Shabir Hussain Khan, a man from Srinagar, Kashmir has become India's biggest blood donor. His journey started back on 4 July 1980, when a friend in his area had been injured while playing football. Shabir, without any inhibitions whatsoever, went to the hospital by foot to donate his blood and help out his friend.
Thus began the journey of Shabir's life that has now become one of his most important goals. Having donated 174 pints of blood since then, Shabir has broken all records at the age of 57. But most importantly, he has saved several lives. He is locally known as the "blood man of Kashmir," and has since used his popularity to create awareness among people about the importance of blood donation.
"Blood is not something you can buy in the market," he said in a a statement to The Guardian. He also added, "In those days blood donation was not common, nor were blood banks. The way blood is available readily now, it was not like that before. Also there was no connectivity at that time. We only had radios and two or three landline phones in the entire locality."
Today, Shabir volunteers with the Indian Red Cross Society and has been doing so for 40 years now, handling a team of 40 people across Kashmir, helping people affected in earthquake-prone and flood-affected areas.
In 1988, he was summoned by Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa to Kolkata where he worked with her in slums.
Now, he is working even more rigorously during the pandemic. According to the Lancet, India faces a shortage of 40.9 million units of blood each year, and COVID-19 has only worsened the situation. "Amid the pandemic, donating blood has become a challenge. Earlier, 50 people would turn up at the blood donation camp. Now due to the fears not even eight people would come forward. Also, it’s tough to organise a medical camp now. You need donors to get coronavirus-tested first and be cautious to follow standard operating procedures," said Khan.
Talking about how to raise awareness among people about the cause, Khan says that introducing more incentives could help.
“In developed countries like the UK, donors receive a gold medal when they donate 100 pints. In Kashmir, there is no such concept. Appreciating the veteran donors would have encouraged more people to donate blood,” says Khan.
Khan might be a messiah for the people in Srinagar and for all the people whose lives he has helped save, but his own life is riddled with hardships. He lives with his brother, adopted daughter, and ailing mother and works as a manual labourer.
"I was a papier-mache artist but no one buys papier-mache products now, so I had to look for something else to make a living," he said.
Between his family responsibilities and looking after his ailing mother, he admits that he sometimes feels "crushed" by poverty. "Particularly when you have given so much to the society and when you are in need, no one [offers] help. It is not a joke to give your blood. It requires a lot of motivation, persistence and dedication," he added.
Still fuelled with the desire to do more, it is clear that Khan's never-say-die attitude is the reason behind how far he has come in his initiative. "Every good deed I have done was for Allah and it is he who will reward me for this in the hereafter," Khan says.
(With inputs from The Guardian).