This post first appeared on The Ziauddin University Atlas.
Come fourth year and you find yourself driving to the Keemari campus every day. The famous Netty Jetty bridge will present to you an interesting sight – men and women standing at its perimeter, looking down wistfully, all their worries jumping into the dirty waters below. The oil tankers zoom past you like elephants in a jungle. And when you finally enter the neighbourhood of the Ziauddin hospital, you look at the common man sitting leisurely at the dhaba, dipping the greasy parathas into his steaming doodh patti, fretting over the national state of affairs and the ever-increasing inflation that feeds him the plain old daal most days except Sundays. I wonder what his story is. How many family members does he have? What does he do? Does he ever wonder why the sun lends it’s light to the moon?
So you drive ahead and you don’t stop because you are a busy medical student and you don’t have time to think about other people in ways that will make you think about yourself because you only have to – no, need to – remember the differentials for the common diseases and a few random but important facts (IM injection and NSAIDs are contraindicated in dengue patients). So you drive ahead.
Enter Ziauddin. The courtyard can give you a decent picture with it’s cream-coloured benches decorated with brittle, orange leaves that have fallen from the trees above (like dreams falling down, never to be dreamt again), and men bringing bottles of water and packets of biscuits to their women who wipe off the sweat from the foreheads of their kids with their bright, cotton dupattas. The air has the salt of the sea, and the nostalgia of the students for the shiny Clifton campus, and the generosity of helpful, charitable hearts.
So if you travel to this part of Ziauddin, look around at all the living, breathing novels walking around you. Strain your ears to listen to their stories. See the simple stitches that hold the folds of their lives together. Feel the old soul resting within the hospital’s germ-infested walls. Sit in the courtyard and think why you’re here. Drop a kind word there.
See the mud for what it really is.
Maybe you, too, will think of it as Hemingway’s Keemari then.