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Lost in Bangalore, brought up in hospital: Meet physically challenged artist whose artwork moved the world

February 21, 2024
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Srinagar: Saima Noor, a 37-year-old physically challenged woman, vividly remembers the day when she decided not to let her physical limitations define her personality.

Turning adversity into her strength, Saima bravely reached the pinnacle of success in her art.  “I was four years old when I got lost in Banglore. A humble Kashmiri family found me and tried to locate my parents but they failed. I had no place to go so they sheltered me and took me to Kashmir,” she said.

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Lost in Bangalore, brought up in hospital: Meet physically challenged artist whose artwork moved the world 5

Saima received a kind gesture from the Kashmiri family and stayed with them for some years. “One day a family friend of theirs needed a babysitter, so I was sent to their home. Those people were also kind to me and treated me like their family member,” she said.

Saima was beginning to lose her sense of separation from her family because she was now loved by another family, but she had no idea that life would throw another curveball at her.

 “I spent nineteen years with them. I eventually fell ill with rheumatoid arthritis. I received treatment, but even after that, my condition continued to deteriorate. My body stopped working as it should. I could not even move. The family I was living with began to worry about me as well. I kept looking for a way out of their home without telling them since I didn’t want to become a burden on them,” she said.

Saima knew that since God had never left her alone, He was going to send help. Since there is always ease after hardship, she knew that help was on the way.

 “For my medical care, I visited Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital Srinagar (SMHS), where I met Dr. Abdul Khaliq. After I told him my story, he promised to do everything within his ability to support me. Not only did he treat me, but he also allowed me to live in a hospital ward,” she said.

Saima met a lot of individuals at the hospital and became friends with several of them, one of whom was Sheezan, a social worker. “After I met her in the hospital, I felt an immediate connection with her. She used to come to see me nearly every day,” she said.

“After the retirement of Dr. Abdul Khaliq, I was told to leave the hospital by the medical supervisor. I had nowhere to go, so I was concerned. I was helped by Sheezan. She went to the Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) office in Srinagar and obtained the letter of authorization on my behalf, which led to the hospital assigning me a side room,” she said.

Sheezan appeared to have been sent into the world to provide Saima with a long-term fix for her issues. Sheezan died in 2023 after a heart attack. “I was very connected to her,” she said

Saima had great sorrow and pain after losing Sheezan, but this was also the moment when her life would begin to change for the better.

 “I became depressed and the inquiries from others about my health made me feel even more stressed and anxious. Another friend advised me to remain preoccupied with something to ward off tension. She got me some paintbrushes and paper,” she said.

Saima said that she had never painted before and only the two fingers on her right hand were functional, she gave it a shot out of idleness. “I used to paint various things, and my painting was improving with each passing day,” she said.

It was time for people to get to know Saima for her work rather than her disabilities. “I painted some amazing paintings. A foreign visitor once came to see one of the patients and looked at my artwork. The doctors told him about me, he was so impressed by my work that he did an exhibition of my paintings,” she said.

Saima’s artwork was displayed at the exhibition. People admired and bought her paintings. “My friend recommended that I learn calligraphy because it’s so popular in the valley, so I did and got good at it,” she said.

Fast-forward to 2022, Saima started an Instagram page “Art Gallery”. Within a few months, she started getting orders from the country and abroad.

A four-year-old lost girl has now got worldwide recognition through her art. “I have done numerous exhibitions of my calligraphy, which have helped my work gain international recognition. I won’t brag about my sales, but Alhamdulilah, I receive enough orders to cover my necessities. I have also hired a caretaker to take care of all my household duties,” she said.

“Because of the simplicity of my calligraphy, anyone may readily grasp what is written. I’ve seen very complicated calligraphies where it’s difficult for folks to read the writing,” she said.

Saima plans to have knee surgery in April 2024 and is hopeful that the procedure will go well and she will be able to walk again.

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Avatar of Minzah Mehraj

Minzah Mehraj

Minzah Mehraj is a journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir, and has covered health, education, business, and culture stories over the past 3 years. She holds a Masters and Honours Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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