Prose

In your most frail gesture

BY: SHAHZEB NAJAM, M.B.B.S., BATCH XVIII I saw a patient today. He had Parkinson’s. Tremors, shuffling gait — the works. His wife was with him. She was old, too. I opened the door and helped him into the room and stood by him to steady him. And then his wife came […]

via  In your most frail gesture — The Ziauddin University Atlas Blog

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Poetry

Thalassa 

For Prof. Dr. M. N. Shabbir, F.R.C.S.(Ed.)

A small clinic by the sea. Fans whir

lazily against the hot Karachi summer.

Most of the fishermen are here out of

curiosity. One day, yes, they will build

me a model ship with the lights and the

little toy soldiers holding their little

green flags just as they once did for

my father. The sun sets, then, and we

close up for the day and lay down our

two red steths. We sit on the roof, yes,

with our warm cups of doodh-patti and

talk of Attar and his thirty birds. And

it is like being alive twice. Meanwhile,

yes, the old, old stars rise over the old,

old seas.

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Prose

Eternal Summer (or HOPC)

One who has lived many years in a city, so soon as he goes to sleep,

Beholds another city full of good and evil, and his own city vanishes from his mind.

He does not say to himself, “This is a new city: I am a stranger here” ;

Nay, he thinks he has always lived in this city and was born and bred in it.

What wonder, then, if the soul does not remember her ancient abode and birth-place,

Since she is wrapt in the slumber of this world, like a star covered by clouds?—

Especially as she has trodden so many cities and the dust that darkens her vision is not yet swept away.

Rūmī 

SOMETHING’S broke, doc. Something’s broke. You gotta help me. It’s broke inside and I — I just can’t fix it. I had this dream, see? Well, it wasn’t a dream dream. Like I was asleep, sure, but it was real too, you know?

I seen this place, doc. This big ol’ school field. Biggest field you ever seen. And me? I’m standing by the edge of it watching these kids play in the field. They’re kicking around this old football and one of ’em, he sees me, and he’s waving across that big ol’ field.

“Come on!” he’s saying, “whatcha waiting for?”

And I look closer and it’s the guys, doc! It’s the guys! I ain’t seen them in years! So I run over to ’em and we play and we play and we play. We play until the sun’s low in the sky and it hurts my eyes just to look at it.

And then? Then we just sit there in that big ol’ field, catching our breaths, watching the sun set on another summer’s day. Summer ends way too soon, huh doc?

Now in the dream I start to feel thirsty, see? So I tell the guys I’ll be right back. The school’s right there — just up ahead — and I walk to the courtyard, all the way to the water fountain. The water tastes a little funny, yeah, but it’s alright. It’s pretty cold.

It’s all a bit spooky though, you know? School’s are always spooky at that hour. I mean, just think about it, doc! Think about all those empty classrooms, all those empty desks and chairs facing empty blackboards all night long. It’s spooky!

So I wanna get the heck out of there as fast as I can. I drink that water, doc, eyes closed, trying not to think of what’s in them empty classrooms. And then I feel cold, doc. All of a sudden, I feel cold. I look up and the sun’s setting and it’s almost set so I turn and I run back towards the field. But when I make it out of there, the field’s empty and the sun’s set and it’s all grey, doc. It’s all grey.

I wake up, then, and I’m covered in a cold sweat but it’s just a dream, right? So I turn over and I go back to sleep. In the morning I wake up and I remember and it’s spooky and all but it’s just a dream, right? So I head to the shower. But I can’t tell the hot water tap from the cold water tap. They’re both grey!

It’s been a week and it’s all grey now, doc. You and your desk and the light from that window and the city outside that window. It’s all grey now. It’s all grey. I don’t wanna live in the grey, doc. You gotta help me! You got a pill or something? I never been on any pills, doc, but I’d take ’em just to see the colours again.

Colour’s grand, doc, ain’t it? It’s like summer, doc. And this grey? Well, I been shivering in it for too long now.

You gotta help me, doc. You can fix it, can’t you? Fix what’s broke inside? I sure hope you can, doc, cause by god I’m sick—’n—tired of it. I ain’t crazy, doc. I ain’t. I been going to work and I been going to church and I been eating my vegetables. I even laid off the smokes, honest doc!

But it’s just so grey. I can’t take it anymore. I miss the colours, you know?

I miss not being broke inside.

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Politics

Hunting Dragon-Slayers

My article for ARY Blogs:

Hunting Dragon-Slayers

The war on doctors in Pakistan and how we can end it.

Once upon a time, in a city by the sea, there lived a people haunted by dragons. These great beasts would pour forth fire and brimstone, leaving those touched by their wrath either dead or disabled. In time – as often happens in such stories – there arose an elite band of braves who rejected the status quo and travelled far and wide, sleeping little by day and studying much by night, in their ceaseless quest to discover the secret to the dragons’ destruction.

These scholar-soldiers called themselves ‘dragon-slayers’ (‘Dr.’, for short) and set up academies to train new heroes from the populace. They built strange, white castles called ‘hospitals’ to defeat the creatures and opened the gates to all who had been troubled by the foul beasts. They worked hard to perfect new potions and to test those potions rigorously before use. And, in contrast to all those who had claimed to be heroes before them, they used the immense power of the ancient magic of ‘science’ .

Through many years of trial and error, the heroes’ hard work paid off. Soon, many of the beasts had been quelled – the monster known as ‘small-pox’ was the first to be dispatched and soon others such as ‘TB’, ‘polio’ and ‘malaria’ were driven back to their caves – though they proved much harder to kill. The people rejoiced, for a time, but soon they took for granted the doings of these men of science and, while they respected them, they were ignorant of the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ behind the successes of these clean, white castles.

Eventually, a time came when some of them took to murdering the dragon-slayers who belonged to tribes different from theirs and, after each such killing, they would proudly proclaim their heinous crimes in the blood-drenched streets of that city by the sea. And all the while, the dragons grew stronger.

The heroes – disgusted at the unfairness of it all – packed up their families and potions and, wiping a small tear from the corner of their eyes, took one last, long look at their beloved motherland before pushing off into the stormy sea for distant lands. And with their passing, that strange, distant Land of the Pure sank deeper into a new dark age.

This fable is our reality.

Our doctors are leaving Pakistan.

Polio is on the rise.

Here’s what we can do about it:

· Learn how to use the mosque. A national, pan-sectarian consensus exists on the unlawfulness of the murder of innocents and the promise of hellfire for those who dare to do so. Proclaim it from the pulpit. Every pulpit. In every mosque. Repeat ad infinitum.

· Devolve, devolve, devolve. Have a small clinic attached to one mosque in every UC. It will be staffed by one doctor and will employ people of the same UC to promote the concept of ownership and to have transparency. Major roundabouts will have one ambulance – stationed at all times with a paramedic – donated by philanthropists of the same area who can see their money put to good, noble use. At the town level, there will be a larger trauma centre equipped with an X-ray machine and an ultrasound and the truama centres will, in turn, report to tertiary care facilities (e.g. Abbasi Shaheed). Most patients will be dealt with on the smaller levels to avoid swamping the tertiary care centre and to promote preventative, public health at the grassroots level.

· Educate. Make it mandatory for every madressah to have time devoted to basic scientific principles. Teach them about Avicenna and Rhazes, Avenzoar and Geber. It’s our fault for not reaching out to them and sitting in our white castles. It’s time we changed that.

This prescription is provided gratis with the hope that some version of it may one day be implemented, that our heroes may return and the dragons banished forevermore. 

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Poetry

side effects

she said
i really missed you today
she said
i wanted to go on an Adventure
But
she said
But
the person i was with was being
Boring.

tonight was
all Foggy
and Mysterious
and just perfect for
Exploring.

i think,
i said
doctors should be allowed to prescribe
an ‘Adventure‘ ©
and ‘Old Friends‘ ©
and ‘Long Meandering Conversations‘ ©
i said.

side effects may include
a ‘Warm Feeling‘ ©
you thought had gone
But
i said
But
it’d been there all along.

i’d
Self Prescribe
and Overdose
on that shit
i said
no matter how unethical it is.

i’m calling the GMC
she said.

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