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It’s Not Just Noor Fatima

By Munnoo Bhai

Daily Times, Pakistan
20 July, 2003

I don’t just value the Indian throb in Noor Fatima’s heart, I love it. I also pray for India’s people, its children and the joy of their parents.

Noor Fatima is the 30-month-old who travelled to India by Dosti Bus for a heart surgery. Her tiny heart had two leaks and two of its arteries were choked. The successful surgery in a Bangalore, Karnatika, hospital involved three doctors working for six hours. Throughout the day, Noor Fatima’s parents received phone calls from India, Pakistan and all over the world. Callers of all nationalities and religions told them they were praying for the health of the child.

Dr Devi Sethi, the surgeon at the private hospital in Bangalore, said Noor Fatima was well and improving after the surgery. She said surgery on children was never easy. It was particularly difficult on children with a congenital defect. Noor’s father, Nadeem Sajjad, 35, and mother, Tayyeba Sajjad, 28, said the duration of the surgery was agonising. “It was only after the surgeons stepped out smiling that we relaxed,” they said.

They said they were found a lot of encouragement in India for Noor Fatima’s treatment. “For that we are grateful to Indians. We did not need the funds we were offered for the operation. We propose that the funds be used to set up a trust for the treatment of poor children in the two countries.” Nadeem Sajjad said the love he had found in India could only bode well for the relations between the two countries.

Noor Fatima’s mother said she thanked God and was grateful to the doctors in the Bangalore hospital for the successful operation. She hoped that the child would lead a normal life. She said they would take the child to see Taj Mahal once she was discharged from the hospital.

Earlier, children carrying placards wishing Noor Fatima well lined up the Bangalore streets during the surgery and total strangers visited the hospital to present bouquets to her parents. Nadeem Sajjad said he was impressed by the love and felt at home four thousands kilometres away from home. All day he had been getting calls from people who said they were praying for the child’s health. He did not know whether those praying for her were Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or Christians and whether the prayers were being held at mosques, temples or churches but realised that these were human prayers for the cause of humanity.

The two days, Noor Fatima’s parents said, had left them great piles of best-wishes cards and flowers. They will carry home to Pakistan the message of love and friendship. “We need love for each other, justice and friendship. Both the neighbouring countries need to share the joys and sorrows.”

The government of Indian state of Karnataka, which has its capital at Bangalore, had offered Rs 10,000 assistance towards Noor Fatima’s treatment. The hospital, however, decided to forgo the fee. Her parents announced that they were setting up a joint Pakistan-India trust with the Rs 140,000 to help poor child patients in the two countries.

It is not just Noor Fatima. The two great Asian neighbours are also suffering from leaks in the heart caused by their ruling classes. Or else the ruling classes have the leaks as congenital defect and the arteries supplying blood to each other are choked. It is difficult, but not impossible, to treat the congenital defects provided the working poor in the two countries are allowed to perform the operation. Besides being Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees and Buddhists, they are human. As humans, they can share one another’s joys and sorrows. They can include and participate. For this they need no third party, arbiter or mediator. Try if you will, like Nadeem Sajjad and Tayyeba Sajjad, the working people who operate on the heart will emerge smiling from the theatre.

Munnoo Bhai is a writer and columnist