Twenty years ago, Dholuram Roy slipped while catching a running train and four months after that fatal accident he returned home with both his legs amputated from knees. He was 17 then.
A day labourer of a nondescript Khalisha Poncha village in Nilphamari, Roy turned to the elites of the village for advice so that he could maintain his poor family that included his mother, brother and sister.
“The village matbors (elites) were sympathetic but at the same time they told me to better resort to begging for a living. I was shocked to hear that but resolved to do whatever it takes to lead a dignified life,” Roy recalled while reflecting on those turbulent days.
This Roy however is not a rags-to-riches story. Now 37, a proud father of a son and a daughter and a devoted wife beside him, this Roy is a story of human endevour against many odds to uphold dignity and pride.
Standing on prosthetic limbs and with the support of a stick, Roy was watering his small vegetable garden when this reporter visited his paternal home on a four decimal land on January 30. Not far away, his wife Rani Bala was milking one of their two cows.
Roy said he took a six bigha land on lease where he cultivates paddy, potato and seasonal vegetables. He said disability hardly barred him from working on the field every day.
“I do various work like planting, weeding, harvesting potato and thrashing paddy. The speed of my work is slow but that is understandable,” said Roy, adding that he had to put off his prostatic limbs while working on the field.
Roy also works as a sewing operator in a tailor shop to earn some extra money.
“My husband works all day in farmland to forget the agony of his physical disability. He also works in a tailor shop in the evening. By selling crops and working hard we have saved enough money to buy two cows and the leased land,” said Rani Bala. They got married in 2010 and are blessed with two children.
Roy's 10-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son are enrolled in a local primary school.
Lost his father at a tender age, Roy went to adjacent Naogaon with a group of farm worker to cut Aman paddy in November 1998.
“The wage was high there. After one month of harvesting, we decided to return home. We reached Raninagar Station to catch the Nirphamari-bound train. All my colleagues boarded the train safely but I slipped and fell and both my legs crashed under the wheels of the train,” Roy recalled.
He said he was admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital after the accident and got treatment for one month over there before his elder brother Gonesh Chandra took him to Danish-Bangladesh Leprosy Mission Hospital in Nilphamari for further treatment for three more months free of cost.
The care in the missionary hospital run by an NGO and the advice from a doctor of the hospital reignited Roy's self belief.
“The doctor advised me to buy a pair of artificial legs from the mission's workshop. Sporting those artificial legs I felt confident as I could move around,” Roy said, adding that local lawmaker Asaduzzaman Noor was kind enough to bear half the cost of the 10,000 taka artificial limbs.
“I requested a local landlord Animesh master to lease bighas of his farmland where I started cultivating Aman and Boro paddy and vegetables every year. My mother was with me at that time. Now I have a bigger family and bigger place work on,” Roy said.
Along the way he also got interest free loan of Tk 25,000 from Kustho O Sadharan Protibondhi Unnayan Sangstha (KSPU) as a member of it. Danish Bangladesh Leprosy Mission donates handsomely in KSPU fund.
The money helped him to invest in his agricultural firm. Still a marginalised farmer, Roy has little to complaint. He is happy that his struggle invokes respect from his community that once neglected him.
“Dholuram's struggle to live with dignity is an example. I have never seen him standing in the line for relief in UP (upazila parishad) office,” said Montaz Ali, chairman of Polashbari union.
Sasikur Rahman Mondol, also echoed Montaz Ali.
“Dholuram Roy showed that disability isn't a barrier to succeed in life if there is strong willpower,” Ali remarked.