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Noor Fatima and her mother Tayyaba arrive at New Delhi airport on July 31 from Bangalore en route to Lahore.

Photo: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

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From India, with love

The tot arrived on the first Lahore-Delhi bus on July 11 after India and Pakistan resumed the service, which was halted in the aftermath of the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament.

Noor Fatima, 2, was born with a heart condition: ventricular septal defect with pulmonary stenosis in medical terminology. In lay terms, she had tiny holes in her heart. Her parents waited three years so that she could gain the physical strength to withstand major surgery. The resumption of the Lahore-Delhi bus route was a godsend; it made travel to India quicker and affordable.

Noor's story and photographs, flashed across the world, evoked sentiments hard to describe: a surge of love, tinged with sympathy and a sense of hope. Perhaps the kind of warmth required to bring about a genuine thaw in Indo-Pak relations.

After Dr Rajesh Sharma successfully performed surgery at the Narayan Hrudayalaya in Bangalore, her parents, Tayyeba and Nadeem Sajad, received greeting cards from every corner of India. Ministers came calling with bouquets, and a terrorist, who said he was in Delhi with plans to kill President A P J Abdul Kalam and abduct cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, had a change of heart after seeing the love bestowed upon little Noor.

Noor has since returned to Pakistan, an ambassador of India's goodwill.

Text: Pankaj Upadhyaya

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