Thursday, August, 14, 1997
Disabled Swarm Singh an Inspiration to Others
Ipoh: Former Chauffeur Swarm Singh's world fell apart 15 years ago when
his premature-born baby girl died five months after he was left a paraplegic
as a result of a spinal injury.
Today, he leads a meaningful life as he has come to grips with the harsh
reality of his disability and is now an inspiration to other disabled
Swarm Singh, 38, is among 14 disabled whose success stories will be
featured in a book which the Ipoh-based Sultan Idris Shah Foundation
is preparing for publication next year.
He has been the president of the foundations' Spinal Wheelers Club for
the past six years and has taken part in local and international disabled
Besides cooking and doing chores while his wife Lookumani Retnam, 39,
works in a plywood factory, he gives tuition to primary pupils in his
house in Kampar, 40km from here.
He also help the foundation by counselling disabled people and inspiring
them with his story of despair and perseverance.
Life could not have been better for Swarm Singh in 1982 when he first
became a chauffeur for a tin miner while Lookumani was six months pregnant.
While climbing a rambutan tree to pluck some fruits, Swarm Singh fell
and injured his spine, which would confine him to a wheelchair for the
rest of his life.
His baby girl, who was born prematurely, died five months later.
"I thought nothing of the death of our child. All I could think was
"I wished I had died when I fell. I was in a suicidal mood. I would
"I would want to my wife to feed, bathe and dress me although I could
use my own hands.
"I yelled and scolded Lookumani for no reason at all.
For five years, I did nothing except eat and sleep. I did not even want
to look at the wheelchair," Swarm Singh said in an interview.
Then, a concerned relative referred Swarm Singh to the foundation.
For three years, its community rehabilitation workers came weekly to
his house in Kampar to coax him to take part in their programmes.
Their persistence paid off when he eventually agreed to attend a meeting
of the spinal wheelers' club.
"The meeting was an eye-opener for me as there were others whose condition
was worse than mine. They were smartly dressed, talking and laughing.
"The best thing that happened was that I came out of my house. I had
wasted so many years of my life. Now, I tell others to get out. We can
lead a meaningful life," he said.
Swarm Singh said he occasionally still wished that he could walk, especially
when he had to ask for help from strangers at public laces such as the
post office or bank.
Foundation Chairman Tan Sri V. Jeyaratnam said Swarm Singh's story summed
up the need for people to be aware of the plight of the disabled and
the opportunities needed to improve their quality of life. He said the
book was targeted at the disabled and their families, the public and
the corporate bodies.
"The book attempts to capture the journey of despair and reconciliation
of some of the disabled who have found life meaningful and we hope the
public will change their attitude and perception towards them," he said.
Jeyaratnam said that between 70 and 80 per cent of the disabled community
had not received treatment and rehabilitation.