My name is Mohammed Asif Iqbal and I am totally blind for over 24 years now. I was very fortunate to grow up in the Western United States where I received my primary, secondary and partial college education. I discovered the power of thrilling experience while engaging in adventure activities. I came to India and became the first blind commerce graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta and first MBA (HR) from Symbiosis (SCMHRD), Pune and was instrumental in creating reservation quota for persons with disability in IITs, IIMS and all government aided educational institutions in 2000. I am currently working for PWC since 12 years and have led assignment in HR consulting, IT and Egov domain.
I did visit Singapore last year on work and decided to join my cousin on his vacation. I was amazed by public infrastructure there for people with disability and felt extremely safe when I ventured out to McDonald for lunch by myself. Before that, the only place where I could venture out by myself was my home town in Oregon, United States. I am sure that European cities along with many other cities of developed countries empower person with disability to commute independently with ease.
Santosa was also on my itinerary and discovered that one of their rides is called luge which is sort of riding go-cart without engines. It was a downhill slope comprising of more than 600 meter and luge was on a track starting from top of the hill and terminating at the bottom of the hill. This luge was capable of going 60 KM per hour and it sounded very fascinating. I really wanted to go on it and experience this ride but was apprehensive whether authority would allow me to ride by myself as I am blind. My cousin encouraged me to ask the lady at the ticketing counter and she bluntly told me that she need to consult her supervisor after knowing about my blindness. She asked me to wait for some time and sea of negativity swept across me during those anxious moments. She came out and announced the news that supervisor would assign a trainer who would go along with me in a different luge. I literally was overjoyed and can’t believe that they actually are allowing me for this experience of a lifetime. Lady trainer gave me tips on how to drive the luge and after 5-10 minutes I master the skills of navigating luge with ease. As I began my journey of downhill; I was enjoying my drive and probably was going at least 30 km and my trainer shouted me to slow down. I slammed the break by lifting up the rod and got thrown out of the track; I was scared for few moments and thought to myself that my trainer will yell at me. She said that it happens and asked me to continue the ride. She lifted my luge literally with help of other trainer and I was back on track. This time; I was being guided by two separate trainers sandwiching me and decided to follow their instructions diligently. I accelerated speed and enjoyed downhill ride of speed at 45 kmph. I was enjoying each moment and wished that the ride would not end but after navigating 600 meters zigzagging through the sloppy terrain with the help of two trainers became one of my fascinating moments of my life. I wonder if India has this ride in some theme park; would they permit me?
Mohammed Asif Iqbal is currently Management Consultant at PwC. He has more than ten years of experience in Human Capital consulting and Egov consulting. He designed and implemented social inclusion strategy enabling Aadhaar enrollment in India for UIDAI.