Steel Wheels: The Unbreakable Journey. (Ataxia)

The unbreakable journey

Published: December 19, 2015
‘Steel Wheels’ presents Rafi’s inspiring struggle after he is diagnosed with Friedrich’s Ataxia.

‘Steel Wheels’ presents Rafi’s inspiring struggle after he is diagnosed with Friedrich’s Ataxia.


Asad Rafi’s Steel Wheels: The Unbreakable Journey, is exactly what the title suggests — wheels made of sterner stuff.

The book presents the author’s hard and inspiring struggle after he is diagnosed with Friedrich’s Ataxia. The disease causes progressive damage to the nervous system as well as the degeneration of the nerve tissue in the spinal cord. The sensory neurons that direct muscle movement of the arms and legs are particularly affected by this condition.

In a concise and moving story, Rafi speaks to the reader through personal experiences. Throughout the book, he does not resort to cliches to tell his story. On the contrary, he adopts a familiar, almost comforting tone, to bring his message across.

Telling tales in translation

The initial chapters delve into his carefree youth and his love for cricket. Rafi describes himself as an ardent Imran Khan admirer and gains encouragement from him during many important phases of his childhood.

Through his simple prose, the author portrays childhood innocence without stretching the truth. During his childhood, Rafi’s passion is cricket and he aspires to become a sportsman.

Asad Rafi

The latter half of the book deals with Rafi’s life after being diagnosed with Freidrich’s Ataxia. As a result, Rafi, who dreamt of becoming a cricketer someday, is confined to a wheelchair at the age of 17.

What came as a colossal blow to a teenager eventually turned into a blessing. Rafi, who was an otherwise shy and reserved child, goes on to become a motivational speaker and author. He draws motivation from the likes of Michael Jackson, Roger Federer, W Mitchell Anderson, and a former US Marine Corps officer, and acquires the strength and determination to surmount hurdles. Rafi eventually starts focusing on things he can do instead of those he cannot do.

The conclusive chapters are hard-hitting and prod the reader to think about positive change. Rafi focuses on the need to alter Pakistan’s approach towards people suffering from disabilities. He envisions it to be a wheelchair-friendly country and lays the groundwork for a better future.

The soldier whose sword is a pen

The author mentions instances from his travels to London and Dubai, where he discusses the ease and convenience differently-abled persons enjoy. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the lack of basic necessities for people suffering from disabilities is a reminder of the glaring discrepancies in our policies.

Rafi urges us to come up with ways to make life easier for them. This is not a form of pleading. Instead, Rafi’s words guide us towards enlightenment.

Title: Steel wheels
Author: Asad Rafi
Publisher: FK Squared
Pages: 90
ISBN: 978-969-9877-11-7

The writer is a subeditor on The Express Tribune’s Blogs desk

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2015.

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