The natural tendency when someone dies too young is to mourn the potential of a life that was cruelly ended before a person could achieve anything. In the case of the 16-year-old Arfa Karim Randhawa, who died on January 14 after complications resulting from an epileptic stroke, that natural desire to mourn should also be accompanied by celebration of a person who in her short life, did manage to achieve more than what most of us could hope for in their lifetimes. At the age of nine, she became the youngest-ever Microsoft Certified Professional, earning kudos from Bill Gates himself and an invitation to visit his company’s headquarters in America. A year later, she was certified as a pilot by a flying club in Dubai. Not only is Arfa the youngest ever recipient of the Presidential Award for Pride of Performance, she was also awarded the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal in Science and Technology and the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award. The word genius may be bandied about too freely, but in Arfa’s case it was a moniker well-earned.
Various government figures are busy renaming buildings and technology programmes after Arfa as a tribute to her achievements and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. But there is more that can be done to honour her memory. Unlike Arfa, whose parents provided the full support necessary to ensure that her talent could blossom, there are other potential geniuses who do not have that kind of emotional and financial backing. It would be far better to establish a trust in her name and this could financially assist those, like Arfa, who show precocious talent and intellectual promise. Even though we do not know where Arfa’s limitless skills would have led her, we should ensure that future Arfas are not lost simply for lack of resources. It is also important to ensure that her memory lives on and she is not forgotten like so many heroes in this country. Arfa Karim was an inspiration in her lifetime; in death she can continue to be a guiding light for millions of ambitious children.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2012.