Driving Them To Safety In The Land Of Bullets
19 November 2006
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: When Bashir Ahmed Mallah ferries victims to the sub-district hospital in Pattan, Baramulla, he does not think of himself as an ordinary ambulance driver - he knows he has to save lives. Bashir's is a story of extraordinary courage and integrity. He lost his right leg to a bullet in 1994 but that could not keep him off the roads, at least not for too long. His story goes back to July 8, 1994. Bashir was on duty at the hospital and was waiting to drive his officer home when a militant accosted him. The man demanded he hand over the ambulance keys but Bashir refused. 'It belonged to the government, how could I give it to him,' he says. Bashir wrestled the militant for a while till the hospi tal staff ran out to help him. While fleeing, the man shot him in the leg. Despite his leg bleeding, Bashir drove himself to the hospital in Srinagar. 'I asked a colleague to tie a bandage around the wound and come along. I was in pain and drove as fast as I could. The wound was open and I could feel the blood stream down my leg,' he remembers. In Srinagar, the doctors had to am putate his limb to save his life. He was asked to give up driving. But Bashir had other plans. He went to Orissa. 'There they fitted me an with an artificial limb. After a lot of exercises and tests, I was given a certificate which stated that I was fit to drive.' He returned to his hospital soon after and has been on the road since. Only one blemish remains in this happily-ever-after tale. Bashir had joined the hospital as an ad hoc employee. Twelve years on, he is still a temporary staff.