Every should celebrate and cherish the rare moments when from amongst them emerges a genius whose intellect is acknowledged globally. The child prodigy, who became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of 9, exuded charm, wit and a unique confidence that coupled with her engaging smile made for an endearing persona, not ordinarily found in children her age.
Becoming the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of 9 led to several national awards to honour her achievement and a rare ten minute long meeting with Bill Gates, Chairman Microsoft. Arfa Karim was a child gifted with an exceptional mind. “I look forward to seeing what you can do!” – Bill Gates wrote in Arfa Karim’s Hello Kitty autograph book. With Harvard or MIT her aim and her goals set high, Arfa was clear about what she wanted to do with her talent and how to use it for the benefit of her country. She once said during one of her interviews, “I want to be recognised internationally, I want everyone to know who Arfa Karim is.”
Her extraordinary talent and global recognition put Pakistan on the map for something positive, shifting focus from the negative perceptions surrounding the country, highlighting this amazing girl wonder.
At the age of ten, when she was invited to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in US, she discussed her idea for a self-navigation car with Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, S. Somasegar. Her exceptional mind was bursting with ideas and all she was waiting for was the right time to implement them. However, despite the aspirations and ambitions, Arfa simply ran out of time.
On 22nd December 2011 she suffered an epileptic seizure leading to a cardiac arrest, her brilliant brain was damaged and she slipped into a coma. An international panel of doctors appointed by Bill Gates teleconferenced with local doctors in CMH Lahore to discuss and devise treatment plans. Gates also offered to bear the expenses of flying Arfa out to the US, but her critical condition prevented the move.
On 13th January 2012, slight brain function became a flicker of hope for her family and millions of people across the globe who were constantly praying for Arfa’s health. She died on 14th January 2012 at 9:50 pm. She was 16-years-old.
At just ten-years-old, she questioned Bill Gates over the percentage of women working in Microsoft, and she had the self-confidence to look the President of Pakistan in the eye when she received the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award. Wise beyond her years, with her Pakistan lost a girl of exceptional talent and capability who will always be remembered for her remarkable mind.