“People often ask me from where I get my strength. I tell them, from the mountains. Today a painting of the Himalayas greets every visitor to the centre and inspires everyone to reach higher, to seek the strength within themselves and to know that they can conquer any fear, surmount any challenge! When your spirit is strong, nothing in the world can stop you.”
He was 26 years of age as he stood atop Mount Everest – the world’s highest peak. Just a few months later, he suffered a gun shot wound in his neck during the Indo-Pak war of 1965, a wound that left him paralysed below the waist and confined to a wheelchair. It was a tragedy that would have destroyed most people – but not HPS ahluwalia. He draws his strength from mountains – “Life is all about conquering the other summit – the summit of the mind” he says. Determined to rebuild his life, he traveled to the United Kingdom to undergo intensive rehabilitation. His five month stay at the hospital did not reverse his condition – but it did become a life transforming experience. It became his mission and obsession to set up a similar hospital in India to help others like him – and his decade or more of perseverance and single-mindedness eventually resulted in the culmination of his dream project – The Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, in New Delhi, India. It was no ordinary feat or journey this far. Grit, determination and a positive spirit was all that he had.
Founder and Chairman of ISIC since 1995, he is a man of many interests. He has been, until recently the Chairman of The Indian Mountaineering Foundation. Higher than Everest, Eternal Himalayas, Ladakh-The Hermit Kingdom, Climbing Everest, Faces of Everest, Himalaya, Everest Where Snow Never Melts, Nubra: A Forbidden Valley, Beyond The Himayalas are some among many he has authored. His perspective as a patient and clear understanding on importance of rehabilitation and disability were well evident during his tenure as Chairperson, Rehabilitation Council of India where he promoted conquering disability throughout India. He is also an avid gardener – he will talk of his Kinnoo trees as passionately as the hospital’s upcoming stem cell research project, a movie buff, a keen traveler and an epicure – who values and cherishes life- especially others.
In recognition of his unique contribution to society, the Government of India awarded Major Ahluwalia the country’s highest honours – the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award. The President of India has also conferred the National Award for Best Work in the Field of Disability on him, for his humanitarian efforts and tireless service for the welfare of persons with disabilities.