Abdul Kareem of Kunnamangalam still vividly remembers the day he first saw his youngest daughter Noor. He was waiting outside the labour room when the doctor had called Kareem inside.
Kareem was dreaming of buying brand new toys for the newborn. Though several toys belonging to his elder daughter Ayisha were lying around the house, he wanted the younger baby to play with new ones.
But the doctor's expression while asking him to enter the labour room made Kareem anxious. He wondered whether something had happened to his wife Asmabi. However, another shock awaited Kareem – his newborn had no forearms and a foot.
"Don't worry. Do you wish to see this child again?" asked the doctor.
Kareem gave a reply that changed the life and future of the baby, now a confident 17-year-old youngster named Noor Jaleela, and everyone around her.
"If Bappa had said that he did not wish to see me again, I would not have existed. If I did exist, it would be as a museum piece in some lab," says the young woman.
"In lower classes, I noticed other students of my class having forearms, hands and five fingers. When I asked why I didn’t have them, Ithatha (elder sister) said that they would grow gradually. Of course, I believed her and was happy," says Noor.
The little girl was told that forearms and feet would develop by the time she was 10 years of age. But when that did not happen, she realized that everyone was making a fool of her.
Noor began asking her parents and sister why she suffered from the disability while everyone else was normal. Then Kareem showed his daughter cuttings from old newspapers which had reports and photos of people who were more handicapped than her.
He would follow it up with a query, "Are you the only such person in the world?"
To which Noor would reply emphatically, "No."
Kareem continued to show such reports and pictures to his daughter, which made her realize that she was better off than many other differently abled people. This thought also boosted Noor’s confidence.
"Noor was born during the Kadalundi train disaster. I was grieving over my daughter’s plight when several people lost their lives in the accident. I thought over both incidents and realized that anything could happen to anybody at any time and so there was no need to waste tears over anything. From then onwards, I have only tried to make Noor the best in everything she does," continues Kareem.
"My daughter attended the nursery classes at Puthiyangadi school and till Class II at St Noberta International School. After that, she went to Navajyothi School, Kunnamangalam which changed her life for the better and Noor became a happy person," says Kareem.
Noor was fitted with artificial limbs at Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode. Now she walks without much difficulty. However, inside the house, Noor prefers to remove the artificial attachments and crawl on the floor. But Noor's family never dissuades her from doing anything. It is this encouragement that has now made the youngster, a Plus-Two student, the school leader of Navajyothi School.
"I have deep gratitude to Elizabeth teacher for helping me achieve so much. Teacher often reminds me that I have more abilities than disabilities. She also avoids pitying with me," says Noor.
In fact, she often has to face sympathetic people while travelling by bus. But they often pestered Noor with queries like, "How do you manage to write?" But when the youngster picked up the courage to reply, "How will you study in Class IV without writing," the curious enquiries stopped.
"It was Elizabeth teacher who taught me to speak boldly," explains Noor.
Life turns colourful
One day Ayisha left her record book home. When Noor saw her sister's record, she felt that it was a colouring book and picked up a few crayons lying nearby and starting applying colours. Only after considerable damage had been done did Kareem and his wife notice what Noor was doing.
However, nobody scolded her. Noor felt that it was sympathy that prevented her parents from reprimanding her, but was pleasantly surprised when they brought her drawing paper, crayons and water colour. "Why don't you draw using these?" Kareem asked her.
Noor took the matter seriously and has never looked back. While in Class V, she took part in a painting competition organized for ICSC students at the all-India level. Contestants were given a picture which had to be copied. Noor's painting won the first prize and she, along with everyone else, was surprised. "But Bappa was the happiest of them all. He often tells me that the most benevolent God has given me some skills that very few people possess," says Noor.
The last two periods in Class VII were dedicated to extra-curricular activities. When Noor decided to learn violin during the periods, her father and mother expressed doubts. But when his daughter remained firm on her plan, Kareem bought her a small violin.
Noor searched YouTube to find out how the violin is held and stumbled up on cello, another musical instrument of the violin family. Bigger than violin, cello is played by holding it between the knees. "I thought, why not play the violin like the cello?"
She soon tied a ‘bun’ used on the hair to her arm and fixed the bow of the violin on it. The violin was held in the reverse direction and Noor started playing. Initially it was difficult and she cut her arms. She felt severe pain too. But regular practice made things easier. “The violin began emitting the sounds that I wished,” says Noor. Her favourite is the song ‘Kannai kalaimane’ which she loves to hear herself playing.
Noor has no fancy ideas about her life, but only clear-cut goals. "I want to study well and become an English professor. Then I want to attempt the civil service exam and join IAS," she explains. To stress her point, Noor says, "If there is a will, there is a way."
While waiting outside the labour room, Kareem had decided to name his baby 'Noor,' meaning 'light' in Arabic. The youngster has now proved that it was indeed the perfect choice.