Meet the Dubai-based stroke survivor who paints with a partially paralysed hand

Rooma had a stroke of luck after two years of being paralysed, when her right hand showed signs of slight movement

By Mariam Qureshi

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Published: Tue 28 Nov 2023, 5:08 PM

Last updated: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 3:19 PM

A Dubai-based woman has transformed adversity into art after a stroke left her partially paralysed. Overcoming physical handicaps with unwavering determination, Rooma Eejaz, 55, paints daily using only her partially functional right hand.

Rooma's artworks are regularly featured at exhibitions in Dubai, showcasing her fortitude, resilience, and creative spirit.

As she is wheeled into her drawing room adorned with a display of her artworks, Rooma Eejaz reflects on her journey. "I was born and raised in Dubai. My first love was writing. Growing up in Dubai, I contributed to local newspapers until the early 90s when my family shifted to Pakistan."

The move to her home country did not dampen her literary pursuits. Enrolling at the prestigious Kinnaird College in Lahore, she delved into English literature and psychology, and her articles continued to grace the pages of leading Pakistani newspapers. Rooma's dedication led her to the London College of Writing, where she completed a comprehensive five-year course in scriptwriting, fiction, drama, and journalism.

She said her literary prowess attracted Bollywood directors who offered her a ghostwriting position. Despite having her works adapted into TV dramas, Rooma claims she never received the due acknowledgement she deserved.

(She refused to divulge the names of the directors, movies and drama for fear of antagonising the parties concerned.)

Upon returning to Dubai in 2011, Rooma stumbled upon a new passion — painting. Discarding her daughter's neglected paints, she found unexpected success when an Arab buyer insisted on purchasing one of her early pieces. This stroke of luck propelled her casual self-indulgence into a full-blown occupation, with the demand for her paintings steadily increasing.

"I have a very powerful imagination, and if I don't transfer the creative ideas that spring into my mind onto the canvas, I suffer from a disturbing restlessness inside me,” says Rooma

However, her artistic journey faced a severe setback in 2021 when a stroke paralysed the left side of her body, rendering her unable to perform basic functions. "I couldn't swallow, speak, walk, use my hands, or even sit. My family had to use a harness to shift me from the bed to the recliner. Tubes were inserted in all parts of my body. I was traumatized, and I would start screaming in anguish," she recalls,

Two challenging years followed, marked by anguish and helplessness. However, a glimmer of hope emerged in the third year when Rooma felt a slight movement in her right hand. It was a turning point.

With her daughter's encouragement, Rooma began painting with her one semi-functional hand. "I painted a landscape with pillows propping me up and my right hand elevated. I felt triumphant that I could still paint. My canvases grew in size, and so did the depths of my concepts," Rooma says.

Despite the pain and challenges, Rooma dedicates an hour every day to her art, finding solace and purpose in the creative process.

Her artistic style, deeply rooted in Fauvism, tackle s social issues with vivid compositions. From "Just Shut Up!" addressing the silencing of women to "My Successful Work Life" depicting career success dynamics, Rooma's paintings provoke thoughtful reactions. Using watercolours, acrylics, and oil paints, she crafts pieces that transcend visuals, offering profound commentary on societal issues.

Recently appointed as the Art Director of the UNESCO Action Art Club, Rooma monitors the growth of art in the UAE, organizing events and study groups. Rooma, expressing gratitude, states: “I am thankful to God. The transformative power of creativity given by Him enables to overcome life’s most formidable challenges. A few years back I couldn’t even speak properly, brush my teeth or wear shoes. Now I can do all of these.”


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