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.

 

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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.

 

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Artwork: Tooba Masihuddin

 

ConnectHear

Scrolling through my newsfeed, a cup of chai steaming in my hand, I came across this Facebook post that read ‘Pakistani Sign Language Classes!” Needless to say, I was impressed. Who wouldn’t be?

ConnectHear is a platform to connect the deaf and mute community with the society using in-person interpretation, video call interpretation, and an audio to sign language software. Their Facebook page aims to build a community for the deaf and mute people to share their stories, express their concerns and contact us in times of need. This page will also serve the purpose of teaching common sign language phrases and will help create awareness about the deaf community.
They are supported by the Nest I/O, Hashoo Foundation, Center for Social Entrepreneurship, to name a few.

How did ConnectHear emerge on the maps?
“Growing up, I saw my deaf and mute parents struggle with communicating with the outside world. I saw raw talent go unrecognized because of the barrier that is language. Using that as motivation, I have always wanted to create a platform to remove this communication gap and help the deaf and mute people reach their potentials,” says Azima Dhanjee, Co-founder of ConnectHear.

We’re all trying to play our part in making this society a better place, aren’t we? By helping bridge the gap between the audially impaired and the society at large, we can make this world a little easier, a little kinder to live in.

To see their Facebook page, click here.

 

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An empathetic doctor, or empathy for a doctor?

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The picture has been taken with consent.

 

An empathetic doctor, or empathy for a doctor?

My ENT rotation for fourth-year ended last week; the crazy schedule that it saw me dealing with, however, did leave behind a few worthy lessons, like the importance of patience while communicating with patients, and some intelligent understanding at the patients’ end.

Doctors – especially in our part of the world – are also under the constant shadow of suspicion. From the ‘useless’ and ‘unnecessary’ tests that they are accused of prescribing to the truckload of medicines that they weigh you in – the majority of the population will always double-check the doctor’s diagnosis and management plan with a source that they find a bit more reliable – Google.

While it’s good to educate oneself and be aware, it must be noted that Google is a search engine that links you to often inauthentic information. Very few sites – like Medscape – carry up-to-date information and are hence, used by the doctors themselves. Years of hard work and a precious youth spent over amassing all that clinical knowledge cannot contest the incomplete knowledge that one can gather from a few reads of an internet article, without any prior background knowledge of the complex workings of the human body. Every disease has a different prognosis, a different course. Every patient responds to every disease, every drug differently. How so? Because factors like age, gender, biomass index, race, co-morbids (other pre-existing diseases), and personal history matter more than we give them credit for. So yes, every patient certainly is a different story and that is exactly why bedside learning is highly encouraged.

One of the many problems plaguing our society is the unfortunate fact that unless its the pending electricity bill that threatens to cut off the power supply, our people will not pay immediate heed to any problem at hand. The majority will not head over to the doctor unless the disease has progressed to a stage where not much can be done. Be it a recurrent pain in the ear or a suspicious lump in the throat – a visit to the doctor is always the last option. How so, I wonder, can the doctor treat a disease that has already progressed – due to mere negligence on the patient’s part – to a stage where it can only be symptomatically managed and not ‘cured’? Yes, it’s the ‘too late’ scenario here that needs to be considered before harbouring unrealistic expectations from another human who has spent years studying from various resources, training for over thirty hours straight every three days irrespective of birthdays, weddings, festivals.

Similarly, a single medicine can be used to treat multiple signs and symptoms. Often enough, a medicine’s side effects are used to achieve the desired result. For instance, Ventolin (Albuterol) is a drug used commonly to prevent and treat difficulty in breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness, caused by diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (diseases affecting the lungs and airways). One of its side effects is hypokalemia, low blood potassium levels. So if the doctor deems it safe, he/she may prescribe a dose of Ventolin inhaler to a patient with high levels of potassium in the blood. In such a situation, a seemingly harmless Google search will only confuse the poor patient or his family simply because of lack of prior knowledge and understanding. It must also be noted that every drug interacts with another and often enough, they work together to achieve the desired result – lesson learnt: it is very important to take the medicine as directed by the physician. As is with antibiotics, leaving a dose as soon as the symptoms disappear only makes matters worse because the drug needs to act on its target for a specified time period for it to completely eradicate the cause and to also prevent recurrence. Failure to do so always results in the patient coming back to the doctor with the same disease – often worse – and almost always holding him/her responsible.

Another important thing to remember – and what many patients and their families have reservations over – is that laboratory or radiology tests are important investigations that help present a clear picture of what really is going on inside the human body to cause the signs and symptoms that the patient can experience; only then, can a definite diagnosis, and hence, an adequate management plan be reached.

While it’s definitely true that the healthcare set-up has become notorious for exploiting patients, that is not always the case. Some basic primary-level science teaches us how complex the intricate, interlinked system of the human body is – so how can ‘fixing’ an abnormality in this complex system be an easy task? The different subjects taught during M.B.B.S. – anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, behavioural sciences – are all deeply interconnected which is why the modern curriculum is structured around a module based system – the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, etc – that helps build up a strong understanding of how the human body really works.

If only half the population understood some of the above, it would ease the lines of frustration on many a doctor’s forehead as they try to reason and counsel patients and their families.

So the next time you feel unwell, do not – for your own sake – delay consultation with a good doctor. And when you do consult one, remember that they, too, are humans in need of some empathy!

 

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This picture has been taken with consent.

 

 

 

there’s just some fog behind

The road was ending anyway, but you eventually said goodbye.

It’s a calm night. The stars are whistling, trying to cheer you up. The wind seems to be dancing around, inviting you to a once-in-a-lifetime. But what are these once-in-a-lifetimes anyway? Foggy regrets that your foolish heart spins into a fairy tale. Or maybe gentle reminders of a cosmos that your fragile mortality could not handle. Does it make a difference, you ask. We don’t know yet. You only know it – feel it – once it floats away from you and when you try to run towards it, it waves at you with a reproachful glance, a disappointed smile.

The night-sky is a delightful companion for the dervish. It often asks you if there is happiness in shutting doors. There isn’t, you say. There’s just peace, the scary kind that does not even tell you if there are other doors, let alone finding the key to the same one. There’s peace in jumping into the deep blue ocean and not knowing whether it will welcome you or which lonely island it will throw you on; that’s what the night-sky believes. But you’ve had enough of islands, you tell yourself. Humans are islands, too, you’re reminded.

You look up again. There’s just some fog behind.

Two shooting stars at each end of God’s canvas; sad, and scared, and defeated, their hearts longing for home. So far away, yet, so close.

Artwork: Safa Younis

Allah k banday

 

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Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/ax2mir/

Sufi music has a very distinct sound to it, a different ‘samaa’, the kind that seems to beckon you to something you seem unaware of. Like a magnet pulling you towards the realisation of something great, something life-changing, something so beautiful that you are scared of how – and how much – it can change you. What if my entire life was a lie? What will I do then? What – if any – will my ‘before and after’ be like?

Kailash Kher’s ‘Allah k banday‘ does a little something like that.

“Toota toota ek parinda aise toota
Ke phir jud naa paaya
Loota loota kisne usko aise loota
Ke phir ud naa paaya”.

(Broken, a bird was broken such that
It could never fix itself
Stolen, stolen who stole it
Such that it could never fly again!)

Birds fly towards a destination felt only by the heart, the bottom of the heart; that old forgotten house standing at the end of the lane, romanticised by young men and women struggling to live, but breathing easily. Doesn’t that remind you of Attar’s ‘Conference of the Birds’?

“Kho ke aapne par hi to usne tha ud naa sikha
Gham ko aapne saath mein ley le dard bhi tere kaam aayega”.

(After having lost its wings, it had learnt to fly
Take the grief with you, this grief will be helpful)

There’s something incredibly beautiful about grief and pain. “Verily, with every difficulty there is relief!” (Quran. 94:5) Because waiting for the warmth of summers after the harsh, frost-biting winters, is the easiest way to wait for His Love and the most difficult way to survive. Because that’s what you do, you don’t live, you survive.

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Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/shehrozkhan_/

“Tukde tuke ho gaya tha har sapna jab woh toota
Bhikre tukdon mein Allah ki marzi ka manzar paayega”.

(Every dream was shattered when you fell
In broken pieces, you will find God’s will!)

Broken dreams cover the earth under your feet like pieces of glass spread out to make your soles bleed. You look down, hunting for your reflection. You see destiny smile at you, gently, lovingly, confidently. Walk carefully, okay?

“Allah ke bande hasde allah ke bande
Allah ke bande hasde jo bhi ho kal phir aayega”.

(God’s man, smile. God’s man!
Gods man, smile.
Whatever happens, tomorrow will come again.)

Do you smile with your heart? Feel it laughing? Feel the weight of Love dancing around in your blood, pumping itself through each of your cells, blowing into it another soulful love? Maybe you will now that the marriage of your will and God’s will has been celebrated.

I read about the power of prayers and duas, the magic of sincerity, the mysticism of faith. And I wonder if my will became His, or His Will became mine?

Stars

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If you can hold the stars in place
You can hold my heart the same
Whenever I fall away
Whenever I start to break
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars

– Stars, Skillet (https://youtu.be/TbLJyjfyACM)

You know how you’re walking along the fine sands of the shore one fine summer evening – aimlessly wandering, admiring the picturesque view, using your cell phone’s camera to save the moment for a later date – and your lonesome walk is interrupted by a sharp object sleeping on the soft bed of the sea’s sand. You stop. You stoop down and pick up the object. It’s a sea shell, glistening with the dews from the ocean. You marvel at it’s imperfection and decide to take it home with you. It’ll look nice beside my study table lamp, you tell yourself. And then that sea shell stays there, for a long time, reminding you of that long walk down the beach.

There are people like that in our lives, too. Friends who make an entry into your life like that sea shell – without a warning, asking you to stop in your tracks, forcing you to rethink your entire existence and yet, lighting up your life like never before. Blessed are those of us who have such friends as fireflies in our lives, helping us find our way with their mere existence.

To those of my friends – and you know who you are – you truly are a blessing from the One who holds the stars.