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Archive for August 14, 2020

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin – 28


Today I want to talk about the dynamics of being an Indian-Pakistani couple.
The story is long, 30 years long to be specific and deserves a book, as many friends keep telling. But here I will share some of the very initial stories, from the first year or so.

Fasih was, as everyone knows, a very mild natured emotionally super intelligent person. I was the extreme opposite, reactionary, easy to be provoked and stand up to argue on what’s right.
In the early days of our marriage, even small little innocent questions triggered me.
I will share a few examples here:
As Fasih and I were sitting on the stage in our reception in Karachi in Feb 1990, an old lady, from extended family, obviously height of ignorance, sat to get a photo with us. She was sitting on my side, and while the cameras were flashing she asked me softly, “India mein Video camera hota hai.”
I replied, as Fasih later pointed, very loudly, “Haan, bilkul hota hai.”
After the photo session, I actually began howling in my bridal attire and Fasih softly patted me and told me to relax. Someone noticed it and asked, “Kya huwa, kya huwa, kyun ro rahi ho.”
Fasih smiled and replied, “Ilmana ko Dilli aur Ammi Papa yaad aa rahe hain.”
From then on, my meltdowns and Fasih’s calming down became a routine.
Once we were invited to another extended family a dinner. There the head of the family, who was my father in laws age remarked, only to hurt, or maybe not. He said in a very intellectual tone, “Dr Sb aapki bahu Dilli ki hain?”.
My father in law,, Dr. S M Sabihuddin, was a beautiful.educated soul. He replied, “Jee. Ilmana ke abba Delhi mein professor hain. Bahut achey educated khandaan se hain.”
The gentleman replied in a typical Bihari tone, “Hum ek baar Pachna se Delhi parhne aaye the, mager humko nahin pasand aaya. Humko Dilli ke log bahut ghamandi lagey.” Then he praised how lucky he is to be a Pakistani now.
Now imagine me in Feb 1990, and my reaction as a new bride. I could not hold back.
I replied to the old man, “Delhi mein bihari bhare huwe hain. Aur ek bar parhne aate hain tou waapas jaane ka naam nahin letey.”
This crisp reply was probably enough that he never commented on me ever in life again.
Fasih sat quietly. Probably embarrassed.
However, my father in law came to my defence and told him, “Tou aapko Pakistan mein kya mil gaya? Main tou isko choristan kehta houn. Jisey dekho haath phailaker rishwat mangta rehta hai. Choristan hai yeh.”
I just waited to get back to my room, and when back threw a huge tantrum at Fasih on why did he not come to defend me.
He was calm and told me one lesson which he repeated a million times in years to come, “If you hear people talking ignorance, pity their brains. No point getting angry and wasting your energy. They are symbols of ignorance.”
In my anger I told him, “Why did I even marry a Bihari?”
And he replied with a tongue in cheek tone, “I am not Bihari. I have never been to Patna or Munger. I was born in Lahore.”
Me: “But your Papa is Bihari.”
Fasih: “Papa was also born in Jaipur. He never went to Bihar either. Dada Abba was Bihari. Let him be.”
He argued these are meaningless fantasies that old men cling on to for sentimental reasons only.

In another dinner, the hostess asked me, “Ye dish kya hai bataao?”
I could not recognize the dish and then she asked me, “Kabhi Nihari khaayi hai?”
I was scandallized and screamed, “You are asking me Nihari? I am from the city of Nihari’s origin and btw what you cooked is not Nihari.”
Ofcourse, the aunt didnt like my bluntness.Fasih just smiled without a comment.

Fasih’s family being a Syed, and me not being one also popped up gazillion times in the extended family.
And again Fasih’s father defended me vehemently each time it came up. To one of his younger brothers who popped up this question, he said, “Tum Syed ho ker pichhley 30 saal sey ek dafter mein clerk ho. Ilmana ke baap, dada, per daada, Delhi ke aalim family sey hain.”
A point came when his extended family stopped using this taunt in Papa’s presence. Fasih’s own family and siblings were sensitive enough to never bring up these conversations , and he told me this was all that is more important.

Most of the times, Fasih just told me to ignore the ignorant, the insignificant, and feel sorry for them. And I kept whining that “You should fight for me too.”
But Fasih’s way to make a statement was very different. More action, less verbal.
Then when our son Ismail was born in Makkah, the natural family tradition was to name him Syed Ismail Fasih. But Fasih put his foot down and said, no, he will be “Ismail Fasih”.
“Syed naam likhne se kuch nai hota. Apne amaal hone chahiye. Sirf naam aur lineage ka takabbur kerna arrogance hai.”
I am so proud of Fasih how he would not even let his patients from deep interior Sindh touch his feet because he was a Syed and would actually get angry at them. He would tell them instead, “Mere liye dua kerna, ke Allah mere haath mein Shifa dey.”
Similarly as we visited India, a few in my extended family members bullied Fasih on being a Pakistani. But the dignified calmness with which he handled them was something of an eyeopener for me and my folks. This is one of the biggest reasons, my father, mother and brothers respected Fasih the most.
Like we were sitting in an family dinner in a relative’s house and Fasih picked up the water bottle to read the name “Bisleri” and my uncle remarked, “This is Indian. In India we have everything Indian.”
Fasih just smiled.
Then a bit later, the same uncle recieved a call and he picked up his Blackberry. And Fasih very softly asked, “Yeh Blackberry bhi Indian hai?”
The uncle did not react or even look into Fasih’s eye.

Here, I would like to make a special mention of a sensitive and caring person ( my father’s cousin’s wife), Tanzeem Chachi who was my rock solid support, ‘mayeka’ and go-to person in the early days in Karachi, and it meant a big thing to spend a day at her place. Unfortunately she departed too soon too and is no more.

Over the years, as our extebded families from both Pakistan and India visited us when we lived in Makkah, they all came to realize how futile it was to stir India-Pakistan petty politics in our home.
Down the years, I mellowed with millions of calm lessons from Fasih and I stopped reacting to triggers. And life became beautiful.
A point of time came when I dediced to rise above borders and petty matters, and look at India and Pakistan from a humanitarian lens. And that was another turning point, when it was about humanity both sides, more than patriotism- mine or theirs. Humanity was common to both sides.
Another very important lesson I learned from Fasih was how important it was to be kind & polite instead of being right and arrogant all the time.

Below are some of the pics: From our Valima, Honeymoon to Simla and at Fasih’s younger brother’s wedding.

Azaadi Mubarak to both Indians and Pakistanis. May we all learn to be #azaad from hatred, bigotry and prejudice. ❤

Farewell to Syed Fasihuddin – 27


In the last few years I had started to snore in my sleep. And, as Fasih noticed, I would wake up again and again several times at night. Many husbands sleeping next to their snoring wife might find it annoying for obvious reason. But I saw Fasih get more worried than annoyed.
The Pulmonigist in him saw it as Sleep Apnea and kept telling me ask our GP to refer me to Sleep studies here in Ontario. As usual I kept procrastinating it for one excuse or another. And he kept reminding me. Sometime scolding, sometime telling me, “Believe me it will change your life.”
Finally one day I got referred and 6 months later got a sleep test done. A week after the test the Canadian Pulmonologist called me for an urgent appointment. He told me I have moderate to severe sleep apnea and I wake up tens of times at night. This must be keeping my day lazy and sleepy as I was not sleeping well. He immediately prescribed the CPAP last September. I travelled to Karachi and Phillipines in October 2019 to Jan 2020 and enjoyed the luxury of deep sleep after years of Sleep Apnea, with CPAP.
Now I knew exactly what Fasih would say, “It will change your life.”
Fasih had started Sleep Clinic in Taj too, and he would always share “my wife’s experience” after October, with patients who wouldnt understand the important adverse effects of Sleep Apnea.
So its been a CPAP Sleep with lots of good dreams in deep sleep ever since.
But this isnt the story I wanted to share with you. The story I am going to share below needed this background.
In past 3 to 4 weeks, after i stopped sleeping with Clonazepam, the sleep part with CPAP, has been the best part of my entire 24hours. Once in sleep, life switches back to the pre- fateful Friday, 26th June 2020. Life is back to normal with normal day to day conversations with Fasih and kids. There is nothing like “he appears in the dream to convey some special message”, but life goes on as usual with sometimes us laughing, sometimes arguing, sometime just doing our own chores. Most of the times, its repeat of our old life incidents and usual conversations that happens in a family. Some conversations are clear and some forgotten after waking up.
For example, yesterday’s was the conversation that happened a million times in real life in past 30 years:

“Me: Babloo, what should I make for dinner?
Fasih: Begum aisa karo make biryani, then make paaye. Add some qorma and haleem and bihari kebabs too. *with straight face*
Me: Kya? Cant you be serious? Sorry I cant make all this.
Fasih: So why did you ask? Make what you want?
Me: Theek hai, I am making dal, chawal and bhindi ki bhujiya. Happy?
Fasih: Okay then add some Shami kebabs to it.
I knew it. So had Shami kebabs frozen in the freezer all the time.

Life in REM sleep goes on as usual with Fasih and kids around.
Most difficult part is to wake up in the morning. For many mornings, I have to shake my head to confirm which is dream and which is real life now.
I had fears in my life always, of sickness, losing job, etc. A few time I died myself in my dreams. 😀  And even recommended Fasih a few tips on what to do after I am gone. But never ever did i have a bad dream of losing Fasih in my dreams even.
Life is not fair. We had many plans in life, before one of us passed away. 

My Ammi & Fasih


In my entire life, I had never heard my Ammi ever express that she wanted to be fit or live long. Like every woman raised to get married and live with her husband, she spent all her life looking after her husband, children and home. It was in the midst of all this she did her second MA, MPhil and PhD just because Papa loved it. She was mentally a home-maker always.
After Papa’s death, when she was 59, she became even more submissive and lost all her confidence, that Papa had worked to see in her as a professional woman. It’s been 22 years since Papa’s passing in August 1998.
Like a doting Nani, and that too a very talented, designer one, she got herself busy in designing and instructing our tailor to sew fancy ghararas, angarkhas, peshwas, lehngas, reversible sadris, etc for Fatima, until she became frail and unable to travel independently. Once in my emotional moments, when Fatima was in her preteens, I told her, “I pray you to be present in Fatima’s shaadi.”
And she smiled and told me, “Arrey beta, ismein tou kam se kam 15-20 saal hain. Itna kaun jiyega?”
Lo and behold, MashaAllah Ammi made it, and she attended Fatima’s wedding, and all the events.

When we lost Fasih, I was very worried for Ammi as at 80, it was not fair to face such tragey at her age. And also because she loved him very dearly. He was a very caring and a gentle son-in-law. And ofcourse because of the mindset of her daughte becoming a widow in front of her must have been is no less devastating. She did not express any such grief to me. All she does is just looks through the phone camera into my eyes all the time we face-time.
My brothers have been exceptionally supportive all the way across the barriers of thousands of kms, and COVID-19, to all of us, including my kids and my sister-in-law. And as expected, Ammi keeps telling them, “Beta, Ilmana ka bahut khayaal rakhna tamaam zindagi. Donon Bobby aur Ilmana hamesha se bahut mehnat kerte hai, lekin ab Ilmana akeli ho gayee hai.”
The other day I was asking my brother, how is Ammi doing, and I really worry she must be getting weak and yet not epxressing any of it to me.
Guess what my brother replied, “Nahin Ilmana, Ammi has gotten strong. She told me, “Ab mujhe kamzor nahin rehna hai, ab mujhe Ilmana ke liye mazboot hona parega.”
I cried under my pillow after putting the phone down. How much are so many of our loved ones hurt, by this devastating tragedy. 
May my Ammi live a 1000 years.

Below are Fatima’s Nikkah pics in Karachi. And see, all of us girls coordinated it so well. 
The other is with Ammi when Fatima was born in Makkah.

My Ammi in her strong days.

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin – 26


Life is cruel. Very cruel.
It gets more poignant when you lose brave souls in the line of duty, giving priority to saving other lives before their own.
I am currently embroiled in my own grief. But every single other life lost, only makes me feel and grieve and think of the state of their loved ones left behind more closely.
Call me obsessed, but I relate all these incidents to my own current state.
When Beiruit, a beautiful city was devastated in a split of a second, it felt like me. Every window of hope and happiness shattered into million pieces of glass.
As I saw the Calicut crash pictures with the airplane broken into two, it again felt like this airplane was me. Broken beyond repair.
Details shared by a cousin on family group who is an Air India air hostess lead to details of how the Captain of the airplane tried his best to minimize damage, saving lives of others he was responsible for, sacrificing himself. It made me think of Syed Fasihuddin. My brave man, who did his best to save other lives, putting himself at risk. What coincidence Captain Sathe was 59 too.
My brother shared this video below of his, saying, “I have not heard something more moving than this.”
I replied, “Yes. It’s so heartbreaking. One moment you are a human full of life, next moment you are not.”
My heartfelt condolence to Captain Sathe’s wife. Her grief is fresher than mine. I can imagine her state exactly. I was in the same place 42 days ago.
I have listened to this video twice. I know I will return back many more times. It brings back the memories of our early days in 1986-89 when Fasih sent cards to me, and I ignored without replying because I was scared of commitment across the border. I wasn’t sure of myself. But he was. Bold and fearless. And then he eventually took the bold step, came all the way to Delhi from Karachi and called my father from the airport, “I want to talk to your daughter.”
My father had only one advice for me when he went to pick Fasih to the airport, “He has come a long way. If you dont want, just tell him No respectfully. Dont be disrespectful. We will be with you. Remember, he has put his self respect at stake to come to talk to you.”
Eventually I said yes on 5th October 1989.
This song again made me fall in love with Fasih once again. ❤ haha though Fasih never sang. But that’s okay. 😍
Watch the song sung by Cpt Dipak Sathe, the hero of Kozhikode air crash, and cry your heart out.
(PS: This video could be of someone else not Cpt Sathe as I see in different claims. But that doesnt take away the pain of losing a life anyways. Do watch the song).

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin – 25


I have been lamenting a lot on my loss, my children’s loss and my husband’s siblings loss in the going of Syed Fasihuddin.
Today I want to acknowledge the loss of the valiant staff of Taj Consultants Clinics.
The 22 strong team, most of whom have been with Taj for years, had a very close relationship with their Sir, Dr. Fasih.
He was tough when it came on work ethics and professionalism and a kindhearted caring paternal figure when it came to their personal issues. Whether it was a female staff living with an abusive relationship, a male staff lost his father, or any other personal issues, big or small Dr. Fasih was their go to person.
They celebrated their birthdays together, they had iftars every working day of every Ramazan with him.
I personally witnessed him scolding staff for a blunder and then in next 15 minutes ordering samosas for the entire team to ease out the environment.
The staff came to me, “Mam, I dont want samosa, he first scolded then now offering samosa.”
I asked her, “Was he wrong in his complaint to you?”
Staff: “No Mam it was my mistake.”
Me: “Okay, then dont be upset. But I will tell him to not get too angry and explain to you calmly.”
Fasih cared dearly for Taj and for his staff.
He awarded them on their excellent performance too. Taj has an Employee of the Month and an Employee of the Year awards. They celebrated together annual dinners and had been planning since forever for a staff picnic too, which unfortunately could not happen.
The staff spent 6 to 10 hours daily in his proximity at Taj.
They are no less hurt at his loss. And we must acknowledge their mourning too.
Despite their grief, it is them who are holding the front at Taj, in his absence since 26 June. They are his valiant soldiers who need no motivation to show up in times of crisis. But we need to acknowledge them. They are extremely hurt at Dr. Fasih’s absence who was the life of Taj Consultants Clinics.

I have no words to console them, just as I fail to console myself, but I can assure them, the legacy of care and compassion of Dr. Fasih to his staff, along with high standards of professionalism will carry on.
I cant wait to be back with them soon, mourn with them and carry on the legacy with them.
Oh this wretched pandemic, how much has it tested us. But one thing it cannot take away and has in fact strengthened is our belief in the power of compassion and care for each other as human beings.

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin – 24


Another Friday, the 6th one without Fasih.

I woke up today to see on twitter Dr. Faheem Younus tweet that the phase 3 trial of Actemra has proven to be of ‘no benefit’. And the treatment has been abandoned.
Before this, there was a study that found Remdesivir Is not the right antiviral for COVID 19.
My heart sank. These were the two drugs Fasih had been given as WHO protocol for his management in ICU. We knew they were in phase 3 trials then. But we pinned big hopes on them, and felt fortunate to have procured them easily.
I began to wonder, what would be Fasih’s reaction if he was still there, following as he did, all the latest developments of COVID.
He wouldn’t be bitter or angry, but would say, “This is an emerging science. And we have to accept it.”
I know he discussed his own investigations, ECGs and Xrays with the ICU Consultant, bravely and valiantly.
He would wave and make thumbs up to the visitors who saw him from the window. To us he messaged every few hours, “All good here, I hope you are doing well too.”
Yesterday my sister in law told on phone, her son & his nephew Kabeer keeps watching Fasih’s photos on FB and keeps muttering to himself, ” Bobby Chachu hadd ker dee aap ney. Aisa kya tha, theek thaak tou the aap.”
There is no one who doesnt say, “Fasih is a loss to us all, not just to his family.”

I am not as generous and big-hearted like Fasih. I do get angry. And especially after knowing that none of these hopefuls in phase 3 trials worked for him, and will not work for anyone else either. Why did his ‘always lucky’ fate ditched him this time?

And then the mysterious drop in COVID cases in Pakistan is a welcome sign. We all have many more loved ones who are at risk, and this reduction will save many lives. But then, did this spike after Eid came only to take Fasih away? It hurts a big deal.

May no one has to go through what we as his wife, sister daughter, son and other loved ones are going through.
I know our pain is not the only pain, many have gone through, and many will go through. And though people console, “We all have to go one day”, it hardly brings any consolation.

Wasn’t he supposed to nurture and grow Taj Consultants Clinics that he created from his sweat and blood? He had miles and years to go to do more against TB, against Smoking, and against all the mess around, for which he kept fighting. And he loved all this.
He wanted to grow old seeing patients, treating them, talking to them, giving them advice about thir lifestyles, about giving back. He wanted all his retired friends to stop brooding and come out and join volunteer free clinics for the poor. He said almost every other day, “There is so much scope to do god work in Pakistan.”
His sudden dissociation from all this still doesnt make sense to me. Maybe he is around and watching us do all that he did. But he wanted to do it all by himself. Asking for help was not his personality. Nothing makes sense at times. Most of the times, in fact.

All I hope, that I am wrong, and he is now in a happier place than he was here. I hope he gets to see needy patients up there too. He will love it and he did not like doing nothing.

Maqdoor ho to Khaak se poochhoo’N ki ae la’eem
Tu ne woh ganj’ha-e-giraaN-maayah kya kiye

مقدور ہو تو خاک سے پوچھوں کہ اے لئیم
تو نے وہ گنج‌ہاۓ گراں مایہ کیا کیے

मक़दूर हो तो ख़ाक से पूछूं कि ऎ लईम
तू ने वह गनजहा-ए गिरां-मायह क्या किये

If I ever get an opportunity, I would ask earth, “Oh hoarder,
what did you do with all the precious treasures that were entrusted to you?”

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin – 23


Within days of having got married I had realized, a planner like me, had signed up for a different kind of life with a partner who enjoyed risk-taking and adventures. A life like I wanted, of planning ahead, for next 5-10 years was not his cup of tea. He had conveniently left the longterm planning to me, “Yeh lambi planning tum karo.”
We had common interest to travel, but not the same way or form. ‘Traveling by air, staying in a hotel and sightseeing standard tourist spots, museums and castles ‘ was not his idea of travel.
Fasih wanted to see the world by road.
Our very first trip was soon after our wedding was in Feb 1990 to Simla. Papa insisted we take a flight, as being a Pakistani, it was safer, but Fasih had read about the Kalka Simla train and insisted to ride on it.
We made various unique road trips in past 30 years. None of them were from any travel guides.
One of the trips along Nile I have already mentioned elsewhere.
Another, one of the weirdest plans we made was to travel by road from KL to Bangkok in 2000. Yes, from Malaysia to Thailand. We took a beautiful train from KL to Penang and then crossed the Malay-Thai border by taxi. As we were checking out of Malaysia, the Malay Customs asked us, “Pakistani?”
Fasih replied, “Yes.”
The customs officer took him to a senior officer as kids and I sat for almost an hour dreading what happened. He returned laughing with the officer. The Malay authorities had informed him that we can cross to Thailand, but will not be allowed back to Malaysia on return because Pakistanis were not allowed road entry to Malaysia from Thailand. So they ensured we knew it. Fasih had already done his homework and he showed them the air ticket he had from Bangkok via KL to Jeddah.
The road trip within Thailand from border to Hatyai, a small town in Southern Thailand on a Tuktuk was very scary. It took us 2 hours. I had the horrible fear that we will be kidnapped for ransom. But much to our surprise, it was a very simple town, with simple and hospitable people. Being predominantly a Muslim city, we found halal restaurants everywhere. And the best Thai food we ever had was in Hatyai. Thai authorities again did not aloow a ‘Pakistani’ to travel Southern Thailand by road, and we had to take local flight from HatYai to Bangkok.
Our Malaysia stay coincided with Eid Al Fitr and witnessing Eid in KL was a unique experience in itself. They call it “Hari Raya”.
We went early in the morning to central mosque in KL for Eid prayers. Fasih and Ismail sat in the first row. An hour or so later, they saw the President Mahathir Mohammed with few people walk up to the front row for prayers. Fasih & Ismail went up to him, shook hands, introduced himself as a Pakistani tourist, and stood with him for prayers. After the prayers President Mahathir Mohamed invited us for a communal Eid lunch at Putrajaya, his official residence. We met him there too, in the afternoon. Almost half of KL had lunch with him in his residence. Apparently this was his last year before retirement and hence he had an open lunch invitation for all his countrymen.
Fasih often joked, “we haven’t met any of our own Presidents ever, but we met President Mahathir Mohammed twice the same day.”

Road trips in Pakistan were also Fasihs dream that could only be partly fulfilled. We lately travelled upto Chinese border at Khunjerab in June 2019.
There were so many road trips on our bucket list, including one across Japan. Fasih’s father had been to Japan in 1964 for a year for a research on TB then. He was so fascinated that he would narrate his stories of Japan with a twinkle in his eyes all these years, until he lived till 2014. Fasih and his siblings grew up in an awe for Japan. Our next trip would have been a trip train trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima is the sometime in 2020/21.
Now that Fatima is located in Manila for some years, Vietnam, Laos, Koreas and Singapore had been added on his to-go list in the coming years. He would often message in our family group chat, “I want to visit Rahma every few months. Damn this pandemic.”
This wretched pandemic took away this wandering soul to the final journey too early, too fast. I can only hope he gets his kind of road trips up there as well.
Sigh !

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