Fathima also known lovingly as Baby, by everyone at the Institute of Palliative Medicine (IPM) likes to operate her own wheelchair, so to say. Her relationship with the Institute began when her father learned about IPM’s services and decided his daughter might benefit from the compassion and genuine care of homely people. But what turned out amazed everyone as Baby became the life and laughter of IPM, embodying something more than just compassion – an inexhaustible source of positive energy and fun – that replenished the bounty of hope at IPM itself. Baby’s life was so well infused with the love of her family, friends and the compassion she received from IPM that she could give forth a tremendous amount of the same, through the filter of her signature playfulness. She is very fond of her five brothers and her parents – Kiliyamannil Usman and Mumtaz- along with her multitude of cousins who make sure she remains happy and positive. She could strike up a conversation with a complete stranger with her bubbly nature and witty tongue, without a shadow of her illness visible on her face. Perhaps it this talkativeness that made Anjali Menon give the title of a radio jockey to Sarah in her movie.
While many have gone back to the theatre multiple times to watch Bangalore Days, Baby has seen the film only once. She shyly shrugs off all the “masala” components in RJ Sarah’s life, claiming that she was simply an inspiration and is not the living, breathing version of the movie character. Baby had met Anjali Menon by pure chance when the director had come to celebrate the success of her previous movie Ustad Hotel with everyone at IPM. Genuinely struck by the young girl’s vibrancy, Anjali Menon mulled over the idea of an unconventional heroine, a piece of sunshine who overcomes her physical misgivings with her pleasant nature. Anjali Menon described Baby’s smile as the most beautiful smile in the world. The character of RJ Sarah was thus born, with many of the important factors from Baby’s life kept intact including her array of ever-supportive family, cousins and friends. Anjali Menon had promised Baby that her identity would be revealed as a source of inspiration only if Baby liked the movie. She did and now she blushes every time someone playfully asks for her autograph or treats her like a celebrity.
n spite of the recent attention due to the movie release, Baby continues her regular sprightly life. She is currently running a clothing business from her own home, selling churidar materials to her friends and family and the ladies in her neighborhood. The lessons of creating compassionate communities that she learnt from IPM have no doubt aided her in developing this neighborhood based entrepreneurship and giving back to the community in her own way. She is also pursuing Bachelors in Social Work by distance education and regularly visits IPM, cracking jokes and helping out with various campaigns. Among the college students of SIPC (Students in Palliative Care) she is their very own “Babyitha” and she easily becomes one of them. Always and forever, a Little Miss Sunshine, Baby continues to be the source of a joyous light, a vision of hope and happiness to everyone around her.