Rooh ul Amin, an Open Mind trainee at Telenor Pakistan, comes from Khal – one of the remotest and least developed tribal areas near the Pakistan and Afghanistan border. At the age of six, he suffered a severe polio virus infiltration to his body leaving his right leg incurably paralyzed. That was the age when most of the kids in his village went to school, but no one in Rooh’s family believed he could ever have a normal childhood, or a normal life for that matter.
“My life was confined to a bed and my parents became over-protective. I know they did it out of love but whenever I heard the cheer of kids playing outside, I always told myself I had to get out,” said Rooh.
With parents who were busy working and raising the family, Rooh ended up moving in with his grandmother who lived nearby. It was with her support that Rooh started to crawl independently for the very first time.
“It was like rebirth for me,” Rohh said recalling the early years after the disability. It was his grandmother who first sent Rooh to school and motivated him whenever he struggled to cope with the kids at school and wanted to quit. “How on earth are you going to get a job with the shiny desk if you don’t go to school,” Rooh recalls her words.
After Rooh finished grade 10, his family expected him to stay back home and safe. Little did they know Rooh had other plans. He decided to move to the provincial capital to study.
Life in the city was a whole lot different for Rooh. It surprised him to learn that his disability didn’t matter to any of his college classmates. “It was quite motivating, all my apprehensions about city life were gone and I knew more was possible for me.” When he finally received his Bachelor’s degree in commerce and economics, he was officially the most educated person in his family.
A step backwards
Following his studies, Rooh decided to go for an intense surgery that had a 50% chance of enabling him to walk with minimum support. The treatment was expensive, and did not go well, leaving him bedridden. Rooh had no choice but to move back to his village. “I was back to where I started, lying on the bed, imaging the world outside. It felt like all my grandmother’s efforts, my education and defiance to my family’s restrictions was a waste,” he said.
That was the time when the surrounding villages of Rooh’s hometown of Khal were rocked by a massive military operation. While Rohh’s village did not experience much violence, fear prevailed. Buildings in the surrounding areas were destroyed, people were displaced and forced to live in schools and mosques. “It was a difficult time for everyone, and even more so for me,” Rooh explained. “I was required to visit my doctor in Lahore for checkups every three weeks or so and the road connecting us to the city was no longer safe for travel. We had to divert and cross two different districts which took us an extra 15 hours of traveling by road.”
A second chance
After a year and a half, Rooh slowly started to takes his first steps again. He had no real plans but he constantly reminded himself of the possibilities he was exposed to from his time in the city. “I read the newspaper every day, desperately looking for opportunities,” he said. “I decided to enroll myself in MBA at a university in Islamabad,” he added. And after two unsuccessful attempts of the entry test, he was finally accepted in the Quaid-e-Azam University – Islamabad.
This is where there was no point of turning back for Rooh. Still supporting himself with a pair of walking aids, Rooh not only managed to complete his MBA but also travelled with his friends to cities like Quetta and the coastal city of Karachi in southern Pakistan. Following the completion of his degree, Rooh worked as a freelancer…until the day he came across Telenor Pakistan’s Open Mind Program.
“I was always very inspired by what little I knew about Telenor,” Rooh said. “When I saw the Open Mind program announcement on Facebook, I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed,” he said. Rooh took a number of online tests for practice and prepared relentlessly for the interview. “I just had to get in,” he stressed. And he did.
“At Telenor, I feel like I’m home,” Rooh said smiling. “This is one place that understands the special needs of people like me but most of all our desire to be included in the mainstream,” he added.
The big shiny desk
Rooh is currently working in the Financial Services division; he has successfully completed all preliminaries in the first round of apprenticeship and has qualified to stay with Telenor Pakistan for nine more months. It’s the job with the shiny desk he always dreamed of.
Rooh is hopeful and ready for whatever the future holds. According to him, his disability taught him the lesson of turning negative emotions into passion and never giving up. “As a kid, falling on the ground got me immensely distressed,” he explained. “I could let out that emotion by either crying at the top of my lungs or by forcing myself to get up and move on. I, of course, always chose to move on.”