Tanzila Khan is a published author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker despite being wheelchair-bound.
She has fund-raised from her books to sponsor community projects in the fields of disability, women empowerment, education and environment.
Marking her 26th birthday today, Tanzila wrote a letter addressed to 16 year old self, detailing much that she learned in her journey of self empowerment:
“Today you look at yourself the way the society looks at you. A helpless, handicapped girl that can only be uplifted by constant compliments, sympathy and words of wisdom. Don’t cry in corners about that. I am sorry to break it to you a bit too soon. But you can’t await a hero to lift you up anymore as you are the hero awaited by many.”
Sharing unnerving details from her personal life, Tanzila gives us a chilling snapshot into the struggles of being handicapable in Pakistan.
“You will be called, ‘Langri, wheelchair wali, mazoor, bechari’ in the sweetest of tones.”
“Today as the 26-year-old ‘you’, I have reached you in the past to share some lessons. Some of them I learned in Sweden. Others as I was sitting in a training session in Thailand. While some as I read an excerpt from my second book to an audience in Dubai. While in the streets of Pakistan I have learned my identity and my mission. I have to admit that the true sense of peace and love knocked through my head as I took that first bite of Dosa with Astinder Maasi in Chandigarh, India.
Shocked? Darling I haven’t even started on the bounties of Allah that await you in the future.”
Tanzila’s words are not only applicable to people with special needs but also address the many insecurities teens have while growing up.
“You are fretting about good grades? Don’t. No one will ever ask you about them”, she writes.
“Today as you cry over the disaster your cheerful tailor has done to your Eid dress. I admire your efforts for trying to be normal. But if history demanded that, your birth wouldn’t have been so dramatic. Stop fitting in. Don’t get an orange Khussa just because Shakeela did. You have your own destiny to conquer. Similarly, don’t feel left behind when Shakeela gets a husband then two children and is then admired by everyone for her chappaties.
You don’t know how to make chappati. But you do know how to sell one.”
However, the most gut-wrenching are her accounts of the isolation that entails children and adults with special needs in Pakistan.
“You will find yourself isolated when you would want to communicate. You will be judged even before you open your mouth. Every idea that you would float would be met with disbelief, doubt and scrutiny. You will be misunderstood, mischaracterized and misjudged. You will be kicked hard in the face, blood would spur out of your nose and a tiny whimper would escape your mouth. You will look around for a corner where you can save the embarrassment and cry a bit but would have to swallow it all as it hits the bottom like a hard rock. Because the corner would be two steps above the ground. But this will be the last time life has kicked you hard. Because soon you will have your own light and shades on, and every scar will make you beautiful.”
Tanzila Khan is currently heading her own company, Creative Alley that trains and empowers the community through events and projects. She has dedicated her life to the fields of disability and women empowerment along with motivating others to do the same.
People from all over Pakistan are also leaving her warm birthday messages:
And so are we:
Happy Birthday Tanzila! You keep doing youuuu!