I have known Ram Bahadur Tamang since I first worked at SIRC in 2013, his strength and determination continue to inspire me.
Ram’s young life has been a pretty rough one. At the tender age of 14, he worked in a carpet factory where he was beaten regularly and lost the use of his right eye in an accident on the factory floor. He returned home and married at the age of 17 and then worked for 3 years as a coolie, carrying vegetables and laying bricks – back breaking work. On a short break with friends to Khasa, the bus they were travelling in crashed and ended up in the river. Ram suffered an injury to his spine which left him a paraplegic. Soon after surgery at Dhulikhel Hospital, Ram arrived at SIRC for a few months of rehabilitation. Later, SIRC hired Ram as a Vocational Trainer, a role he continues to thrive at today.
Ram soon realised his life was not over just because of his spinal cord injury, it was just going to be different. He disliked the disgust with which the Nepalis viewed any form of disability, and wanted to show the general public, as well as other wheelchair users, that life can be good and joyful and that he could do anything he wanted to do. That included a 350km wheelchair yaatra (journey) from Namobudda to Lumbini.
The yaatra was made possible with funding from Rosalind Russell and her US friends, as well as the SIRC Board and a fundraiser we ran in Kathmandu just before he, along with his support team Prajwal and Binod left on what ended up being a 26 day journey through the challenging roads and mountains of Nepal, ending in the lowlands of Lumbini – the birthplace of Buddha.
Now, I know many of you followed Ram’s Wheelchair Yaatra, day by day back in April 2014 (see here for an account of his arrival in Lumbini) and will also know Ram wrote a song telling his life story before and after his accident, cautioning his listeners to the causes of SCIs and how his life is changed but for the better.. This song has been used as the background to document the life and times of Ram’s remarkable life and the marvelous work he does at SIRC, not only as a Vocational Trainer, but also how supportive and encouraging he is of all patients as they go through their therapy.
I give you this video, produced by a talented team: Arsin Shrestha, Chandra Man Dongol, Pramila Shrestha, Ram Kumar KC and Tekendra Shah.
As Ram sings his song, we are shown a slice of life at SIRC, his work as a Vocational Trainer and many ways he supports and motivates others with SCIs through kind words and empathy, as well as his love of sport. What is not shown here is his deep love of music and his newly formed band SIRCUS. But that story is for another day!