Sunshine story: Tourists walk extra mile to help travel guide who lost leg

After his leg was amputated 10 months ago, a tour guide in Matheran got back on his feet, thanks to two Good Samaritans who put him in touch with a charity that gave him a prosthetic leg

As a travel guide in Matheran, Satish Dabekar’s entire livelihood is dependent on his ability to take tourists around the popular hill station and show them the most scenic spots. So, when his leg was amputated earlier this year, it all seemed over. But, it was in Mumbai that Dabekar found new hope recently, in the form of a custom-made prosthetic leg.

After a couple of hours of practising on the Jaipur Leg, Satish Dabekar was able to walk on his own. Pics/Satyajit Desai
After a couple of hours of practising on the Jaipur Leg, Satish Dabekar was able to walk on his own. Pics/Satyajit Desai

On November 25, after months of despair, the Mahalaxmi-based Ratnanidhi Charitable Trust which helps rehabilitate the handicapped helped him get back on his feet with the Jaipur Leg, an acclaimed prosthetic that has put thousands of people back on their feet, including the popular dancer and actor, Sudha Chandran.

Two years ago, Dabekar (45) was stung by a scorpion and had to lose one of his toes. But the venom left behind by the scorpion would continue to slowly spread through the tissues in his leg. Soon, he began to experience discomfort, and when his thigh went numb, he had to finally have the leg amputated in January this year.

But after this, Dabekar who ran a small business showing tourists the Sunset and Elizabeth points — could no longer go to work. “After the operation, Satish remained at home. The entire family started working to earn enough money to keep ourselves afloat. Our school-going son Unmesh (16) took over the travel guide business, and my daughters Manali (20) and Rupali (18) started doing part-time jobs,” said Dabekar’s wife, Sangeeta.

A few months later, however, two of Dabekar’s regular clients realised that he was missing and began enquiring after him. Dadar residents Shabbir Kachwala and his cousin Shahida often visited Matheran, and had come to think of Dabekar as a close friend. So when they found out about his leg, they decided to help him.

Through them, Dabekar was put in touch with Ramesh Thakur, a veteran social worker and paralympian. Thakur was a member of the Ratnanidhi Charitable Trust. The rest happened very quickly.

Back on his feet
On Tuesday, the Dabekar family arrived at the Trust’s office, where the team immediately measured him and presented the new prosthetic, all within two hours.

“We knew that the family had to travel back to Matheran by road. Hence we prepared the leg as fast as we could, so that Dabekar would have more time to practise walking with it. By the end, he walked back to their car himself,” said Thakur, who uses the Jaipur Leg himself.

Thakur confirmed that Dabekar would be able to get back to work in no time at all, which was joyous news for the whole family. “I saw him smiling almost after a year today,” said Dabekar’s daughter, Manali.

Dabekar could only think of being able to walk around in his hometown again. “The first thing I will do is walk to Sunset Point. I don’t even remember when I saw it the last time,” he said.

What is the jaipur leg?
The above-knee prosthesis is indigenously designed and fabricated from locally manufactured high-quality, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes. At R5,000, the Jaipur Leg is far more affordable than the composite carbon variants which cost about Rs 50,000.

Did you know?
The Jaipur Foot, or the Jaipur Leg, was developed by Ram Chander Sharma in 1968. It was designed in Jaipur, and is inexpensive, water-resistant and quick to fit and manufacture.

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