served the army during World War 1 and 2. I’ve been in 61 Cavalry for 16 years and in another five years I will retire,” said Dawood, an accomplished rider for over a decade-and-a-half.

“And that could be the end of Aftab’s dream of becoming an accomplished rider. He might not get a job in the army because of the disability and I cannot afford to give him the facilities the army provides its riders,” said Dawood.

Col Ravi Rathore, the Commandant of 61 Cavalry and CEO Army Polo and Riding Club (APRC), said: “Aftab cannot come as a soldier because of medical reasons. But we are trying for his adoption because he is a very good rider. If something could be worked out between the sports ministry and the army channel, it could save a career.”

On Sunday, Aftab and his 16-year-old steed Vertigo came up with a sterling performance in the junior show-jumping category, winning silver. Aftab was born without hearing, and communicates with his coach-father by a combination of lip-reading and the written word.

“I draw diagrams before competitions and explain to him how he needs to go about the canter, medium trot, leg ending, gallop etc,” said Dawood.

Instead of the customary ringing of the bell, the referee waves to Aftab to start his routine.

“That is the only exception which is made for Aftab. Rest everything is the same,” said Dawood.

He fished out a crumpled piece of paper on which he had jotted son’s achievements—Aftab is in class 10 and is a prolific athlete at the school level.

But while Aftab nimbly crosses every hurdle astride Vertigo in the show-jumping arena, Khan fears that his nascent riding career may end before it gets a chance to truly make a leap.

First Published: Apr 12, 2019 16:38 IST