She sat across from me in a swivelling chair, staring at me just as inquisitively as I was at her. She was the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) in the world – I had every right to gawk in awe. Arfa, on the other hand, was looking at me because she was just a child eager to make friends.
“So, how was it?” I asked with unease.
I couldn’t believe that I was intimidated by an 11-year-old.
“How was what?” she asked, smiling.
She still hadn’t lost the baby fat on her face, and I wanted to pinch her cheeks. She was Arfa Karim, the girl who had pushed all boundaries and astounded the world. I checked myself and asked:
“Meeting Bill Gates.”
“It was nice,” she replied, and began to adjust the baseball cap on her head.
It was ‘nice’ to meet Bill Gates. This little girl didn’t know how proud she had made all of us – how indebted we were to her. She was just a sweet child who had big dreams.
On the ill-fated day of December 22, 2011, Arfa suffered an epileptic attack, and went in to a coma. She died on January 14th, plunging the entire nation in to sorrow.
Had I known that she was going to die just a few years after I had met her, I would have held her tight and thanked her profusely. I would have thanked her for putting Pakistan on the map for something that wasn’t related to terrorism or war. I would have thanked her for bringing hope to a country ravaged by war. I would have thanked her for making us proud.
I am so very sorry that I didn’t.
Arfa’s father, Lt Col (Retd) Amjad Karim Randhawa was in my father’s Brigade and I had run in to her many times. I was always taken aback by her confidence, her ability to talk to people of any age, and her immense humility.
It saddens me a great deal that we have lost someone so special so early.
”Today is the black day of my life and same for Pakistan because I lost my princess colleague and Pakistan lost her Pakistani.”
Bill Gates’ statement on Arfa Karim’s death sums up the sorrow that has overwhelmed Pakistan. It is a black day indeed.
Even though, in your case, Arfa, the phrase ‘only the good die young’ rings true, I wish you hadn’t died. I will be selfish here and say that I wish you would have lived 50 more years so that you could have stunned the world at least five more times before your time was up. I wish you would have stayed, Arfa, because we need you.
May your soul rest in peace (Amen).