On Monday afternoon, 15-year-old Saba Tariq Ahmed boarded a flight in Mumbai to go back to Karachi. Even as an increasingly hostile Shiv Sena raged about its anti-Pak sentiment a few kilometres away, the Pakistani girl rode on the back of well-wishers across India, as well as other parts of the world, to beat back the symptoms of a genetic illness and return her home in Karachi.
"Nazia (Saba's mother) said she had been warned that things would not be smooth in India, and she was happy that her fears did not come true. She said Mumbai had been full of warmth and happiness for her and her daughter,'' said Dr Aabha Nagral of Jaslok hospital, who treated the teenager.
Saba has Wilson's Disease, a genetic disorder that impairs neurological and liver functioning. Earlier in August this year, as her condition worsened in Karachi, community organisation "The BlueBells Community" started a crowdfunding campaign over the Independence Day weekend to help Saba's mother, a single-mother of three, garner funds.
Within hours, support poured in. Thanks to 130 contributors who contributed over Rs 13 lakhs, Saba was flown in to Mumbai and was able to get treatment on time. "Get well soon Saba.. May god bless u with good health..[sic]" wrote one contributor Sushmitha Shetty Agarwal. "To help a little girl from across the border," wrote another well-wisher. Support came in from international waters too, with an American NGO donating close to Rs 4 lakhs.
After about 49 days of treatment, Saba headed back home yesterday, with assurances of a lifelong supply of free medicine for her disease from a London-based NGO. This is the second time her friends across the border have come to her rescue, with the first time earlier this year when Rs 7 lakhs were raised in funds in April to help her get treatment in Mumbai.