”Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path so have faith, be brave and never lose courage and you’ll see the best version of yourself,” says Saima Sohail whose tale of courage in the face tragedy is awe inspiring.
Tales of courage are always the subject of interest for every segment of the society, irrespective of age, creed or color. The question, however, remains as to why there is so much fascination with such stories? I might be able to answer this when I fully narrate a tale of extraordinary courage and resilience, the main character of which I was honored to meet.
It all starts from the day Ms. Saima weds a young handsome Naval Officer and shifts to a comparatively smaller accommodation, the Married Officers Quarters (MoQs). Love, giggling, jokes, fun, gossips and future plans all around, round the clock, until Zarak, a new born baby joins as an additive and a multiplier. Freeze! Freeze! Freeze! She wanted time to freeze but it never stopped on her desire: what an awful reality!
The turning point, however, was to play its role in her life as well. Zarak was just about two at the time when, while Saima was lighting the space heater on a chilly evening, a fire ball engulfed the whole room due to gas leakage. The hue and cry of the family echoed the whole building, as the fire caught everyone present in the room. Before help could arrive, the incident had already affected the tender bodies, which fell prey to the roaring flames.
The wrath of nature and its catastrophic effects could have easily taken their lives but tragedy was avoided thanks to the community which successfully rushed the family to the nearest hospital for medical assistance without losing time. By the time first aid process was over, it was revealed that Saima’s face and hands were completely burnt with severe damage to her vocal cords because of the inhalation of smoke and gas. Her sight was also affected while the little baby and beloved husband got burnt extensively. The once happy family was traumatized and the cruelty of life snatched their dreams and replaced those with a nightmare. The family was subsequently shifted to Army Burns Centre, Kharian, for medical treatment and underwent specialized surgeries for progressive recovery.
At this stage, while Saima’s thinking process was impeded, the new era of sensational feeling of an aggrieved wife and especially mother of an innocent infant thrived and strengthened. This gave her instinctive energy to think about the ways to proceed and quash the bitter effects that the family had encountered. She quickly felt strong and determined. Her family, especially, brothers rose to the occasion and persuaded her to explore all possible avenues in the field of medical science for normalization of affected body organs of her family irrespective of looming despair. She showed resolve to willingly undergo various surgeries that led to her starting to talk with a husky voice and her sight was also restored. This was the start of a long drawn process of multiple surgeries for face and hand uplift, which were almost completely burnt. Most of her skin now is artificial, but the person inside it is as original and pure as a fairy.
During this agonizing period, many events occurred, which injured her soul further, especially, multiple queries of visitors regarding how the incident happened and her repeated narration. The engagement of NGOs for appeasement of the media was another factor which she disliked but she committed not to fall prey to their vested interests and instead ventured to fight it out through overwhelming support of her family.
A Masters in Psychology, she learnt the art of living and shaping her life the way she had dreamt. She was fortunate to explore her inner self and did not have to be subjected to long marathon sessions of counselling by qualified psychiatrists. Neither did she ever feel a need to use drugs for anxiety or depression. Instead, she inculcated and adopted the core values of character, commitment and courage to regain what was lost. With an obsession, she started to practice yoga to heal her physical, mental and spiritual wounds, in order to get rid of the memories of the horrific event and to promote the natural abilities that she was bestowed with by nature.
As it happens, divine forces paved the way for the explorer to achieve their objectives through synchronization of the invincible forces though adjustments had to be made to realize the desired effects. She too had to sacrifice the normal pattern of lady wives living in the Naval society and gathered the strength to forego the laxity and trends often being practiced everywhere. She concentrated on her objective to refine her speaking skills and vowed to master the physical impairment through regular and painstaking exercise and practice.
Soon, her untiring and relentless determination and matchless courage and consistency bore fruit and she became a certified Yoga Instructor in 2013. Soon after, she was acknowledged as an inspiring personality in the close circuits of Pakistan Navy. The journey did not end here — while others would give up on their life after a life changing incident like this, she stood strong in the face of it as she embarked upon a program to help restore the lives of burn victims, who had lost hope of living a happy life. She also started working at the Naval gym in NORE-1 (Naval Officers’ Residential Estate) in Karachi. The Navy facilitated her not only in providing her with a platform but the wives of Naval Admirals were of great help throughout, especially when the time came to set up for her classes where she was able to showcase her abilities and begin teaching yoga to officers’ wives at a very minimal cost to spread positivity and to motivate the wives of Naval personnel, especially whose husbands are out at sea for long durations and subjected to loneliness and domestic fatigue.
She has exemplified through her character, commitment and courage that happiness is not a rare commodity that is bestowed but a product of self-esteem, honor and a free will to attain what pleases you. Her story also testifies to the fact that Allah has created human beings as supreme creatures. Their ability to be strong and powerful – to withstand the vagaries of life and natural calamities – is as flexible and re-shapeable as iron, if there is will.
The story demonstrates that tragedies are a part of life but what determines our fate and place in life is how we respond to the challenges life throws at us. Successful stories are carved if opportunity is created out of an incident instead of falling prey to it.
Saima believes that hardships are a part of life. One must not lose hope and should keep faith in Allah. It is our response to hardships that define us, so all the women out there, be strong, have courage and not let anything put you down. HH
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