Hold your hearts: This could be too emotional to handle for some.
On recommendation from my counselor on bereavement I was reading a few printouts given to me and one was on “How to make sense after losing a loving partner suddenly.” It was a painful read. I actually felt a heartache behind my sternum as I read through. It was like having a hard conversation with oneself. At one point it said, “Death of a partner means death of your dreams.” It elaborated the death of those plans of growing old, living a retired life together, caring for each other when old age makes both frail and unwell.
Ofcourse, only the very lucky, very rare partners die together. Its always one before the other. The unlucky one is left behind to make do with the memories only. But when your partner disappears in the prime of their life, with no health issues, no valid reason, and which could have been easily avoided, the pain is beyond any adjectives. However, when it is a reality, it has to be endured too. And as Fasih, being brave, always told of difficult situations in a matter-of-fact-way, “Jab hai muskil tou hai.”
It made me recollect a few verses, I had scribbled for us growing old way back in 2012. It made the ache behind my sternum even more intense. I went searching for it on the FB, that I have posted.
OLD LOVE : When eyes twinkle between wrinkles, When faces glow and smiles flow, When hands hold and passions unfold, When hearts ignite and souls unite. Is this what you call old love? 25+some years old, is old enough. Us in next 25 years. Syed
I continued reading after finding this pic as the therapist had said, “dont give up in the middle. Read them till the end.” She was right. The end was a bit therapeutic as it recommended journaling ones memories at the height of emotions. This is a way to heal and yet not be fearful that healing will mean forgetting the person or not being in love with the person you called your partner. “One can still grow old with the partner’s memories. All is not dead.”
Though, this talks of growing old in love, but I want to dedicate this post to some brilliant people I know who lost their partners in the prime of their ages, when kids were still young. And yet, they became both the mother and father for their children, and their love kept growing as they grew older with the memories of their partner. I wish I had met Parshu‘s Dad who lost his beautiful partner when in his prime, in his 40s with Parshu only 8 yrs old. And spent rest 50 years rearing his children, only to be united with his beloved around the time we lost Fasih.
Some days are not too bad. A little message or call from someone makes a difference. Some days are way worse than others. And nothing seems to uplift ones spirits. And it seems nothing in this world, nothing at all short of Fasih’s return will matter. Yesterday on first day of Eid seemed that day.
I am not superstitious. But some dreams have been very symbolic. And working in wierd ways.
Like the one 2 weeks ago in which Fasih asked me on a long drive, “Do you want to drive ? I want to enjoy the scenes.” This convinced me I have to be at the drivers seat now.
Yesterday I visited Fasih’s phupo who is so shaken, she told me it’s not the same world after Bobby. I couldnt agree more. I came home feeling guilty I had gone out meeting people.
Deep asleep later at night, I saw Fasih happily flying a kite in his typical tshirt and bermudas. I have never seen him flying kites ever. Dont know if he even knew how to fly one. I was interrupted and woken by Sonu, our cat mewing on my head to open the bathroom door. He has to go at night to drink water from the mug that is kept filled all the time on bathroom flooor for him. Fasih and Ismail often complained to me, “Why do you keep the the bathroom door closed when you know Sonu has to come and go at his will.”
Then talking to Fatima she told how phupo (Fasih’s sister) has taken Elmo with her and she plays with him and says it reminds her of how her brother played with Elmo and comforts her. And also visits home everyday to feed the Greys.
Such weird unrelated stories. But they seemed to be somewhat comforting. Don’t understand why. Then I saw this film shared by a friend. This film made my day.
I still dont understand why are all these trivial stories giving peace. But one thing is sure. I haven’t ever been a pet-lover like Fasih, Fatima or Ismail or others in his family. I need to get there and be closer to these pets. That will make him happy up there. ❤ Link here: https://www.facebook.com/quraishi.ilmana/posts/3503339006345309
Do watch this a minute and a half film. It’s very moving and shows the limit of love for ones pets.
In May 2018, I was in my office in Mississauga, Canada when I recieved a call from Jibran Nasir. He introduced me to Maria Aleem Junejo and said she was trying for a medical visa for her husband Aleem for India, and if there is any way she could be helped. He created a separate whatsapp group, and I began to chat with her.
I found Maria a very educated and strong willed person, who would do everything to help her husband Aleem get health and a new lease of life. Her husband had a lung condition for which the only permanent solution was a Heart-Lung Transplant. The wife was trying her level best to explore options for H-L Transplant including going to US or India. “Money is not a problem”, she said.
My next natural step was to refer Aleem & Maria to Fasih’s Pulmonology Clinic at Taj Consultants Clinics in Karachi. I knew Fasih had done some research paper on cases similar to his lung condition, years ago. Fasih called them to his clinic. They kept visiting him off and on. Fasih had told me and to them as well, “His lung complication can best be managed supportively to prevent complications till he is able to recieve a HL transplant.”
We tried our best for Indian medical.visa, knowing that was not difficult. I contacted the Consulate, wrote to the Indian Foreign Minister then, Madame Sushma Swaraj ( who had previously responded persoanlly to few of my emails with great affection) and a few insiders. But this time I did not get any reply. I even followed requests to Madam Sushma Swaraj on twitter and there was no response, once again. I then wrote to a very trusted journalist friend in Delhi. He explored and found out why I was not getting the response. He told me, “Ilmana there is little we can do for him. H-L transplant is a rare procedure that happens in some Indian hospitals and there is already a long queue for patients because it can only happen when there is massive fatal accident of a young person, whose entire Heart-Lung system needs to be taken almost immediately after death and transplanted to the recipient. There are already many patients waiting in line for years. It is not possible to jump through line, nor is it fair. Also being a very critical procedure, it is prioritized for Indian nationals only.” This was a fair argument.
My next natural outrage was at Pakistani healthcare system. And how broken it was and how the country could make nuclear weapons but cannot have tertiary care centre for Heart Lung Transplant. How many young lives are lost, only if H-L.Transplant could be used to help save lives. Ofc as usual I tagged PM Imran Khan and President Dr. Arif Alvi, Asad Omer, Ali Zaidi and others from Naya Pakistan, on several social media posts on FB and Twitter. My hope was at least these new ‘clean’ Pakistani politicians would care to bring this facility of Heart Lung Transplant to Pakistanis within Pakistan too. There was already no hope from other politicians anyways. If Pakistanis can get bombs and F-16s why not Heart Lung transpant too. But then why would they listen to a rant from a nobody like me.
I may have expected and gotten response from Sushma Swaraj, but there is no tradition of responding to ‘nobodies’ from the ‘powerfuls’ in Pakistan. ( BTW, not once have I been responded by anyone, in person or on social media on Syed Fasihuddin‘s demise in Pakistan, as a patriotic Pakistan, CEO of Taj Consultants Clinics, who invested everything and returned to Karachi with a dream to establish quality healthcare, died serving on the frontlines in the very city he loved to serve. A busy Pakistani American, Dr. Faheem Younus, the famous & leading pulmonologist from US could find time and relevance to condole in a message, but none from those in power in Pakistan at municipal, provincial or federal level. Such is the Raisat e Madina.They love and value economy, the VVIPs, personal friends but not other ordinary citizens including doctors. The only person for which PMIK has tweeted was”my friend” from Aitchitosn and VC from Nishtar who passed away from COVID. Ofcourse doctors dying on the frontlines who are not VVIPs or their classfellows, are like disposible gloves. So what if they are patriotic, humanity loving sincere proffessionals. Anyways, thats a discussion reserved for another day).
I know very well this Aleem’s wife Maria left no stone unturned. She kept reaching out to everyone who could possibly help in some hope to give a new lease of life to her ailing husband. She created a page Hope for Aleem, and kept helping others in need too through this page. When Fasih was in Canada in May, he was giving advice to someone on phone about their health issues. After he put the phone down he told me, it was Maria.
This gentleman lost his battle against his ailment, on July 28, 2020. I messaged a condolence note to her and mentioning about Fasih. And her reply was, “NOOOOOOO. I dont know about Dr. Fasih’s death. He was a great human being who helped him a LOT.”
. Madam Sushma Swaraj suddenly passed way on 6 Aug 2019. Fasih, his pulmonologist went away himself a month before the person for who he worried for his terminal lung condition.. The point of this post is obvious. All our lives our fragile. Extremely fragile. Yet some of us, especially our people in power live as if they are the bosses on Earth, invincible and indispensible.
Samaan saw baras ka, pal ki khaber nahin hai. (We plan for 100 years, but cannot gaurantee our life the next minute).
First: It was the day of Arafah in Makkah. Every year 25-30 million muslim pilgrims converge on Makkah for Hajj from all over the world. And a city of 3 million, gets overwhelmed with 30 million plus pilgrims. And with that, there is pressure on medical services. For doctors and other healthcare workers, it is made mandatory to work in Hajj season for one month with 12 hours per day shifts, with no weekends. For straight 25 years from 1990 to 2015, for 25 Hajj seasons, Fasih was the on duty Consultant Pulmonologist for the main Al Zahir Hospital in Makkah. Each year, like other doctors on duty, he would travel with critical patients in ambulance to enable them perform the day of Arafah. It is mandated by the Saudi authorities that if a pilgrim comes for Hajj from other parts of the world, no matter how sick they may get, they will be provided free healthcare, and free service to take them for the mandatory bits of Hajj including the stay of Arafah. A few times, the doctors including Fasih donned the ihram themselves, to perform the ‘flying Hajj’ as they called with their patients. Dozens of ambulances, with Consultants assigned to the group would carry the critically ill patients to Arafah and bring them back to the hospital at the end of the day. Every year, Fasih would be one of the lead Pulmonologists in the team, with many locums coming from other cities in KSA. All these years, he managed hundreds of thousands of patients with pneumonias, chest infections, Asthmas, Allergies, LRTIs, URTIs etc in the hospital wards. It was in these wards, sometimes he even bumped into his teachers, old neighbors, relatives, childhood friends as Hajis who he had not met in years. Many many Hajis who travelled from different parts of the world carried his phone numbers given by friends and relatives and he helped whoever asked him for any help, on phone, in person or inservice as their doctor. It is in all these years that he even came to face the SARS & MERS pandemics in Makkah. And hence gleefully told his colleagues in Karachi in 2020, “COVID is my third Corona pandemic.”
In the last year, in 2015 when he was winding up to return to Karachi, he requested the hospital director to give him leave so he can perfrom complete Hajj himself, which he did.
Fasih, the foodie was excited he would be home after 25 years to celebrate Baqr Eids in rest of his years, to enjoy chops, grill, and pulaos, bihari kababs, hunter-beefs all his favourite delicacies. He had the opportunity to not just celebrate but hosted Eid/bbq parties on his favorite terrace in past 5 years. It’s gutwrenching as a family, to even imagine all the Hajj, Eid and rest of the life going on without Fasih. Ofcourse, life goes on, as it always has, after every departure.
Second: Today was my appoinment for Holter ECG monitoring for palpitations(my PATs), which is btw nothing serious. I sat in the hospital, waiting for my turn. I kept looking at my messenger, and there was no message coming from Fasih, wishing good luck or checking in how it went. Kids kept inquiring, but it wasnt the same. 😦 Checking in to each other on any appointment, meetings, or other events personal or for Taj, were our daily norm. Probaby we have to get used to feeling Fasih’s presence in spirits and that he is checking-in looking directly down from up above, and not through messenger messages. Habits need to be re-set. 😦
Day of Arafah Mubarak all those who are performing Hajj this year.
Today’s post is about giving space in a matrimonial relationship. And let the other person be who they are.
Honestly I learned this from an example from my father, as an advice from my oldest Mamujan and ofcourse practically from Fasih.
I don’t think I was a bearer of a ‘big heart’ in my chest, until I learned from Fasih through his.
My Papa and Ammi were contrasts when it came to faith. But Papa respected her being too religious, while Ammi always insisted Papa keep rozas, pray 5 times a day. And would fear for his hereafter. Papa did not like it and would resist. But as Ammi grew older, she probably gave up. And much to her surprise one day after 30 years of their marriage, Papa asked her, “Meraj Begum Hajj pe chalna hai?” Ammi was blown away.
When Mamujan came to Delhi for my shaadi, from Jaipur, he told me he wanted to have a private conversation with me. And so he did beginning with, “Beta, your husband may not be like what you like him to be. Ager woh tum se itni muhabbat kerta hai tou apne ghar waalon se bhi karega. Usko rokna mut. Dont be a mean wife. Give them their due space with your husband.” Mamujan was the most brilliant farsighted man in our Nanihaal. And a very successful.barrister and a politician. He knew the art of putting across the message in the most effective and emotive manner. His went on, “Dekho apne bhai-behnon aur Ma Baap se muhabbat karna koi jurm nahin hota hai, aur ager woh kerta hai, tou woh tumhare kehne se chhorega bhi nahin. Lekin tum meanness dikhaogi like possessive spouse, tou woh tumhare beghair unse muhabbat karega aur unka khayal karega. Yeh mayn iss liye keh raha huun kyunke tum wahan akeli hogi aur uski poori family. If his family is nice to you, be nice to them too. Conflicts start when there is tug of war in relationships.” He told me he gave the same advice to his kids too.
Fasih let me be me. He loved my parents without any reservations. He was extremely friendly with my brothers. In fact these boys when together ganged up against me. He even respected my cousins and friends from India. Some of them have beautiful.memories of him hosting them in Taj.
For both of us, his friends became my friends, and my friends became his, with no fuss.
I saw my husband as a very committed son and a very close sibling especially to his sister especially. When in KSA for 20 years, he got a good 45 days vacations every year. He split them into 2. He would take 2 vacations. One alone for 15 days just to spend time with his father. And another a month, when all of us as a family travelled to Karachi and then to India and some other destination at times. He would come back from his single vacation and tell me, “This time I took Papa to Gawader and we had bbq fish on a local stall by the sea side.” Or “I saw these cases with Papa.” His father would take pride to tell his patients, “Mera beta bahut acha chest physician hai. Ayega tou tumhara case discuss karoonga.” Fasih would narrate all these lovey stories on his return. Fasih terribly regretted how his father could not be there when he inaugurated Taj.
I loved and respected his close relationship with his sister too. They were best friends since their college days as she was a year senior to him in Medical college. It is perhaps this reason that now her two kids Alina and Ahmed, and my two children Fatima and Ismail call each other siblings and not cousins. Both of her kids live here in Toronto and how much has Alina been a support to Ismail is beyond words. Fatima often calls me and tells me she is so mindful of how phupo has also had a huge loss in her Papa’s departure.
He was a caring brother to his other siblings and even his cousins, uncles and aunts, and even to the living senior friends of his deceased parents. Fasih was a popular doctor among his colleagues too. But he had been so generous to me, that I never felt insecure with any of his family, friends or colleagues. I taught exactly the same thing to my daughter Fatima too.
It is so heartening to see now my brothers having connected more with my husbands sister and respect her and see her as an extension of their “Bobby bhai”.
Fasih was a binder in his family. Even in his going, one sees, all of us left behind learning from him and binding together.
As I was talking to Fasih’s sister a few days ago, we talked of how Fasih’s goodness with everyone he touched and his kindness is what people are remembering him for. And not which brand of car or what model of iPhone or how many branded watches he left behind.
oday after some time of procrastination, I decided to deep clean our refrigerator. Doing so reminded me of my Papa and how routinely in our home, he would deep clean the fridge and freezer with Ammi.
My father was very different from typical husbands and fathers. My parents would always go for groceries together. Papa actually liked doing groceries and used to tell us that as a kid, his mom would give him a list and he would go on his bike and get all the sauda of the house. So when we would bring our month’s round of groceries home, all of us would lift the groceries from the car, to the elevator, then to the kitchen table and then all of us would have duties assigned to put the groceries in the right place. But most often, Ismail and I would take the one chocolate bar (under 1 riyal, of course) we were both allowed to get and would run off to our rooms. Papa was in charge of the fruits and vegetables. He would clean them, rinse them under water, and then put them in the right baskets/bins to the fridge or to put outside. He was also in charge of all the soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, shoe polished, dish soap, laundry detergent and other chemicals and would refill or restock wherever necessary. Grocery runs were an event in our family for one day of the first weekend of the month. We would go to the biggest hyper store, then fruit and vegetable market, and then end the night with either Tazaj, Al Baik or some Turkish food. Those were the golden days! Feasting after all that work was the reward.
Papa was also in charge of the laundry of the house and for a while, Ammi did not know how to use the machine because it was Papa’s task and if Ammi ever dared to, Papa would always put the blame on her for messing his process. 😂 Then the chore to dry the clothes after the machine had done its work was assigned to us 3 – Ammi, me and Ismail. Of course, if we got late, the clothes would smell and be ruined so we had to do it right away as per Papa’s instructions. We had a Bua in the house, but still some tasks were ours to do regardless. Once I saw another family friend ask their bua to bring her water in her room, and I asked our Bua as well, casually. It was not taken well by my parents and that was the best part of our upbringing. Instead, Ammi told me to give water to Bua whenever she wanted. Bua was not our “maid”. She was our respected househelp and any help she gave us, we had to be grateful for. And we were and still are.
Papa was also the handyman of the house. And not at all a procrastinator. He had a box of glues – ranging from instant glue, Elfi, UHU, epoxy glue, the white wood glue, glue gun with the clear refills as well as coloured refills and then he had a tool box of all tools and screwdrivers and of each size. He kept us involved as well and asked us to help him as he fixed things around the house. I was obviously his assistant so since early years of my childhood, I knew which glue and which tool to use for any kind of troubleshooting at home. Papa also always cleaned the drains, made sure nothing ever clogged and did plumbing work in the house.
Papa was also highly acclaimed for making the best chicken karhayi in the house. He even made katakat and handis at home for us once a while. A video of my Aqiqah in December 1990 also shows Papa cutting the meat to distribute during the party in the kitchen.
So when I hear of stories of men that don’t enter the kitchen, it makes no sense to me. I don’t know how it could be possible after seeing my father do so much around our house and beyond.
After a month of sulking, I decided to look back and remember my dad and how he was in times of setbacks and sadness. I quickly realised that he never let any thing pull him down – he had no time for politics, no time for sulking and no time for what people say about him. A desi uncle in Canada once said to him, “Dunya chaand pe jaarahi hai, aur aap Pakistan jaarahe hain?” He laughed it off and said “Yes, that is my dream.” Papa accepted the sad realities of life and moved on from them to continue his work. I remember him most recently when Dada died in 2014. He prayed for his parents, remembered them, but he did not sulk or sit around waiting for answers. He just did his work and did good work for his peace and patience.
There’s so much to learn from Papa’s life for me as his daughter, but for now I will begin to learn from how he dealt with the lows and how he enjoyed the little things such as a hot cup of tea and a bush full of flowers. He enjoyed Eid and always was ready for a day with his family and friends. I am sad that Eid this week will be the first without him, but I will plan to celebrate as he liked and hopefully if he’s watching us, he can be proud.
Note: This post may be long for a lot, but to me, this is a memoir into Papa’s life for us to read later as well as a way for me to remember him and the little details that get shadowed in the busyness of this short, chaotic life.
Most of the times these days, nothing helps. Absolutely nothing. But then one flash of memory becomes a device and a mechanism to carry on…in the heart, in ones mind or in ones writings of silly meaningless moments and hold them close as priceless memories. But again, one is again thrown back in a dark place with no clue how does one even make sense when one wheel of your bike goes missing. How do you learn to single-wheel after 30 years of a laid back life because someone else was pedalling it for you. I guess, perhaps, I am pretty sure, it’s not going to be easy by any measure. We must fasten our seatbelts for a roller coaster ride.
Fatima, Ismail and I laugh and cry momentarily recalling silly snippets. Recalling some silly memories out of many many, here….
Fasih and I had somehow developed a habit of communicating in different languages and dialects. It wasn’t deliberate. Dont know how it happened so organically. Like I would ask him in Sindhi, “Chaaye piyendo?” For any compliment he would say, “Dado Sutho” For asking some cash when in Karachi, i would ask in Arabic, “Ana ibgha fuloos.” (I need noney) He would respond, “Kam ibgha?” (How much?) Me:”Kateer” (Lots) He would respond, “Ana miskeen.” (I am poor). Sometime he switched to Punjabi after having listened to a friend get angry at his wife for being too demanding, “Tu mainu kut ley.” 😀 (Chop me up). He made the morning tea for a lazy me. And would keep it on the bedside in Bihari tone every single time, “Begum Sahiba kya anda bhi jushaand dein aapke liye?” 😀 (Shall I boil an egg also for you?).
Sometimes it was in goorh Hindi which went over and above his head. Or in Pakeezah style Urdu.
He sent the 2nd & 3rd pics..”.mubarak ho, mubarak ho, you have a grand chick” when his Greys pair Shakespeare & Cleopatra, who are his kids, hatched a new chick. He was later named Rio.
Fasih had gone to a conference in Lahore and messaged me the 4th photo from there with a query, “Kaif?” (How is it?) I replied, “Ya Allah, What kind of conference is this? But you look great 😀 .”
Fasih was such a life…living every moment with his own brand of humor and flair.
We had our moments of serious arguments and disagreements too. It wasn’t all hunky dory all the time. But it was all part of a beautiful package.
Ya Allah ! Today, completes one month since Fasih’s departure….(God ! I find it hard to decribe it in words). I refuse to accept that he is no more with us. He is there, very much with all of his family, freinds and staff, in the beautiful memories, and physically even, in the form of his children and in every brick and block that makes Taj Consultants Clinics and Tabeer.
Our family is extremely humbled by the love and sentiments shared by those who grew up with him, knew him, shared interests and passions with him, and even knew him through us. It rings the words that Fasih often told his kids and staff,
“Dont miss any opportunity to help others. You never know how much they may need that.”
A dear family friend of from Pakistan called crying, “Ilmana want to tell you we miss Fasih bhai a lot. You have set a new standard of mourning of a life lost, by sharing his life with so many of us. You have no idea how much this helps in understanding things we did not know about him. Obviously no one knew him more than his family. The prespective Fatima gives as a daughter, and the perspective you give as a partner only elevates our love for this man.”
Another old and dear friend of Syed Fasihuddin wrote: “Fasih was my classfellow and groupmate from 1st day of medical college to the last. We were always friends, academically competitive and founders of voluntary blood bank.however I am finding out so much more about his personal side from your posts and appreciate feel so proud how he spent his life caring not only about bigger things in life like his family and profession but also smaller things like Motia and sunrises and sunsets. May you find solace, in His sisters words, he lived a happy life fulfilling his dreams.”
A message from someone who knew Taj Consultants Clinics and me separately messaged: “My heart breaks for you so much.. I was his big admirer without even knowing that you were married to him… My family is in Karachi and my brother liked his Taj hospital page and thats how i stumbled on that page.. I was so impressed with the hospitals work ethics, how they all treated the employees and staff with so much respect, celebrating birthdays and how he used to educate people about illnesses. Not all hospitals and doctors in Pakistan are that ethical. For me it was an unusual experience knowing how corrupt that country is. Dr. Fasih seemed so different.”
A friend from India, who had the chance to visit him in Karachi at Taj: “I had the honor to know and meet your husband Ilmana, on his own turf at Taj and see his vision was real in the form of mortar and bricks, and not just an imaginary construct of mind. It almost looks surreal now, that we actually spent time with him there.
A SriLankan-Canadian friend, “Ilmana you gave me Fasih’s number when I was going on a business ntrip to Karachi. To be honest, I never planned to visit him. But then I fell sick in Karachi, and all that came handy was Dr. Fasih’s phone number. He called me over to the clinic, and I could not imagine, what would I do if I did not call him. I ended up as a patient in Taj for two days. He became my therapist. Imagine.”
Fasih’s nephew sharing a picture of his siblings: “This picture on last Eid was on Bobby Chachu’s insistance. Only he could think of such little details. It wont ever be same again for our family.”
My brother from India, “Today we lost our father again. Do I need say any more…”
Fasih’s sister, “I lost my best friend of 59 years. I just go to his terrace, prune his plants, play with his Elmo, get his terrace cleaned like he always kept it. I talk to his plants and feel he is there with me.”
I only hope and pray Fasih is seeing and hearing all this love from up above the world so high…
Today July 24, 2020 is the third Friday without Fasih and will.be a month in 2 days. So today’s post is going to be about a thorough proffessional and an ardent dreamer Karachiite that Fasih was.
Last Friday, it rained for about 10-15 minutes in Karachi and the whole city turned into a puddle. The Manager at Taj was informed by most of the Consultants that they will not be coming to see the patients, as there is no way to drive from their places to the clinic. Moreover due to failure of electricity in major areas, fear of electrocution on waterlogged roads and traffic jam, the staff knew there will be no patients walking in the clinic.
Our most dedicated Managers of Taj, who have been working with Fasih for 5 years, took an executive decision and closed Taj at 7:30PM. Not only just that, a note of compassion from of the Managers was sent to the rest of the staff on the “Dr. Fasih’s Staff” WhatsApp Group:
“May this rain and season be a source of blessing and purity for all of us. Stay safe and be very conscious about the people around you. Drive slow, stay away from wires, and close to your loved ones.”
In short, just a 15 minutes of rain in Karachi wreck so much havoc that everything came to a stand still. It was not just our workplace that closed. Unfortunately this is not the first time, nor will it be the last time that this happened in Karachi. Every year in rainy season I saw Fasih get frustrated at the deluge that Karachi faced after every single shower, long or short. And then followed the filth, and smell that floated with the rain water across the roads. He posted in various Karachi groups on various forums, sharing his angst to complain and to ask for solutions. However pretty soon he realized that there was no one interested in his or a 100 million other Karachiites plight. But he refused to give up. I knew he would never give up
For 30 years that I was married to him, all I saw in him as we lived abroad was a never ending glimmer of hope that Karachi will get better sooner than later. He argued with skeptics, that we just cannot hope that others do it, we need to act and participate in the process ourselves too. Many ridiculed him by saying, “Duniya chaand pe jaa rahi hai, aur Dr. Sb aap Karachi jana chahtey hain?” I knew him and his willpower to go against the tide pretty well, and hence despite fears, I chose to stand by his decision. ‘No, are you crazy’, ‘paagal hai kya’ comments from friends and others did nothing to change his mind.
He was an apolitical man and a thorough professional. His ideal of serving Karachi and Pakistan was though a much needed and missing honest and clean service to the community. How he navigated the red tape without paying any bribes, but that is a story to be shared at another time. But all I can say is he convinced even the most corrupt officers ( one of them is a fugitive currently), saying very bluntly, “I want to do good work, and I cannot pay any bribe.” Believe me, even the most corrupt directors complied without charging any bribe for his project and with a request, “Dr Sb apne nek kaam mein hamare liye bhi dua kerna.”
He was an uncomplicated man, so he wanted to do clean work. He had patience, and immense perseverence, that I have yet to see in any other Karachiite, and would never take short cuts to achieve his goal. He often said, “I sleep well at night because I have no skeletons in my cupboard.”
He wrote several times in the FB group Mera Karachi Group, in desperation and with pictures when the 14 story apartments residents next to Taj threw garbage including used diapers and sanitary napkins on the roof of Taj Consultants Clinics. He reached out to local Counselor, local MPA and local MP( that was Imran Khan) but no one paid much heed. Local building managers said, “the residents don’t listen to us.”
Not only did he dream of a quality healthcare, he also worked in and around Taj through his Not For Profit organization Tabeer, for health awareness, holding many CME sessions, awareness campaigns for TB, Bronchial Asthma, free clinics in poor communities, school health check ups and for environment through celebrating Green Day on Earth Day at the clinic, and by planting trees around the Gulshan Chowrangi. Celebrating 14 August and Qauid e Azams Birthday on 25 December were two events staff and patients keenly looked forward to.
As COVID challenge came, the Clinic made all possible SOPs for social distancing and disinfection. Fasih, continued advocating to family, friends, patients and community for social distancing and to stay home. He lambasted those who said, “COVID tou bus drama hai.” He was annoyed when Karachiites seemed more interested in Eid Shopping and Iftar parties and even govt and judges were openly advocating to let people carry on with Eid shopping. He told me on several calls, “Let this pandemic be over, I will give you details to write about the wrecklessness of masses and the stigma that people had made COVID19 into.” He would get patients who were unwilling to get tested for COVID19. One educated man told him, ‘Sir I have 3 unmarried daughters, how can I label myself COVID19.” Even the moments he was breathing his last few breaths in the ICU at Dow Ojha Campus, barely 5kms away, his patients were waiting un the waiting area at Taj. His patients came from as far way as Balochistan, interior Sindh and even from DHA and Clifton within Karachi.
He had worked in SARS & MERS Pandemics in the Middle East, and he told me, “COVID19 Pandemic is far more chaotic than those of SARS or MERS.”
Just in June, he was devastated himself when he lost 3 close friends, all doctors to COVID19- A plastic surgeon in UK, a surgeon in Riyadh and a GP in Makkah. I told him this is dangerous, and he retorted, “Do you want me to go into hiding? A Pulmonologist to go into hiding?” Unfortuntely a man who had never feared for his life even in the worst of Karachi days, lost his battle to COVID19 on Friday at 1PM on 26 June 2020. It just took 3 days for a robust fit man to go downhill.
A dreamer of Karachi closed his eyes at the age of 59 and departed for his heavenly journey 4 Fridays ago. I am sure Allah must have rewarded him with the cleanest and purest abodes in Jannah, knowing how much aspired for honest work and clean actions when on Earth.
We often shared jokes in poetry. When he struggled with the challenges in Karachi after working on ground, I would tell him: “Deewane tou pehley hii the, ab aur tarah ki deewangi hai.”
He would give his million dollar signature smile and reply: “Zindagi kya hai jaanne ke liye, Karachi mein rehna bahut zaroori hai.”
I know he was not the first dreamer-cum-doer of Karachi, nor will he be the last. However, I wonder if Karachi will ever change for better or will more dreamers of Karachi depart one after the other, just taking their dreams to their graves. Amidst all the mess and chaos in Karachi his willpower and passion made it possible to create an exemplary healthcare facility He has left big shoes for us as family to fill in. Insha’Allah we will take his mission and legacy forward and continue to strive for a better Karachi through our actions, until our last breath too.
In Makkah, where we grew up, we had a Bua who was Siraiki and originated from a village in Multan/Bahawalpur area. She lived with us from 1994 to 2009, until we left Makkah and moved to Canada. She was our nanny and househelp, but really she was family and like a Nani to us. She had a tough life with experience ranging from physical domestic abuse, isolation after separating from her husband who was a drug addict and then moving to the city to work for a household with her only daughter, despite being educated and literate. She was able to read and write Urdu fluently. She taught us how to read the Quran and also how to pray. She was a vital part of our childhood and taught me a lot about life. She even asked us to teach her English and about the world. I showed her a World Map to teach her about countries when I was only 10. She had never seen a map before. She didn’t know what a globe was. That was my first reality check of the privilege we had and others didn’t.
When we were leaving Makkah, Bua decided she didn’t want to watch our home pack up so she moved back to her daughter’s place in Multan. She was in contact with Papa and would send Papa boxes of mangoes in the current season every year. She even came to Karachi for my wedding and then again for my sister in law’s wedding to help us out.
Today, I decided to call her and tell her about Papa’s death. I didn’t know how to do it. I just knew that she had to know. I prepared myself all evening after Rahma slept. How to say it? Should I start with him being sick or should I just tell that he passed away? I went ahead with the latter. When I called her grandson’s WhatsApp and asked to speak with her, she received the phone with so much happiness.
She kept saying, “Meri beti Kaisi hai? Photo mein itni pyaari hai apni baby k saath”
Then she went to ask casually how everyone was. “Ammi theek hain? Ismail theek hai? Papa theek hain? Mein aap k Papa ko call kerrahi thi. Lekin call mil nahi rahi thi…” Before she could say anything else, I told her that Papa passed away last month. Her voice changed. She said the words Innalillahiwainnailaihi Raajiun. And continued to ask the how’s and why’s. I explained, and she continued to cry as I cried. “Mera Beta Jannat chalagaya”. She mentioned how she knew how much he loved me, how much he cared for his daughter and all the times he boasted about me and my job and recently my baby girl on his routine calls with Bua. She told me she already had asked her nephew to prepare the mangoes to send to him this week, but now she will just distribute them in his name to the poor of the area.
I thought the call would make me stronger, help me deal with the grief head on, but it paralysed me more. Until the end of the evening. Until I sat with my husband and cried, realising once again the magnanimity of my loss.
My Bua spent 15 years with us, that is half my life and more than half of the total time I spent with Papa. She knew all about our home, our childhood. How could talking to her not break me?