We’ll get better. Like old wine.

2 October 2019

Throw together a few words with a full stop as the only bridge between them, and the reader is still able to understand what they’re being told. For example, “Happiness. Grief. Love. Hatred. Repentance. Fear.” You know that these are feelings. You recognise them.

In this picture, four of the people I’ve willingly – and lovingly – chosen as my family sit together like those words. Each one unique, and yet, still connected. Somehow.

It was a gorgeous Wednesday. The afternoon sun glistened fiercely over warm smiles. A lot of young laughter and some grateful sunny faces sang away to memories as dreams and ambitions peeked out from the window of a cosy apartment by the sea.
The salt in the air. The sea out there.
When the sea and the sun meet, their orange is the colour of what you see when five girls count five years as they grow into their womanhood, together. It’s such a lovely shade because it’s not a mere figment of our imagination; it’s real and it’s tangible. We can feel it in the protective way we guard each other – physically, mentally, emotionally – and the honest loyalty that has our back always. We can feel it in the way we find our way back to each other after foggy evenings, in the peace we find in a mehfil of Gluco and Zeera biscuits and Chocolato dipped in warm cups of tea followed by one samosa after another. We can feel it in the way the air brushes our hair as we drive across the city to a playlist as unpredictable as it’s weather. We can feel it in the promises of not letting time and life and responsibilities get in the way of these five years.

We’ll get better. Like old wine.

 

Advertisements

It’s another September

11:10 AM | 21 September 2019

The heatwave has struck again. As I walk through the corridor of the third floor of the Ziauddin hospital – a reluctant home for these past ten months – towards the cardiac ward, I find myself rather liking this intense change in weather. The hot air sublime on my face – nostalgic, familiar – and the days melting into each other. It reminds me of the hot summer evenings of 2013 spent waiting for the Chemistry class to end so I could head home. The chorus of friends, the pile of unsolved past papers,  biryani packed in plastic boxes and shared with Hira as we sat on the narrow staircase; dumb charades the background to all our college days.

The air that hit my face today is the same. It, too, has travelled through time; aged with experiences, lapped over the helm of lazy ambition, and swimming towards another autumn of dry winds, hazelnut coffee, and exciting new days.

It’s another September. It’s another end. It’s also another beginning.

 

end.jpeg

 

We have no other choice, really. Hope, it is.

10 August 2019

When we started our paediatric rotation for our final year, I was expecting to learn a lot. But things never go as planned, do they? An unexpected incident gave me the red light and I lost my pace.
The Ziauddin alumni would know what a darling the Paeds department is so that didn’t help either.

I may not have learned as much about little kids and their ailments – but I’ll get there because I want to – but I was certainly tutored in how to battle anxiety and stress and not fret over that which is beyond our control. Fretting over the scary end-of-rotation test and a gargantuan syllabus was not going to help. Neither was worrying over a future that could potentially steal the golden hours of my present. Being happy, staying happy, is a choice; I was beginning to unveil the curtains looming over my subconscious.

So like the generous August downpour greeting our dusty Karachi, I began to feel a certain level of generosity towards the concept of mindfulness and Tawakkal (unshakeable, unconditional faith in God). Let’s just say that I decided to be eternally hopeful.

The rising sun, the eclipsing seasons, each new heartbeat, each new step forward, each new advancement made to better humanity, every little baby being named something sweet – all of this is a reminder that nothing lasts forever. Not joy, not sorrows. So we must go on having hope, we must go on having faith that everything will be fine.
Yeah. Everything will be fine.

We have no other choice, really. Hope, it is.

It’s a strange place to be in as the hands of our clocks slowly tick by. There’s a whole new life lying ahead of us and there are important decisions to be taken. Like any other final-year medical student, I, too, am tired. There’s a lot on my plate and I just keep getting a bigger plate; maybe the exhaustion is waving at you from my words, maybe not. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and just enjoy the light drizzling, the melodies of summers gone by, the excitement of a promising future, and a life of purpose, and laughter, and love.

Paediatrics, thank you for teaching me that, at least! It’s all peaceful now, finally. Thank God!

 

Paed.jpeg
Photo: Maham Noor Darabu

 

There are six weeks left until five years of this journey comes to an end.

10 June 2019

The man looked really, really, really angry. Clad in a plain white shalwar kurta, he held a slip of paper in his hand, waving it around frantically. We had just reached the orthopaedic OPD – a good sixty minutes late because we knew the consultant was never punctual – and were prepared to wait for another hour till the clinic would begin.

“I will report you in the media! What nonsense is this! I’ve been waiting for an hour for this doctor to show up! Why have you written the time 2 PM here when he comes late? Is our time not valuable?? You charge us an exorbitant fee and make us wait for hours at an end! This is ridiculous! I will make a video and circulate this on social media! ”

We quietly crept back into the clinic. Crept back, yeah. Because we knew that man was right. We knew how valuable his time was. Maybe he had taken a leave from his workplace to especially bring his patient here. Maybe he had travelled a great distance to get to this hospital. But maybe none of that was true and he was just tired of waiting. Because time is valuable. Whether it’s his or ours or the very respectable doctors’.

There are six weeks left until five years of this journey comes to an end. I’m not very sure about how I feel. Ecstatic? Relieved? Accomplished? Scared? Apprehensive? Anxious? Maybe a little bit of all or simply none of these. But my heart is only beating to one realization – as we walk on this thin rope of life, we owe every human being we meet the sincerest form of dignity, respect, compassion, and kindness.

Just six weeks left. I will keep praying that all of us – every single person I’ve shared that lecture hall with – graduates with a kind, kind, kind heart. Amen.

 

ortho

the Madni phase after the trials of Mecca

1 PM | 5 August 2019

When you’re standing in front of the freezing burst of the air conditioner, shivering a little uncomfortably – but not enough to be noticed – all you can think of is how to turn that damned machine off. A few seconds of good luck that reappear after every minute or so, strikes and the direction of that freezing blast of air moves away from you, leaving you in that very welcome warmth of comfort. It makes you very much comfortable. You may even sigh with relief. And then the cold air comes again.

Unfortunate incidents and bumps in the road are like that; they last for a few days before there’s the warmth of happiness again. Then something else happens to give you another sleepless night before there’s a smile of gratitude. So just like the cold air booming out of the air conditioner, happiness and peace also play hide-and-seek with us.

But what I’d like us to remember is the very comfortable warmth of Love that hugs us. The sunrise after a dark, stormy night of thunderstorms. The laugh mixed with tears. Like a dear friend said, the Madni phase after the trials of Mecca.

 

Tooba.jpeg
Artwork: Tooba Masihuddin

 

I often wonder how a dua makes its way up above the seventh sky

9:03 AM | 5 August 2019

I often wonder how a *dua makes its way up above the seventh sky; a little fluffy ball weighing our hopes, desires, fears, and happiness.

There’s probably more than one layer of ozone that it needs to fly beyond.
There’s the hurt resting heavy on people’s hearts, slowing down our duas. Then there are our own follies – mistakes big and small – and disobedience (do we ever really listen to what He so lovingly says?) that slow them down. There’s fear – and it’s the deadliest of all – that hunts down our duas like vultures prying over a dead animal; fear of our duas going into that empty space, the black hole of the universe.

So, you see. Our duas ascend upwards – it’s a video game! – and there’s fear and unashamed sins, and the sad, broken sighs of humans who may be once-upon-a-times; all attacking our duas from left, right, centre, up and down. The dua gets scared. Who is there to protect it? But there is, isn’t it? Repentance and Tawakkal. So from down here, our hearts launch a missile of both, powering the impossible. Up and up and up. Something just like this. And if it’s powerful enough – a couple of megavolts, maybe – the dua shoots up; beyond the stars and stardust and the misty clouds and the seven skies straight up to fall down and prostrate by His throne. And with the grace that is only His, He picks it up, ever so lightly.

And that is how we have little secrets with God. Beautiful secrets. Life-changing secrets.

 

*prayer

 

dua.jpg
Photo: Saba Saeed

there is no such thing as “things falling apart”

1:18 PM | 4 August 2019

A few minutes ago as I was tidying up my closet, a delightful thought arrived (just like how epiphanies do – amidst the chaos of our daily chores) and my heart smiled. I could picture the twinkling stars in the dark sky covering up the fairy lights set up gaily by humans like ourselves, to lighten up a simple dinner on a hot and humid day.

As I carefully hung one shirt after another onto the white hangers, I wanted to clap and laugh and laugh at myself for not realising earlier that the secret to being happy – eternally happy – was in accepting that with His praise and with gratitude on our tongues, nothing could ever go wrong; there is no such thing as “things falling apart” or “everything that can go wrong in the universe is going wrong” – it is all a part of His plan, His will, His way of rearranging and realigning things to make everything perfect for us. But what’s the key to this hidden treasure? Constant dhikr, remembering our Allah at all times – our tongues moving to sing His praise; our hands removing a thorn from the road; our legs moving to save a patient; invoking in ourselves a gentle consciousness of our actions that doesn’t hurt another soul; thoughtful gestures that rescue another one in need; through kind acceptance of another human being’s uniqueness; by not lying, by not cheating; by fulfilling the rights of our near and dear ones; by killing the deadly nafs that seeks acceptance from this world; by being forgiving; by elevating our souls and becoming better versions of ourselves.

Yep. It is all a part of His plan, His will, His way of rearranging and realigning things to make everything perfect for us. And what is perfect? Extraordinarily different and unique for us all, just like our fingerprints.

So what I’ve learnt in a little more than two decades is that the real joy is in finding happiness and peace and contentment when things don’t go our way.
Otherwise, what’s so special about this life, about us?

 

Artwork: Tooba Masihuddin