the little secrets of life

7:20 PM | 1 August 2019

Five years ago when I started medical school, I had expected to learn the truth about human life – how we breathe, how we eat, how we sleep. Literally. But what I have stumbled across is far, far greater than that. I’ve learnt how we feel, why we feel. The little secrets of life, you know? Yeah. And how a dua – a heartfelt prayer – works.

We sit on the prayer mat and raise our hands in supplication and cry our hearts out, our foreheads kissing the ground, our souls trembling. We utter our hearts’ deepest, darkest desires. Then we get up from the prayer mat and we expect heaven to have been laid right before us, right away! Not so fast, people! Not so fast!

It’s a process. Slow and steady, usually. Also awe-inspiringly quick, sometimes. A fetus takes nine months to grow into the baby that the mother gives birth to after a tiring labour. I’ve seen duas being answered like that. I see it now, too. I see the ease in the difficulty. “For indeed, with hardship will be ease.” (Surah Ash-Sharh [94])
It’s amazing how I can even see it. Another one of those hugs from God, you know? Pour in a little love, a faith that loves to play hide-n-seek, also throw in an ounce of fear – “what if my prayer isn’t answered?” – and lots and lots and lots of patience: that is your dua. And then the magic begins to show itself; a  few trips here and there, maybe a disaster or two, a couple of heartbreaks and a huge river of tears later..it happens! At the perfect timing, in the perfect way. Perfect here is synonymous to His will, okay?

And so it’s happening! It’s happening and I am in happy awe of how beautifully He is managing the universe! The little ants who get their sustenance; the chirpy birds; the poor cobbler at the end of the lane. Me. You. Us.

We all have such a beautiful relationship with God. He has little secrets with everyone, all of us. That’s so incredibly fascinating, is it not? How He brings ease into my life will be very different from how He sends a hug your way. But the interesting bit is that we all see it. Not always. Just sometimes. And in those “some” times, lies the secret to all of our time on this little planet.

Everything wonderful is on the way. Yeah? Yeah.

 

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The little hugs from God are not a figment, never were, never will be

11:55 PM | 26 February 2019

Lying next to the telescope, you look far away to see little specks of melancholy flying away from you. Like dark clouds up in the sky. Up and up and up. You feel a little scared. “Will it come back?” No, you can’t risk it at all, you decide.

“Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” (Al-Inshirah 94:5-6)

How does it feel? You really want to know.

Okay.

So after a dry lecture that dragged on for hours, you can’t not head to the cafeteria for a cup of some steaming elaichi chai. But the waiter takes too long because it’s a busy day, after all. It’s taking too long. Too long. You’re getting impatient and angry and you know that you’ll tear up any moment now or break a glass or two. And just as you’re about to give up, get up and leave, it arrives: nice and warm, the strong flavour of the *elaichi waking you up, sweet enough to make you smile. Exactly what you needed, what you wanted. And guess what? Within the first few sips, you’re smiling and laughing and clapping your annoying best friend’s back and cracking lame jokes that make your friends laugh at you but you don’t mind because the sky seems bluer and the wind seems happier and the sun is in a good mood and the birds are also teasing you and your heart is like, “Woohooooooooo!”

That’s kind of what happened. And that’s what happens with all of us.
The little hugs from God are not a figment, never were, never will be.

Yayyy!

 

*Cardomon (a type of Indian spice)

My eyes are shut and I’m happily enjoying the Love. Come, join me!

10:14 PM | 19 February 2019

If you have an interest in gardening, you’ll know that for a flower to bloom, it may take days and days of loving care and attention, and a little of some faith in the power of miracles. So you patiently water that plant, look at it with adoration, and you talk to it, hoping that your words reach your little buddy’s heart and it finds all the will and strength that it needs to bloom out and bathe in the sun.

Other times, you pack a few homemade sandwiches and drive to the beach so you can watch the sunset perched on the rocky walls that have seated all of Karachi’s lovers and thieves, the dervish and the faqeers, the lost and the seeking. The small hand of your beloved watch moves forward, slowly, and you watch the sun go down, bit by bit, rising elsewhere. You sit there and look around at the children running along the shore, asking their fathers to buy them the colourful balloons. You live in every moment, aware of how deep your breaths are and how the slow tug at your heart never seems to go away.

And then suddenly, all of that is gone – the unease, the dull ache. There’s a little jump to your heart’s rhythm – sometimes here, sometimes there – and when you look in the mirror, there’s a new smile! Where did that come from?

And in between trying to believe that this is real – very real – you find yourself thinking of Him again and again and again. You had set out to find Him, and He sent down angels to greet you; that’s what happened! You tied yourself around the ancient pillar of Tawakkal * (because that is the only option) and you went in a sujood** of gratitude, and it worked; magic dust is real and God is very much around.

My eyes are shut and I’m happily enjoying the Love. Come, join me!

**perfect trust in God and reliance on Him alone
** prostration

 

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Super Highway

a burst of hearty laughter in the cardiologist’s clinic

| 23 January 2019, NICVD |

So they were a cute, elderly couple.

“Doctor Sahab jab se aap ne inko yeh dil ko machine lagaee hai, yeh kuch ziyada hi bolnay lagay hain!”
(Doctor, ever since he’s had this pacemaker, he’s become very talkative!)

“Woh isliye kyunke inki quality of life behter ho gaee hai!”
(That’s because his quality of life has improved!)

“Haan lekin yeh bohat bolnay lagay hain! Har waqt mazaaq kartay rehtay hain, chahay dost houn yaa rishtaydaar!”
(Yes but he’s really become very talkative! He’s joking around all the time with friends and family!)

“Tou acchi baat hai naa!”
(So that’s good!)

“Meray liye tou mushkil ho gaee hai, Doctor Sahab! Bus yeh chaahtay hain k myn saara waqt inkay paas hi bethi rahoun, inse baatyn karti rahoun! Bus har waqt inko hassi mazaaq chahiye! Mjhe tou dar hai k kahin abb maid se bhi mazaaq naa shuroo kar dyn yeh!”
(But its annoying for me, Doctor! He just wants me to sit with him and talk to him all the time! I’m afraid he’ll start chatting and get friendly with our female house-help even!)

And the well-furnished cardiologist’s clinic roared with a burst of hearty laughter that reminded us – future healthcare professionals – that health truly is wealth; that a happy, satisfied patient is the best reward for the years of hard work, and that this is exactly why advancements in science and medicine were a tribute to humanity.

 

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A letter for her (XVII) – we’re… good

3:01 PM | 25 January 2019

So imagine this: a little boy in middle school is in a bad mood. He woke up late. He spilt milk on his uniform as he tried to gulp it down in time to climb the honking school bus outside. Whoosh! He misses the bus, of course! Quickly changing into a fresh uniform, he is rushed to the school by his cranky dad who is also getting late for work. As you can guess, this kid is late and punished by the teacher. He’s made to stand outside the classroom. He can see his friends giggling inside. He knows they’ll make fun of him during recess.

He is suddenly angry. This isn’t fair. The world is cruel.

He rushes outside the corridor. He starts running. He runs fast towards the playground. He’s running and he’s furious and his little mind doesn’t know of any other way, yet, to take out this anger. And he keeps running.

Bang!

He crashes into his P. E. teacher – his favourite teacher – and spills the sport’s day balloons that he’s carrying all over!

“Oops…..hahahahahahah!”

Who wouldn’t laugh at the sight of a small kid and a grown-up lying on the floor, astounded, balloons of all colours flying over their heads?

So life’s like that, too. I’ve been running and running and running – sometimes away from the monsters and sometimes towards them – and in all this confusion, I forgot to laugh. Until today. And now I wish to bottle up this feeling forever. I laughed and smiled and it doesn’t matter how hard the road ahead seems to be; it doesn’t matter that unconventional, difficult decisions lie ahead; it doesn’t matter that things are probably not going to go my way – it doesn’t matter because that’s natural and I’m still here – waking up to the cuckoo’s song each day – and a smile and gratitude, and a heartfelt prayer, and a crazy desire for some crazy fun and a happy longing to be happy is all that matters. Spreading smiles is all that matters.

Do you know who taught me that today? Dr H. F. at N.I.C.V.D.
And I’m beginning to think that the magic dua I made before starting this rotation worked! It’s not that bad; it’s turning out to be nice and fun, and that patient who loved Mirinda reminded me of you, and we’re learning, and Z & I have been giggling away like teenagers, and even the library is nice, and we’re… good. So far. It’s going to stay that way, isn’t it?

Please.

Miss you all the time.

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Eternities have so quickly slowed down

“Eternities have so quickly slowed down”.
– The Veiled Suite, Agha Shahid Ali

Some moments suddenly – willingly – imprison themselves within the heartbeats we call happiness.

Sometimes, love and happiness find their way into our hearts through the warmth of contentment. And one such warm December morning gave me just that. I felt a contentment that I haven’t in a long, long time as I sat at the kitchen counter in my dearest friend’s house and took in the love in the air as my beautiful girls cooked and sang for me, laughed with me, and we waltzed together through the summer of youth. There’s nothing like the love that fills your heart as you sit on an old family table with friends who have become family, and pour your heart out, the aroma of freshly brewed tea and the softness of a delicious homemade breakfast of cheese omelettes, Nutella sandwich rolls, creamy spinach pasta, the good ol’ halwa puri, and the most perfect chocolate cake in the world.

And so those sudden moments that have willingly surrendered to the heartbeats we call happiness, become eternities. Lovely eternities.

City lights? Fairy lights.

Summer poems, winter ghazals. Sunny mornings, whispering nights.
But what does one really want? Thudding along the velocity of life, here and there. Pretending, always pretending.

It’s hilarious – and even incredible – how these glistening city lights protectively hide the hurt, the anger, the remorse (or lack of), the bitterness, the hopelessness, and all things lonely. Like a loving mother, hiding her child in her heart, saving – trying to save. It’s like standing across the table, watching a stranger cut their birthday cake as their friends and family clap and sing gaily, ‘Happy birthday to you!’ And you only smile to yourself and sigh with the wisdom of one who has lived a hundred years of solitude.

These remind me of a half-forgotten midsummer night’s dream; a quite little house by the sea, under the blue sky. Much like that nostalgic pretty house from Black Mirror’s San Junipero.

Sailors from the sky, stars from the sea, walking with us on the sandy carpet, listening to the peace of a country life, dancing to the happy carols, being the happiest you can be.

City lights? Fairy lights.

Yeah?

Hmmm…yeah!

 

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Photo credits: Momina Qadri