SEREMBAN: Ariffin Ismail, who has been a paraplegic since birth, is not one who uses his disability to wait for handouts, or depend on others to do the chores people normally do.
The 48-year-old, who is self-employed, does most things on his own, such as paying his phone bills, instead of getting his friends or relatives to help him.
He rides his special three-wheeler motorbike – bought using his own earnings – to the payment centre, gets down from his vehicle, and drags himself on all fours to the payment area, where an officer always helps him use the machine to pay.
When spotted by FMT Lifestyle, a shopper tried to give him some cash thinking he was begging. He, however, refused, saying as much as he appreciates their sympathy, he does not accept money.
“My principle in life is never to depend on anyone unless absolutely necessary. As long as Allah has given me this ability to move myself, I want to do all things possible without troubling others,” he said.
“I don’t feel shy to move myself this way in public, it’s a God-given disability.”
The youngest of 10 siblings, Ariffin attributes his grit and gumption to his soldier father, who taught him a valuable lesson when he was 12.
It happened when his father caught him borrowing money from a friend. “He took me home and warned me never to do that again. He told me Allah will be with me always, as long as I try and help myself.
“His stern warning still rings in my ears and motivates me to go on living this way,” Ariffin shared.
Ariffin admitted to having faced many difficulties while schooling, but that did not stop him from finishing Form Five. He said it gave him much satisfaction, although he did not do too well in his SPM examination.
“I used to drag myself using my hands with a schoolbag on my back. There were a few students who used to mock me but, fortunately, most of them tried to help me whenever needed. The teachers, too, were kind to me,” he recalled.
He worked in factories and supermarkets after he left school and managed to save some money. After that, he obtained government help to start a small catfish farm, through which he provides supplies to a regular trader.
“I earn enough to survive and save at the same time. I am hoping to get married soon if all goes well. I leave it to Allah,” Ariffin said.
He does, on occasion, get into difficulties that require him to ask for help from his siblings, such as when his fish-farm business is adversely affected. But these instances are few and far between.
“Even my siblings, especially the brother I live with, have given up trying to help me as they know I really want to be independent.”
Asked why he did not consider using a wheelchair to move around, Ariffin said he would have to depend on someone to push him around. He does not want to do that unless he is not able to use his bike anymore.
Ariffin is also determined to set up a charity to help the needy and disabled one day. Right now, he said, he tries to help those in need in his village when possible.
“My advice to the young ones is give some of your earnings to charity. And live within your means, which most are not doing these days. This is a sure way to be rewarded in your afterlife,” he said.