lanterns hanging in your sky

8:36 PM | 26 February 2021

I’m not scared of radio silences or bumpy roads anymore. And neither should you be. It’s the hopelessness before the miracle, that is what it really is. What I am scared of, though, and maybe so should you be, are dried flowers that never lose their scent. The same scent that drives you back home, back to where you belong. But it’s in this coming and going that you can lose your homecoming, the family you wished upon. And when the withered petals smile at you, still, you wonder why happiness is an illusion for some and life for a rare few. It reminds you, also, that everything ends, even the darkness. And when it does, it’s like it never existed. At least for some.

You look back, trying to remember what it was all like and you can’t remember at all. Maybe like the first time you had to walk up on the stage and face a crowd of twenty-nine other first-graders listening to your carefully prepared speech. It was thrilling, after all. But every time you think of doing it again, it reminds you of the time you forgot your lines in the school play. Maybe if memories could be erased as easily as the seconds fleeting by as you read this, we would have ourselves a gift for a lifetime. Or maybe like that time you were excited to step into the cool waters at the beach because everyone said it’s fun. And it was! But now you think three-point-five times before you walk into the waters again because you remember the time you almost drowned. You definitely don’t want to now because you’ve learnt to say no and value the precious little sea-shells by the big sandy sea-shore.

And so it’s like these lanterns hanging in your sky, gratitude wrapped in new beginnings; success lying not in the details of your bank account, but in the moments when you have been truly happy living the miracle of faith. I have had many. And I hope that your tomorrows are also happier, more peaceful, and more grateful than your todays, forever and forever.

New private wing, Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan
Photo credits: Haseeb Sajid

A letter for her (XXXVI) – the sun, the stars, and everything else in between

Sometimes, I just sit around looking at the sun, the stars, and everything else in between. And then I take a deep breath and realise what a blessing it is to exist in the now, in what is, in the joy of life and hope. As I feel the salty, humid air of my hometown filing in my lungs, I feel a tingling sensation down my soul, a slight tremble of my heart; a premonition that something is on its way, and because I feel unprepared to receive it, I am prepared. And it’s in these little surprises that life throws at us that we find ourselves singing songs of “something good, something grand”!

Photo credits: Haseeb Sajid

The Critical Creative Innovative Thinking Forum (CCIT)

When I had applied to the Innovation Fellowship at the Critical Creative Innovative Thinking Forum at the Aga Khan University, little did I know that it would make me more confident in my decision (or rather, aspiration) to pursue the unconventional route in medicine and healthcare: I know now that my vision for promoting an interdisciplinary approach towards holistic health encompassing the ever-evolving demands of healthcare entrepreneurship is not unshared.
Ever since I have joined CCIT, I have been approached by many people as to the real nature of what this forum is about. The Critical Creative Innovative Thinking Forum at AKUH is a unique hub of creativists working to identify novel problems in the healthcare ecosystem of an LMIC like Pakistan and ideating low-cost solutions with sustainable developmental goals. Founded in 2013, CCIT has delved into health-centered Hackathons, Ignites, Innovation Skills Assessment, Narrative Medicine, and Ideation. In January 2020, CCIT launched a one-of-its-kind fellowship to train professionals to ideate their own innovations for healthcare, biomedicine, and social innovation using the very valuable and relevant tools of information technology, business management and entrepreneurship, public health and research, biomedical engineering, leadership, human-centered design thinking, and even a gaming league and scientific journal club programme.
With this dynamic group of professionals, we are training to think out-of-the-box as we approach the very common, ignored problems that have made healthcare a spider’s web. Growing into healthcare entrepreneurs and social scientists armed with tools other than medical knowledge, we are challenging the conventional healthcare practices to identify and address a whole new array of challenges.

When we talk about innovation in healthcare, the focus is misdirected towards innovative technology alone. What is forgotten, however, is the fact, that innovative healthcare entrepreneurship revolves around the whole experience – for the patients and the HCPs – of raising the standard of holistic care, compassion, and empathy that is provided to these patients. Prioritizing this holistic experience as we innovate with technology to replace the outdated systems with the more optimal ones is what should be the guiding principle for all such ventures. Honoring that ideology, CCIT employs the “ignite principles” as a major tool for knowledge presentation and dissemination to achieve the following objectives:

1. Provide a platform for students, health professionals, and others to explore and express critical, creative, and innovative approaches relevant to health, disease, and society (social good) in general.
2. Promote patient-centered, empathetic, and compassionate care as a clinically creative and innovative approach.
3. Demonstrate principles of change leadership through relevant team dynamics.

A few of the projects that CCIT has launched include:

1. Rinder – a mobile application matching students, faculty, and industrial experts doing research in their specific area of interest based on a unique algorithm that optimizes matches based on specific data points.

2. BitMed – maximizes clinical teaching efficiency by splitting clinical teaching curriculum into “bits” to ensure minimal repetition of the teaching content.

3. ResQvent – an automated, reliable, and long-lasting attachment to fit onto a standard AMBU bag to automate compression and air supply. The device is cost effective and can last long enough to act as a potential temporary ventilator replacement, thereby, can potentially save lives that are lost due to lack of efficient resources and manpower.

4. PFIN – The Pain Free Invisible Needle (PFIN) is a cheap, yet, effective way to curb trypanophobia. This innovation consists of a carboard, worn as a sleeve with holographic stickers to divert the child’s attention, and hide the needle. Meanwhile, a local anaesthetic sprayed on the site of injection numbs the surface to keep the patient ‘pain-free’. PFIN has undergone laboratory dummy arm trials, and is currently in the clinical trials phase of its process.

5. Algos – supports remote vital monitoring for high-risk patients centrally in in-patient settings using a single data format to allow for seamless data sorting and visualization.​

6. Maseeha Health – is developing a tool for patients to remain connected with care providers.

7. Multilingual Health – developing a 2-way verbal communication application that will have in-built protocols such as pain assessment and diabetes explained in multiple regional languages.

8. Surgucator – a platform seeking to connect patients and their attendants with adequate knowledge about impending and advised procedures through digital content. Surgucators will simplify and fully explain the process, benefits, potential risks, and recovery for the different patient types undergoing surgery.

9. Surgit – a community collaboration tool designed to provide awareness, access and opportunity to patients requiring surgical intervention.

In the words of David Lehr, chief information officer, Anne Arundel Medical Center (Annapolis, Md.), “Real innovation is about recognizing when the environment has changed to the point where the old algorithms are no longer optimal”. And here is exactly where we step in to modify this algorithm -providing an empowering platform for health-centered ideation, pre-ideation, and early-stage incubation.

If you have a great healthcare idea, then I invite you to reach out to us at!

You can also read more about us on our social media handles:
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube| LinkedIn | Hikaye (Our Blog)

till then, i’m still listening to San Luis

when there’s too much to say and there are no whispers hugging you into the deep, dark night, you look beyond the sunset to watch tomorrow sew together the reality of long gone days with old stars and the salt by the sea. and then our miracle will carry you so your heart no longer has to hang by that thread of uncertainty, howling and scaring you into the wilderness. we could be, you know? that and everything. midnight dreams and sunny hopes by the beach can not just be catacombs. we are making our own wonderwall, every movement of the soul helping today become yesterday. your head and your heart tell you, “do right woman, do right man“! but we are good as hell and will be. take me apart and there may be no fireflies. put it on me, like always, for one last time. but there’s a pretty fever dream, too, in symmetry with the heartshaker of this story. it’s not meant to stay hidden and will not. we’re still on top because this is where it stays.
and till then, i’m still listening to san luis… i just wish i had the why.

p.s. the above piece of prose is inspired by the songs from Virgin River, Season 2 on Netflix. the songs are linked in their names and can be found on Saudade

an ode to everything new

10:53 PM | 2 February 2021

Old and dilapidated, like the fog of a memory spinning away hazily in your mind. The cracks in the walls demanding a fresh coat of paint, as if a new colour will hide away the brokenness. Or how a new pair of eyes will see the beautiful nostalgia sweet-named “heritage” instead of the creaking floors and the struggle to put bread on the table.

This picture, taken on the last day of the first month, is an ode to everything new: how the wind has taken a new direction but does not pass by what is familiar; how the dark hospital corridors of the past year make us wonder how we survived the constant struggle to breathe with a mask that could now be even seen; how we are avoiding answers to questions unasked; how discomfort is in synchrony with the decisions of destiny; how we don’t even remember the magic of our favorite scent.

Indifference is a dangerous thing. Even tragic, I’d say. To not feel the absence or presence of what was, what is, and what may be is past the burial of a soul that has struggled for too long, too much.

There will be new colors to play with. Or maybe the canvas is supposed to be left blank. I don’t know, yet. Just not yet.

Saddar, Karachi, Pakistan

you will be missed like bitter almonds. i’m glad you came.

January 2020 – December 2020

Breathing between the specks of time, I see the past one year reel off before my eyes; the good and the bad, the happy and the sad – all flowing together seamlessly to make me believe that it is what it is, it all happens for the best.

Well. Yeah.

The familiarity of the blue of our scrubs and the beeping sound our background music. Panda eyes and dark circles telling tales of new admissions at three in the morning. The convenience of the lab-coat pockets carrying forgotten five-rupee-coins, broken earphones, crumbled masks, and a dried pen or two. The weight of the stethoscope and the weight of quick decisions proofs of our adulthood. The fear of COVID drawn into a gradual acceptance of a masked world. The comradery of fellow house officers in the homely Gynae FDR. Saturday halwa puris and a fifteen-minute Walk-At-Home video before OPD and long hours of going without food. The morning ritual of chai with the nursing staff and the dua of a sick patient. My hand-carry making night-duties bearable, helping me nurture a home everywhere I go. Trying to live it all, trying to make it a lifestyle. Trying to love what we lived and now living what I love.

These are all moments I won’t forget, moments I won’t miss.

Goodbye, intern-year. You will be missed like bitter almonds. I’m glad you came.

Made with Square InstaPic

The ECG Strip

16 October 2020 – 31 December 2020

The Internal Medicine rotation was definitely one that I was eagerly looking forward to. An interesting mix of coughs and dizziness, it was the bitter-sweet potion that had you sliding down the ride of the minute details hidden away behind negligence and also sleep-deprivation, and the dominant signs and symptoms that brought your patient to the ER in the middle of a deadly pandemic. It was all of that and more.

Thankfully, I had a great team of fellow interns, residents, and consultants. Each one of them had their own skills and methodologies that seemed to reflect on the way they monitored their patients and mentored us.
Out of this wonderful team of internists, the few I had a chance of closely working with were Dr Abdul Rahim, the Chief Resident; the Covid-warrior, Dr Darayus P. Gazder; my birthday-bro, Dr Aneel Madhwani; and the profound doctor, Dr Hina Imran. For their kindness, their mentorship,and their friendship, I will forever be grateful.

10:07 AM | 17 November 2020

what are these peaks and troughs on the ECG strip?
lead I, lead II, lead III; pray, what are these?
avL, avF – will they tell us stories of loss and grief?
from V1 to V6, there’s just a struggle to breathe.
10 mm/mv is hope per existence.
25 mm/sec is life ebbing towards death.
the QRS axis is revolving around Takatsobu
and T waves are crashing by the shore of uncertainties.
what are these peaks and troughs in the ECG strips? pray, what are these?
there is no machine in the world that will tell you what the heart beholds and there is no pill in the world that will cure the ills of the heart and the soul.
will we ever truly know? will we ever truly know?

Of giraffes, cartoons, and little kids

July 16 2020 – October 16 2020

Sunny smiles and tiny hands are not the only sights that you’ll get to see in the pediatric department of any hospital. You want to light up the ward with balloons and teddy bears but you find yourself posting Injection Vancomycin and Injection Meropenem while struggling to explain to the anxious parents that their kid will be okay. Or maybe not.

It’s worse when you see a life blooming within a happy soul that is trapped on a wheelchair and is labelled as “CP child”. It’s a little like your heart sinking because why would God do that to any parent after nine months of dreaming about their little bundle of joy? But that’s how they spell life.

Working as a young doctor (a fresh graduate) in times as unprecedented as these is a normal intern year times infinity.
What do I see when I look back? The colourful walls of the general ward; the torturous UDS postings; a hard-earned “good” from the senior registrar after the morning rounds where I stepped into the rather large sized shoes of the residents; tea and more tea; some resilience and a couple of chocolate cupcakes. And faith in myself.

The golden streaks of faith have made their appearance again and I am reminded of how the toughest of times can also be the most beautiful ones.

A letter for her (XXXV) – the QRS complex

1:01 AM | 26 November 2020

I’m much better prepared this time. Perhaps, also much better equipped. But you know what’s tiring? That I’ll have to go through this again. All alone. Again.

Back in medical school, I’d always glamorously looked towards delivering my first CPR. The act of massaging a heart back to life; always wanting to recite one of His ninety-nine names as I give the compressions, eyeing the ECG monitor cautiously, hopefully. That’s what I had imagined. That’s what I had hoped for. But yesterday was very different. The fixed, dilated pupils stared back at me with little mercy for shattering my naive dreams. The straight ECG line left no space to fill in that blank.

If only we could read the words of the heart, lain out majestically on a piece of paper; encoding hopes, dreams, grief, and loss as stencils jumping up and down, called the QRS complex.

But let’s not be so ungrateful.
Sometimes, all we need is another chance at life, another chance at being born all over again.

what they didn’t teach us at school

9:36 PM | 19 November 2020

It’s a strange night. There’s a chilly wind blowing outside the well-lit hospital I’m working at. I sit at my desk, waiting to heal others while failing miserably at doing the same for myself. There are monsters outside and I don’t want to slay them; I don’t want to have to do anything with anyone at all.

They didn’t teach us how to do that back in school. To slay the monsters when you don’t want to, I mean.

They didn’t teach us how to forget the name of our second grade best friend. They didn’t teach us how to overcome the fear of falling down while on the racing track in the annual sports day. They didn’t teach us how to forget all things bitter-sweet. They didn’t teach us how to go to sleep easily. They didn’t teach us how to unfriend the past. They didn’t teach us how to forgive those who didn’t ask for forgiveness. They didn’t teach us how to not care, how to not hate, how to not love. They didn’t teach us how to not miss people. They didn’t teach us how to dislike blue. They didn’t teach us how to trust and how to not break trust. They didn’t teach us how to sleep without a heavy heart. They didn’t teach us how to stop feeling strange. They didn’t teach us how to do it all again; trust again, believe again, smile again.

They didn’t teach us what to say when a 26-year-old woman’s husband cries at her dead feet after giving birth to their first child. They didn’t teach us how to tell him that giving CPR to his already dead wife would give her more pain.
They didn’t teach us how to hold back tears when we declare a patient’s death. They didn’t teach us how to be on-call 24/7. They didn’t teach us how to protect the dignity of the dead whole honouring the wishes of the bereaved family. They didn’t teach us how to deal with loving but disliking your job. They didn’t teach us how to ask the grieving, crying family what their relationship with the dead patient was so we can fill out the death certificate. They didn’t teach us how to eat after witnessing an ant infested dead body of an elderly woman. They didn’t teach us how to politely say no to the many invitations of hanging out with friends and family after an exhausting week of surgical masks, bad chest x-rays, and dropping saturations. They didn’t teach us how to sleep without having nightmares of another dead patient. They didn’t teach us how to say, “I am not sure about this, I’ll look this up in our medical guidelines and get back to you!”. They didn’t teach us that doctors, too, are humans, and can not know a thing or two. They didn’t tell us how to put our emotions to sleep; or rather, how to flick the switch on and off. They didn’t teach us how to politely move away from well-meaning acquaintances looking for medical advice in a party that we went to in hopes of having a break from the stench of disinfectants and the beeping of the blood pressure monitor. They didn’t teach us how to have realistic expectations from ourselves. They didn’t teach us how to pray for our patients – for their good health, for our ability to heal them, to save us all from medical and ethical negligence. They didn’t teach us how to not get attached to every patient we see. They didn’t teach us where and how to draw the line between patient-care and self-care. They didn’t teach us anything about sacrifice, patience, compassion, empathy, and a kind, encouraging word of appreciation.

They didn’t teach us anything at all.