Srinagar, Jan 1: On August 5, when public transport in the valley came to a grinding halt, one man strove to keep the wheels running.
When people lost contact with personal and public cab drivers during the three-month communication clampdown, Showkat Ahmad Bhat, 32, donned the mantle to help them tide over the crisis. An ace instructor, he taught driving to more than 50 students amid political upheaval that unfolded post abrogation of Article 370.
Hamida Bano, 30, a resident of Rawalpora recalls her ordeal when she came knocking on the doors of Showkat. Her three-month old baby had fallen sick at a time when her husband, a government employee was not at home.
“My husband had to report to the office despite shutdown. I was caught in a predicament. I was unable to ferry my sick child to hospital. It was then I realized that I should learn to drive myself,” she recounts.
Similarly, Sumaya, 40, a divorcee living in the same locality was at wits end when she was unable to ferry her ailing mother to the hospital.
“I have a teen daughter, and an old mother to look after. My mother suffers from a severe problem of dementia and needs to see the doctor every fortnight. My neighbour told me about the driving classes and I at one decided to go ahead with it. I was not charged a penny for the lessons. Showkat Sahab told me that it was testing time for everyone and he wants to help as many people as possible,” she says
Despite being caught several times in stone pelting and facing ire of protestors, Showkat did not give up and continued to hold his classes for free. “I used to teach around 15 students every day. I sensed their helplessness and wanted to make things easy for them. They say, good times don’t last and the same is true for bad times. I knew this phase will not last forever but my small endeavor will leave a lasting mark in my students’ lives,” Showkat says.
Showkat’s driving journey started when his close friend died due to delayed medical aid nine years ago. “I was 16 when one of my friends died to high fever. His father was out of station at that time and no one knew driving at his home. He was taken to the hospital in the morning but it was too late by then. He couldn’t survive,” he says in a chocked voice.
The incident gave birth to new Showkat who promised to become instructor to help others with the learning process. He started his driving institute in 2011 and has trained 5000 students till date.
“Most of my students are frightful of getting on the wheel in the beginning. They always tell me that they will botch up. It’s all about encouraging them with every changing gear and turn of the steering. Constant encouragement gives them confidence and they eventually leave the fear behind with an equally confident smile at the rear view mirror,” he says.