By Ali Moeen Nawazish for The News International
It was 23rd March 2007, a bright and sunny day. I was sitting along with a fellow distinction holder in the waiting room at the studios of state-run TV. We both had this smirk about ourselves as if we had conquered some unachievable mountain and that we were “special”. After all we were going to be on TV. While we were waiting for our turn to get our few minutes in the limelight, walked in this little girl hardly 12 years old. “Hi, how are you? What have you done at such a young age?” asked my counterpart.
“I am the world’s youngest Microsoft certified professional,” she replied putting both of us to shame. That was the first time I met Arfa Karim. First impressions? Amazingly talented girl, capable of doing big things and absolutely confident and sure about herself. In the first two minutes you meet her, she will wow you with her charm and intellect.
I communicated with Arfa after that through email and Facebook in 2008 and 2009, and while we all know of her extraordinary abilities, how she could fly a plane and when she met Bill Gates, I wanted to share something that few people know about her. Throughout our conversations one theme was always recurring, she wanted to do good and help others. She talked endlessly about how she wanted to build a computer lab back in her village, how it was her dream to impart IT education to those who didn’t have access to it in Pakistan. She was well aware of the challenges that lay ahead of her and the country. I feel that somehow she understood the expectations that people had from her, but at the same time was taking it in a stride. She tried hard to ensure that the expectations don’t affect her own self-direction in life. She was also very kind hearted and a generous spirit too, whenever someone would ask her for help or anyone would refer someone to her, she would make sure she helped that person to the best of her abilities.
It is one thing to acknowledge one’s blessings and thank people for the love and affection that they show, but it is completely another to decide to dedicate a part of your life to give something back to the community and country that made you who you are. One thing she often spoke of is how some wouldn’t take her ideas seriously because she was a little girl. People would judge her ideas and plans by her age and not by their merit alone. About an idea for rural education, she wrote: “I myself have been working, or trying to work, for this objective. The problem here is that if I come up with plans, no one takes them seriously because I am a “14-year old kid”. My grandfather was a villager and we are still an agricultural family. I still retain ties with my rural background and so would be proud to be part of something like this.” A phenomenon perhaps often too common in our society. Yet, she always had the resolve to deal with it and find solutions around these problems, as any good software developer would. Arfa was a girl who was never going to let anyone stand in her way, no matter what it took.
By any measure of the word she was truly a gifted girl with her own little quirks that made her who she was. She wanted to get done with her O Levels long before the actual time she had to give them, because quite frankly she didn’t need more time. To one of our conversations in which I was encouraging her to take more time, she wrote: “To have more time was the reason I delayed it a little. Otherwise, I would have been finished with my O levels in this session. I was thinking that if I stretch it out too long, I might get bored with it in the end.” Perhaps the only person I knew in the world that would give exams early because she would get bored with the content.
It is somewhat ironic that I last met her this 14th August 2011 at another PTV recording. She had grown up, but only a little, had matured by miles. Yet, what was astounding and amazing about her was that her spirit was the same of that 9-year old girl who dared to dream big and think different. Her spirit was the same of that 9-year old girl who had made it a point to not let herself be captured by the notion of what is possible and what isn’t. As ambitious as ever and talented even more, Arfa was ready to take on the world in her stride. It is unfortunate that she was taken from us well before our time, but as with all great people God calls them early to Him.
Arfa, you will truly be missed and the youth of Pakistan has suffered a great loss today. May Allah bless you and your family. You were a good friend and a great inspiration. Your spirit and memory will live on in our hearts for as long as we live. The youth lost one of its best today, but you have inspired so many and we promise to not let you down.
Arfa Karim Zindabad! Pakistan Zindabad!
(The writer is Youth Ambassador of Geo and Jang Group. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: facebook.com/ali.moeen.nawazish