Former Olympian Muhammad Ashiq who is now a rickshaw driver looks daily at the trophies he won in a glittering cycling career for Pakistan decades ago. A lot of people thinks that he died, but the truth is he is alive and well. The country perhaps have forgotten him. The former Olympian who competed for Pakistan at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics now scratches by as a rickshaw driver in Lahore.
Let me tell you all if you don’t know him, he started his career as a boxer and then switched to cycling in 1950s when his wife asked him to switch because she was worried about his injuries. He battled in Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964 and despite the fact that he won no medals, he was called as a national hero for Pakistan.
“I just recall that I have shaken hands with… former Pakistani prime ministers, presidents, chief executives,” the 81-year-old shares his memories sadly. “Why and how they all have forgotten me, I cannot believe.” I was so happy… I considered myself lucky to represent Pakistan in the Olympics,” he says. But when his cycling career ended, so did his luck.
Since then he struggled a lot and for the last six years has been driving a rickshaw, carrying low-income customers around Lahore’s choked streets. He lives in a 450-square-foot house on which he have a loan from more than Rs1 million, a near-insurmountable amount given his rickshaw salary of roughly 400 rupees per day.
His wife has passed away, and his four children no longer live with him, he says, and he does not want to depend on them. He used to hang his medals in his rickshaw, but not anymore. Instead, the cover is emblazoned on the famous quote by former US President Calvin Coolidge: “Nations and states who forget their heroes can never be prosperous.”
His wife and four children used to beg him over the years to stop thinking about his fall in life, he said. “Once my wife started weeping. I asked her why… She said she was just worried about my health. “She told me to be happy all the time and forget those who forgot us. I said OK, and she became happy for a while. “And after some period, she died.” That was two years ago. Now, he says, his hands shaking, he too prays for death. “I pray… to meet my beloved wife in heaven. I think it is better to avoid this pathetic situation I have endured,” he says.
This is actually very sad. Such people who did a lot for this country and nation, who are making us Proud, how can we forget such legends? The media, the government where are they now? Rather than showing the bitter side of our country, our media should show and praise such legends who devoted their life for this country. I solute you Sir, and I’m sure everyone is proud and thankful to you.