Echoes of the footsteps I will take

It’s forty-eight minutes past nine in the PM here but I do not know what time it is in my life. I am sure many of us do not. But does that surprise me? Not as much as it amuses me. We meticulously plan every milestone and every goal, leaving no stingy space for the unseen circumstances, and when the sun does not rise over them, we dedicate our days to brooding moods and the nights to sad songs and almost every moment to self-doubt. It’s the truth – we have all been there.

It’s really tiring, though. It is very tiring.

We give up fighting and we give up not fighting. And then there comes a defeated acceptance for what is and what is to come. And, of course, what was.

Graduating from a medical school is never enough – there is a long, long journey ahead. Whether you choose the FCPS pathway, or you opt to fly away to the UK or U.S.A., it all requires hard work, dedication, sacrifices, and carries its own set of unique challenges. And more than an ounce of good luck. This leaves us all to deal with a state of uncertainty that we had foolishly not foreseen. And its time to deal with that.

Neither one of us knows what the future holds. And we never will, that is the only we thing we are sure of. But as we trudge along these treacherous shores, we ought to look down again and again and admire the beauty of the pebbles under our feet, the sound of life in the waves sweeping over them, the salt in the sand sticking to our faces, and the color-changing roof above us. Like an alarm clock reminder that we keep snoozing because we want to sleep in just a little more till we have got absolutely no choice but to get up and add some fun to the mundanity of an otherwise ordinary day made special by the warmth of friends and family, and friends who become family.

I can only hear the echoes of the footsteps I shall take. And I shall continue to tick off the days from the calendar with my faithful old, black pen, and my find my Way back to how it all started.

Photo credit: Tara Shannon

“What’s my purpose?” asked Rabbit.

“There are many flowers in the forest.” said Bear. “They all bloom in their own time.”

Photo Credit: ©Tara Shannon, 2020

dried flowers

We see loneliness around us every day. In the patience of the innocent suffering to live another day in P a l e s t i n e. In the brokenness of the souls living with sabr-e-jameel. In the dry roti of the labourer and the five-course menu of the billionaire. On the rain drop resting on the green leaf, waiting for an insect to crawl over it.

We see loneliness around us every moment. In the froth of the first cup of coffee at work. In the circles over A, sometimes B, maybe even C, or surprisingly D, in the MCQ booklet of past papers. Also in the broken glasses of the old woman. And obviously in the five hundred jumping jacks of the fitness freak. Even in the 3:30 AM sehri in a small home, in a big city. In the slow walk of the hands of my wrist-watch, trudging towards the unknown, at the speed of five cm per second.

We see loneliness around us everywhere. In the non-stop chatter of a sombre face and in the haunting silence of a smiling one. In the dignity of the kindness shown by a broken soul and in the protests of the helpless human. In the duas of the sinner and the ameens of the wounded. In the wrinkles of old age and in the sacrifices of youth. In the dread to go home and in the crossesd out dates of the calendar. In lazy writings and busy laptops.

And in the dried flowers in every room.

Photo credits: Tooba Masihuddin

Grave of The Fireflies

There are so many little boys and girls like these waking up in fright every day in Palestine. They know the smell of danger better than the scent of freshly baked cookies. They have seen more dead bodies than the smiles of their parents greeting them when they come home. They have played hide-n-seek with rubber bullets and evil armed men instead of with laughing children.

It is hard to accept that we are living in times when the so-called educated creme of the world is so blinded by prejudice and gigantic egos that it fails to see how it has reached the deepest pit of humanity as it shamelessly engages in ethnic cleansing. In a world where ethnic cleansing is still a word, all else flies out of the window.

Dr. Arfa Masihuddin

grave-of-fireflies

This was a tale older than the ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harrapa…

A young boy and his sister lay huddled together under the banana tree, seeking refuge from the hard balls of rain that were soaking Mother Earth with blood that could be called innocent. The sickly smell of ammunition was the sad, new petrichor, and the bitter sound of those man-made birds and the heartbreaking shrieks of grief and agony were the new pitter patter of the rain.

The young boy closed his eyes, hugging his sister: his bandaged mother lay helplessly on the cane stretcher. No, not helplessly; she was dead and death had the power to unchain you from the paralysis of feelings and emotions. Wrapped up in strips of white bandage that were meant to heal the burns on her gentle body, now only her eyes were visible; it was as if even in death, she was…

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I’m looking for woodpeckers in this city

3:59 AM | 17 May 2021

The pause before the “yes”; the fifty-ninth minute; the last drop of sweat before the cool burst of air; the sad song that no one else listens to; the ticking away of time in your favorite wrist-watch . And I’m looking for woodpeckers in this city.

Buildings can be bulldozed and sandcastles blown over. But to bring down the little house of dreams that you had built with so much faith and so much love, you need a woodpecker. A woodpecker will peck at it again and again, slowly tuning it’s own rhythm, picking up a pace best for those dreams to gnaw away at. Tuck-tuck-tuck. It’s a really tragic sight. Like going back in time after your soul has deserted the body to watch how it did. You marvel at how you were and the number of seconds it took for the story to change. And if one lifetime will ever be enough to wash away the remains of the pretty little things in your heart.

So only woodpeckers can do this sad task because no one else has the beautiful patience to go on pecking on those hearts despite the tears and the hiccups. And they are still pecking away…

Image: Google

“And it is He who makes you laugh and He who makes you weep”.

Everything around us is mourning – the sun with its terrifying scorch, the sky with its humid tears, the lonely Ramazan that buried innocent Muslim souls in Palestine, the soil that is continuing to home victims of this pandemic. And amongst this all, are those heavy souls scared to grieve the unseen.

In the horrific frenzy that the world is currently in, is it selfish to mourn what is not trending on Twitter? I don’t know. I hope not, at least. Our hearts are our hearts, after all. They recognize pain. They know the footsteps of sadness and the sad songs of helplessness. So how can pain – any pain – go unnoticed? The pain of the estranged motiya*, of Hope losing its way, of faces waiting to smile, of souls crushed by the flimsy show of the world, of unconditionally conditional love, and of beautiful patience. They deserve to be seen, too.

“Waannahu huwa adhaka waabka”.
“And it is He who makes you laugh and He who makes you weep”. [Quran. 53:43]

*jasmine flowers

what voice?

8:16 PM | 10 MAY 2021

It takes almost fifty years of greying your hair under the scorching heat of life to have the sort of experience that allows you to keep rediscovering your “inner voice”. I am not there, yet, but I am hanging in there.

This “inner voice” – a tad bit too cliché even for our times – has always been writing for me. These past few days, I have found myself lost in a haze of emotions but what I missed most of all was closing my eyes, breathing in my air, and talking to the tired beat of my heart. With a loyal cup of steaming chai with a pinch of coffee to wake me up so I can introduce the two realities to each other – the forced reality of the materialistic world that throws away my favorite poetry book, selfishly, and the reality of my faith and strength that meets hatred with kindness and hope. So I have missed – and am missing – a conversation with my stars. But I do not want to so I shall try again. I shall ask the crossword puzzle within me to detangle and blow away so I can use those letters to write for myself, and for you, dear readers. Because it is the undeniable truth: I thought I wrote for myself but I write for you, too.

So we shall breathe again into the sandy, hot airs of Karachi and share the musings of our hearts and look for God in dark alleys and stingy prisons.

May your heart be granted peace.

The Twenty-fifth Hour

The Ziauddin University Atlas Blog

BY: ARFA MASIHUDDIN, M.B.B.S., BATCH XX

Smiling on the wall sits the ancient clock,
Chiming away – tick, tock, tick, tock –
The day attends to your curiosity
And the night courts your dreams
And between the hours on the clock
walk our insensibilities.
The Hand of the Seconds laughs at you,
And my mind spins a tale that is beyond
The imagination of the elves
And my heart beckons to the minutes
To explain the happening miracle,
And as we slide away on the island of existence,
Our gaze looks afar, into the infinite,
Towards the twenty-fifth hour.

About the Author:  Robbins for breakfast, Rumi for lunch, ArfaMasihuddin.WordPress.com for dinner.

WhatsApp Image 2017-07-02 at 14.54.51Dali’s Persistence of Memory. SOURCE: GOOGLE.

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Broken dreams do not define you. Dreaming again does.

11:35 AM | 19 March 2021

There are times you take the plunge in the deep blue sea and not know if you can swim, if you can breathe. You just want to do it; disappear and not worry about what happens next. Also like sending a text and then switching off your phone because you are scared of anger.

You tirelessly trained for a race you didn’t win but you had always dreamt of. The celebration party invites were sent out. You even knew what you would say to the guests at the end of the night. But if only things happened when and how we wanted them to, life wouldn’t be life. Just like you wouldn’t be you for getting up and finding peace in His words.

Running away from familiarity is never an option, is it? The familiarity of the air that has seen you sad and grieving, the familiarity of the air that has dried your tears, the familiarity of the air that knows how terrible you feel when there is a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Even the familiarity of disappointments and loss; a job, a friend, a dream. And, of course, the familiarity of getting up and smiling with gratitude. They call it resilience, by the way. But sometimes you just want to run away from it, shut all doors, and forget the wariness tearing down your soul.

And the realization of how a single minute – or click – can decide the course of your life hits you again and again – in the middle of brushing your teeth, when you lie down to court sleep at the end of another unnecessarily long day, at the beep of another notification. It’s grief, isn’t it? Making you nauseous and too weak to stand; a splitting headache in the middle of a perfectly okay-ish day; a tachycardiac heart that silences the saddest thoughts your heart can hold; the sense of watching your world crash around you. And the ups and downs, the highs and lows of feeling all of what you have no control over. Being you despite being you. And hoping to wake up to realize that this was all just a bad, bad dream. Yeah, I know.

But you know what?

Broken dreams do not define you. Dreaming again does.

It’s time to watch the glowworms, and the fireflies, and the stars, and duas* suspended in mid-air. They’ll get there, okay?

*duas: prayers

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
Source: Google

They say that miracles were for the prophets only and hope is a fairy-tale like love.

They say that miracles were for the prophets only and hope is a fairy-tale like love. I have not lived long enough to testify to that, but I have held a heart in between my hands for a lifetime. The many seasons of autumn that I have shivered through have had me believing in the very same miracles. Our hearts only beat when they hear “home”. And home is more than the bricks and walls where we grew up.

I talk about miracles because in the middle of this uncertainty, I seem to have stumbled upon a sense of peace that I am unaccustomed to. It reminds me of my childhood when summer vacations were looked forward to because we knew there were long days of ice-cream and cartoons ahead.
We just could not get enough of it and there was always happy laughter dancing around us.

My clock is telling the same time now.

And you are reading this. You always will.

How can I not believe in miracles then?

Photo credits: Che Guevara, the âme soeur

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