Walking Thoughts

So what’s this Walking Thoughts business?

Well one fine September morning as I struggled to get out of the comfort that the privilege of laziness grants us young people, I found a small voice inside me.

“What?” I persisted.

“Get up and be something!”

“But I’m already becoming a doctor!”

“We know how that’s going… ”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Walking Thoughts!”

“What is that?”

“Walking Thoughts is your new venture. You will share this blessing – this love for words and stories – with those whose hearts beat to tell their stories. You will try the best that you can to help those who wish to excel in their personal and professional lives but are held back by something as trivial (or is it?) as a language barrier. Life is so complicated (more than you are, hun!) and as incompetent as you are, make it a little easier for those around you. Especially the stay-at-home moms and women entrepreneurs who really must break barriers!”

“Okayyy?”

“So you will now conduct online classes at an easy deal. Share your experience and knowledge. Basically, it’s time for you to listen to your heart.”

So that’s that. I mean if you have a life-changing morning like that, how can you not let your thoughts walk? Right?

The weather is lovely out here. Want to join me for a stroll?

Yes? Then hop along!

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Thank you for the perfect logo, Saba Saeed!

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A letter for her (XII) – faith-testing-happiness

Life is catching up – like an old, Victorian train steaming away from one station to the next – and the days gone by seeming like a nightmare. But I miss those days. The fear of losing someone very precious, the inevitability of it – that’s a blessing in itself, too. To know that you had a bond so lovely, that you had a love so tender that living without it seems like a punishment, is a gift in itself. Do you think I’m getting that gift back?

The calendar reminds me of the days gone by and those yet to come. And as the days flip over, I realize – smile by smile – that the pain made me feel Loved.

This bright Saturday evening, my fear of embracing the happiness blew up. A little bird of mercy reminded me of a crazy prayer made last season: faith-testing-happiness.
And the jasmine flowers are beginning to blossom again.

You know K sent me this picture some time back? A chiseled, long staircase with sky-high roofs, echoing of a God loved only when the waves are tossing the ship off.

I miss you terribly today, Nani Jaan. Today, every day. I will miss you when the 7 AM call will not come.

“And which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?”

 

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A letter for her (XI) – wearing the cloak that is supposed to be mine, that they think is mine.

The heart is thumping really loudly now, protesting. Yes, protesting. It’s hammering on the breath that is holding it together, wanting to break free, to smash this thin glass, to tear apart this fragile veil of unexplained fears and all these emotions.

They – whoever they are – unapologetically say that time heals all wounds. They say that you learn to live with the grief.

No. And you know that!

It becomes our shadow and we can never run away from that. Even the sun kindly moves over a little so that our shadow and our soul can walk together, hand in hand. Grief and loss – like an inexperienced thief – do not completely rob you. You’re left to choose between wanting to cry over the loss of something very precious and rejoicing over that which you still have.
It’s a surprise – like the unexpected chilly December wind that suddenly sees you wrapping your shawl around your shivering shoulders on a bright, sunny day – that will spring at you when you are in the middle of enjoying the sound of your own laugh, hearing it, perhaps, for the very first time. It’s very much that sticky note plastered on the door of your room, glaring at you as you deliberately turn away to pick up the laundry from the floor because after all, there’s stuff more important than grieving.

Why does it have to be that way? How did you grieve so many all at once, for so long, Nani Jaan?

There’s an emptiness digging away at my soul, leaving it heavier, throwing out everything.
The words linger at my lips, I can not let them escape. What good shall it reap?

I know, now, how it feels to hide your heart. I know. Because everyone is here, and yet, there is no one.

The silence that now speaks to me instead of you has been showing me memories of your sweet lullabies. “God bless you! May He bless you more and more!”
These memories eclipse the uncertainties and the fears, and I’m learning to walk on the deck, unafraid, with a heart that will be kind, kind, and kind; wearing the cloak that is supposed to be mine, that they think is mine.

Wait for me.
I don’t want to left behind.

Love,

Your best friend.

 

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Economising as a young doctor

This post first appeared on SehatKahani.com.

You meet a young man or woman preparing for their medical college admission test and you exclaim – with indulgence – “Aah! You want to save human lives!” Yes, they do! But they also wish to save their own – and the lives of their families – by bringing enough bread and butter home.

A lot of young, disheartened doctors are seen struggling to make ends meet. While there is no denying that the state ought to pass a legislation to set the bare minimum pay of a house officer in accordance with the graph of the economy – keeping in mind the difficult work conditions that they have to face, especially in the public sector – a little smart thinking and an ounce of discipline at our end can also help in surprising ways.

If you do not look at the experience of your elders with a wise eye seeking counsel, you will have made the biggest mistake of your life; that’s what I heard growing up. So why not ask the doctor herself on how to live a life of financial security?

“By modifying our lifestyles, we can easily save up! We need to curb those irrational impulses. I do not have to go to that Khaadi sale every time I pass their outlet. Dining out every week when I can eat simply at home also seems an extravagance that I can do without,” says Dr Sameeha Aleem, a clinical psychiatrist and a mom of two.

“Would it matter in the long run what brand we wore or how fashionable we were? Money spent on experiences like watching a movie or going for a walk along the beach makes one more happy than spending money on fast food frequently or buying the makeup that I don’t even have time to put on,” she shares.

So what’s the real deal?

“Pay yourself first! Google suggests setting aside ten per cent of your monthly salary regardless of your income. So if your salary is Rs 30000, set away Rs 3000 as soon as you receive your pay. You may put the money in a monthly committee and when you receive your share from the committee, you can buy a gold biscuit worth Rs 54000. You may sell it later when the price rises. Alternatively, you can book a small property by beginning with a down payment of one to two lakh and later pay monthly instalments. It is especially very important for the empowerment of our girls. You can also buy foreign currency with just Rs 10000 and get it cashed when the value rises. We as doctors need to save for our retirement right from the nascent stages of our career – look ahead into the future while being grounded in the present.

Most importantly, live on a budget. Calculate where you spend the money. That way you can cut down on many expenses. For instance, my credit card was the major culprit – unnecessary shopping from sales was eating up my savings.
Set goals. I haven’t shopped for clothes in the last year, utilising and redesigning the old ones because I wanted to save for a trip.”

So a little discipline and a little more determination can get you to economise in ways that you will not resent. You will, instead, thank your younger self as you reap the fruits during a rainy day, or simply when it’s time to pamper yourself.

Hopefully, our generation of young doctors will begin to enjoy cosy chats over homecooked Chinese as a weekend speciality and discover that a simple old wristwatch tells the same time as the latest one that bores a hole in their pockets.
Did I hear an ‘amen’ to that?

haiku

simple pleasures

Last night was a little milestone in my sunset life – I call it that because the different shades of orange are just beginning to set in – and it was just a simple moment of peace as I pulled myself out of the cave that I am completely terrified of.

This ice-cream parlour, set in the depths of Hyderi, is where my mom and her siblings would come during the carefree days of their young adulthood, packed in cars brimming with love and friendly banter that they were to lovingly hug years from now. So after a warm home-cooked meal, we, too, decided to visit the place that held gorgeous memories for them. And we weren’t disappointed! The creamy Peshawari ice-cream just melts on your tongue, reminding you that the simple pleasures are all about cosy car rides with soft music, and cousin chatter, and the sound of your own laugh heard after a long, long time.

So the flavour of their favourite ice-cream is still the same, says my Mamu. “We aren’t!” he has smiled nostalgically. I wonder how many years it will be before we find ourselves saying the same.

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Mental wellbeing – “Baby Blues”

This post first appeared on SehatKahani.com.

In our part of the world, the birth of a baby is taken as another opportunity to celebrate – and rightly so – as the happy family distributes tons of greasy mithai, and well-meaning relatives shower the new mother – for, with the birth of every baby, a new mother is also born –with unsolicited remarks that revolve around the few extra kilos that she may have put on or even her receding hairline. And that is just another little push towards what it is known as postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is an alien concept in our part of the world. Imagining that a mother may be having uncomfortable thoughts or periods of extreme unhappiness is unheard of; after all, all women give birth and raise kids – what is there to be sad about?
The physiological – the normal – changes that a female body undergoes during pregnancy are managed by her hormones. Be it the weight gain or a rise in her blood sugar levels, or her frequent mood changes, everything is controlled by the hormones nourishing the new life within her. As the body undergoes these changes and adjusts to the sudden absence of the foreign body that it had been nourishing for almost nine months, the mental health of the mother may suffer a blow and manifest as what is commonly known as ‘baby blues’.
The new mother may cry at the drop of a hat, feeling better only after a good cry. From pure adoration, she may start having thoughts like, ‘What if this baby dies?’ – enough to cause a panic attack coupled with shame, guilt, and confusion at simply having these thoughts. From struggling with body image issues to secretly wishing for the life that she had before the baby came, it can be a distressing journey. What makes it worse is the sheer lack of empathy from family, friends, and even the husband.
The question is – how should postpartum depression be managed before it can take a serious turn towards deteriorating mental health possibly leading to self-harm.
• For the obstetrician – counsel the parents regarding the possibility of postpartum depression, emphasising the fact that with psychosocial support, the depression can be managed effectively.
• For the husband and family members – understand that this a period of prime importance for both the mother and the baby, and without adequate support, patience, and empathy, both can suffer. Offer help in the form of shared responsibilities and housework, allowing the mother to rest and rejuvenate.
• For the mother – talk, reach out, seek support. Talk about how you are feeling. Maintain a journal if you must. Confide in a close friend. Try your best to steal a few minutes of peace for yourself – be it meditating, a power nap, or just reading an online article.
• For the society – countless of women have silently suffered in the past. A little kindness and empathy never hurt anyone.

“I know what you are fighting. I am, too.”

Some places are not meant to be visited more than once. Like that corner in your heart that is only inhabited by the ghost of desires long dead. Or that tiny lane which you avoid because you don’t trust yourself anymore. Or the dust-laden path that ends at sorrowful sighs and a silence just kept.

Silence comes in all shapes and sizes. Companionable, distrustful, regretful. The worst kind – as my feeble heart has decided – is the one that chooses to not complain or fight or kill someone with a baseball bat. Those are bad. Real bad.

There’s some fog behind and there’s some fog ahead. It’s a very narrow path and it’s leading somewhere. Somewhere. Tucked away between the beginning and the end, it gets dusky as ignorant human figures sway with the gush of time. Time, time, time.

“I know what you are fighting. I am, too.”

Photo: Saba Saeed