Jammu and Kashmir: Cricket is more than just a game in India -- you have probably heard that a million times before. But every now and then, something so out of the ordinary happens to drive home the point just how far an Indian cricket fan's love for the game can take him.
Meet Amir Hussain Lone, a differently-abled boy from Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir. The 26-year-old made it to the hallowed pages of The Guardianon Monday. That's a honor any cricketer worth his salt would be proud of.
Despite losing both his arms, Amir is one of the finest bowlers and batsman of his locality. He has a unique style of holding the bat between his neck and shoulder, and bowls while holding the ball in his toes. Amir, who has so far played cricket in Jammu, Delhi and Lucknow wishes to join International Para-Cricket team of India.
Amir, an avid fan of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, overcame gigantic obstacles to realise his dream of playing cricket which were almost shattered when he lost both his arms in a freak accident -- ironically at a bat-manufacturing unit owned by his father in Bijbehara town of south Kashmir.
So how does a double-arm-amputee bat and bowl while playing cricket?
Amir holds the bat between his left shoulder and head. His favourite shot is a flick off his legs towards square leg -- shot played with elan by his idol.
While bowling, the 26-year-old uses his right foot to grip the 'cherry' and deliver a loopy legspinner, which many able-bodied aspiring cricketers would envy.
"I am a great fan of Tendulkar and want to play like him for the national team. He is my inspiration," Amir, who hails from Wagam village here -- 42 kms from Srinagar, told PTI.
While many people including doctors and army played their role in saving Amir's life, the credit for his survival must go to his father -- Bashir Ahmad Lone -- who spent a 'fortune' on the treatment of his son, then just seven years old.
The boy lost both of his arms at his father's sawmill in 1997 where he had gone to deliver lunch to his brother. While his brother was having lunch, Amir started fiddling with the switches of the sawmill -- used for making bat clefts -- when both his arms were caught in the conveyor belt and were severed on the spot.
"I met with an accident in 1997 at our sawmill when I was reading in Class II. There was nobody at that time. I had gone there to drop the lunch for my brother and while playing got entangled as a result of which both of my arms got amputated," the cricket-crazy youth said.
He said the local Army unit came to his rescue and shifted him to a hospital in their vehicle.
"The Army came and took me in their vehicle to a hospital. We faced a lot of hardships due to the situation at that time. After coming back to my residence three years later, many people told my parents that I am not worth living. They even told my parents that if they spend money on him, it will go waste. It is better to kill him as he is not worth a living," he said with a lump in his throat.
However, he said with the grace of Almighty, he faced the challenge with determination, never lost hope and continued the march ahead.
"I had to face a lot of struggle in life, but never gave up," he said.
Amir said he was very fond of cricket and used to watch
the international matches on television at the home of other people.
"When I was in Class VII, I once went to watch a match in a neighbour's house. They switched off the television and forced me out.
"I felt very bad but being cricket crazy, I looked for a hole in the window and when they switched on the TV, I peeped through the hole to watch the match," he said.
With determination, Amir started practicising the game and after many tries succeeded in holding the bat and throwing the ball.
"I adopted various techniques to overcome the challenge of being armless," Amir said.
While following his love for cricket, Amir started his battle to be independent. He learned how to use his feet to write, to bathe, to shave and even to change clothes.
"He is not dependent on anyone. He does all his work by himself," Amir's father, Bashir, said.
Bashir had to sell his sawmill and a part of his agriculture land to meet the expenses for the treatment of his son after the accident but he feels it was all worth it.
"It was a miracle that with time he learnt the art of bathing, wearing clothes and even washing his own clothes," he said.
Today, Amir is a shining example for all differently abled people in his area but the journey was not a smooth one.
When he returned to school after the accident, one of the teachers there told him to stay home as he would not be able to make it.
"My grandmother played an important role in persuading me to go to school. She used to spend whole day with me and did not allow any negative thoughts to creep into my mind. When a teacher asked me to stay at home instead of coming to school, she gave me confidence and support," Amir said.
It was during his college days that a teacher spotted his talent for cricket and recommended him to join the para-cricket team. The years of practice paid dividends as he rose to become the captain of the state para-cricket team.
You know what they say. When life throws lemons at you, make orange juice and leave life wondering "how the heck he managed to do that!'
Thanks for showing us nothing is truly impossible, Amir Hussain.
Here's another detailed documentary on Amir Hussain.
With inputs from PTI and ANI