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Archive for July 26, 2020

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin- 15

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… 

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin-14

Today July 24, 2020 is the third Friday without Fasih and 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.

To those dreamers of Karachi still around, I know he would want them to never give up because giving up is no solution to a better life.

Breaking news to our Bua about Papa- by Fatima Fasih

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?

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