Azeem Bolar is unable to see and is partially paralyzed. He lost his eye-sight more than 20 years ago. But as a trained counsellor, he is working wonders by bringing people out of their shells of fear, shame, shock, depression and hopelessness. It has been Azeem’s ‘blind faith’—in God and in his own abilities that has helped him not only handle his life with such grace and dignity, but also contribute positively to society.
By Nigar Ataulla
It was definitely one of the most positive days of my life! Meeting Azeem Bolar one sunny morning helped me not only to connect more deeply with the Creator, but also to disconnect with the web of pride, prejudice, criticism and complaints that many of us get caught up in much of the time.
Dr. Azeem Bolar, 47, is unable to see and is partially paralyzed. He lost his eye-sight more than 20 years ago. A trained counselor, with a number of degrees in counseling to his credit (he was recently awarded a Ph.D.), Azeem is working wonders by bringing people out of their shells of fear, shame, shock, depression, dismay and hopelessness. He works two days a week as a counsellor at Aditi, a software company in Bangalore, and volunteers one day a week at the Banjara Academy’s free-of-cost counseling centre in RT Nagar.
Azeem is positivity, gentleness, politeness and cheerfulness personified, a precious asset to society, someone from whom one can learn to rise above one’s discomforts and reach out to help others in distress. Azeem speaks excellent English and is a very articulate motivational speaker.
Azeem’s journey of life is a mix of sweet and sour, yet it’s an adventure he has lived through, making him a hero among heroes!
Born in Mangalore in 1968, Azeem left India at the age of 6, along with his parents, for East Africa. He hadn’t yet entered his teens when he developed juvenile arthritis. Azeem wanted to become a hotelier, and so he went to Strasbourg, in France, for a degree in Hotel Management, and from there to London for higher studies in the same line.
In 1991, Azeem returned to join his parents in Bangalore, where he took up a job as a restaurant manager. It was then that he began to lose his eye-sight, till he could not see at all. He was struck with meningitis, cerebral malaria, and his first paralytic attack. Life took a completely different turn for him.
Unable to see and not able to move as freely as he earlier could, Azeem’s priorities in life totally changed. “I now wanted to reach out to and help people in distress. This gave me new meaning in life. Earlier, when I could see, I didn’t have much social concern. Now I realized that in giving joy to others I could gain happiness and contentment. Through counselling, one can bring happiness and hope to many.” he says.
And so Azeem embarked on a long and successful career in counselling. He did course after course in this field as well in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. This year, he received a Ph.D., and he hopes to go even further—to do a post-doc project, on drug addiction. In 2012, he received the Cavin Kare Ability Mastery Award, and in 2013, the National Federation for the Blind Award for the best professional of the year.
Although Azeem lost his eye-sight several years ago, he has never perceived his disability as a shortcoming in the way of his career. He does not bemoan the past, nor does he ask why what he has faced happened to him. “You have to accept reality—not run away from it or lament it—and you need to explore what best you can do in the situation you are placed in,” he says. “Often, difficulties can bring out the best in you.”
Azeem is an excellent motivational speaker and it will be worthwhile to invite him to corporate organizations and schools too, to listen to his words of wisdom on life.
“I attribute my success to my late dad, and to my mum and brother. They encouraged me to go higher. My parents gave me the best international education, adequate freedom and emotional support. My brother helped me become stronger, independent and pushed me to retain high self-esteem. My family never ever made me feel inadequate, and I was never treated like ‘disabled’. I was treated normally, allowed to perform all functions that a sighted person can do. Till date, my family members do not consider me blind and never treat me with partiality. I completed all my examinations without any special consideration. My parents never ever placed any restrictions on my work or ever asked where or why I was going anywhere. While pursuing my hotel management course, I received lot of encouragement and support from chef, Sushil Chug. During my neuro linguistic programming course which I also completed, Dr Richard Mchugh remained my great mentor and guide. Working in a sighted man’s world, doing a normal man’s work, I do not get the opportunity to feel disabled,” Azeem says.
As a “little writer”, as I sometimes like to call myself, it was a great honour for me to meet Azeem. Listening to him recount his story of overcoming almost unimaginable odds, including total loss of vision and partial paralysis, to reach the position he holds today was a truly humbling and inspiring experience.
It took me just a few minutes to write up Azeem’s story and send it zooming across the world from my little laptop. I had assumed I had put my heart and soul into his story, and was pleased with myself for it. But soon it dawned on me that I had completely missed looking into Azeem’s soul. I had looked only into his “achievements”. I hadn’t cared to try to understand what the world “meant” for Azeem, who could not see. It took me an unplanned visit to a bazaar….yes, a bazaar…to understand this.
Heaps and heaps of colourful clothes hung on fancy hangers in the shop—a tantalizing visual feast! Oh wow! Lovely orange kurtas, peacock blue dupattas, fiery red kurthees, parrot green slacks, strawberry pink tops, snow white shirts, butter yellow blouses, divine black lehengas……!
Getting down to making a choice was so confusing! I must have spent an hour just deciding on which colour dress to choose to buy, until I began feeling weary and faint… What was I doing, I asked myself, wasting time like this in trying to choose a particular colour dress? Didn’t I have a friend who was content and thankful to God even when he was not able to see any colours at all?
You can’t imagine how awful I felt at my own discontented self! I then got about doing what I thought I should. I walked over to the row of clothes, shut my eyes tightly, placed my hand on the hangers at random, opened my eyes and then took the dress that I got! I felt a sense of immense relief and contentment come over me! For the short while that I shut my eyes I got a feeling of what it means to see no colours at all. I also realized at that moment the meaning of having ‘blind faith’ in oneself and God! It dawned on me that it was his ‘blind faith’—in God and in his own abilities—that had enabled Azeem to handle his life with such grace and dignity. It was this ‘blind faith’ that had enabled him do all those courses that he’s done and all the work he’s accomplished, despite not being able to see and being partially paralysed.
Azeem may be blind, but his spiritual eyes are open! How often we fail to see the real soul hidden behind people’s lives! It does wonders at times to put our feet in other people’s shoes to understand them and learn from them. From Azeem, I’ve learnt the true meaning of ‘blind faith’, in oneself and God. It is this blind faith, I am sure, that will help him follow his dreams in the future, too!
(Azeem Bolar can be reached at [email protected])