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Archive for August 19, 2020

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin- 30

Last night Fasih asked me in the dream: Aaj kya pakaya hai?
I told him: Nargisi Koftas.
Fasih: Astaghfirullah. Koftey se tou mujhey koft hoti hai.
This is a real conversation that we must have had at least half a dozen times in our 30 years of married life. Yesterday was merely a replay of an old memory in sleep.

Fasih was a fussy foodie. He loved most delicacies but detested some others a big deal. Koftas, which happen to be my favourite, Fasih thoroughly detested them. He did not like qeemas either.
He detested chicken too. Found it flavorless. That was our common dislike.

Fish and seafood were his favourites. Easy availability of lobsters in Costco, his request on his quarterly visits to Canada would be everything sea food, including Shrimp biryani, lemon fish, lobster baked, crab meat salad.
In Pakistan, he would go to Jamshoro just to eat Palla(a Sindhi fish cooked at the banks of river Indus).

We had an inside joke at home. With both boys being meat eaters, whenever I made veges and dal, or rajma or paneer, all favourites of us girls, Fatima and me, Ismail.would ask Fasih, “Why did you have to marry an Indian?”
And Fasih would get all patriotic as if meat eating is synonymous with being a Pakistani. 😀 He would reply, “Ismail lets go get food from xyz. Today imagine your ammi is Afghani/Turkish/Iranian. Let them eat paneer or rajma. And we won’t share any with them.”
Lines were clearly drawn. Though Fatima also at times crossed over to join the boys.
It was never easy to feed veges to Fasih, because he always had the option to ‘order’ out without much noise.

The last 11 weeks were rather different, for some weird reason. He ate all the veges I made and even enjoyed them. Some FB friends may remember I had posted, “Boys are enjoying veges in lockdown.”
Not only did he enjoy but even told his cousin, “Ilmana is feasting us with some good vegetarian dishes in lockdown.”
I was so glad, finally I have ringed my man into enjoying vegetables. 

There are some dishes I think I made only because Fasih loved them, and I may never bother to make them again, as I dont believe in putting too much labor into cooking for myself. And kids particularly don’t fancy them, for example Paaye.
Cooking is fun, only if its done for loved ones. Not for oneself. I can happily fill myself with dahi and toast.

Another interesting thing about Fasih being food fussy in early days was his idea of a dinner. Pizza or Pasta were not dinner. And since I had learned very typical Italian way of making Pizza dough or pasta sauces including Pesto from scratch from my Italian cousins, I put in a lot of labor in making either of them, accompanying them most of the time with soups and salads.
In early days in Makkah, a full pizza or pasta dinner, that all of us including kids enjoyed and filled themselves to the brim in the evening.
A couple of hours later he would ask, “Aj khane mein kya hai?”
I would be scandallized, “Babloo, didn’t we just have the dinner at 8?”
He would softly and innocently ask, “So that pizza was dinner?”
I would loudly reply, “Yes. But are you hungry? There is still lots left in the fridge.”
Fasih: “No, I am not hungry. But just asked what was for dinner.”
However, 30 years is a long long time. Over a few years, he got used to what was “our kind of dinner” in Fasih family.

Fasih was a mango lover. I know most people love mangoes, but i have yet to see anyone so fanatic about mangoes. Pakistani Anwer Rataul and Indian Alfonso(available in Makkah) were his favourites but living in Makkah, he enjoyed mangoes 12 months a year imported from all over the world. In winter we got mangoes from South Africa and South America. These mangoes had no flavor or aroma. But Fasih would still binge on them and even relish them like a religious duty. He would search for mangoes from different countries.
“Begum aaj Peru ka aam laya huun.”
“Yeh Ghana ke mango hai.”
I would joke, “if someone wrapped an eggplant with mango skin you will still enjoy it.” And he wouldn’t merrily disagree.
“Yes mango mango hota hai. Saari duniya ke mangoes taste kerne haiN mujhe.”
However he was equally picky about aromas and flavors of Indian Pakistani mangoes 🥭🥭🥭🥭. He detested canned kesar mango pulp, “It tastes preservative.”
Those who’ve visited dinners hosted by us know a Mango Rose dessert, a secret mango mousse recipe that is a favourite in Fasih household. Fasih wouldn’t let me make it with canned mango pulp and insisted to use fresh flavors.
Below is the picture of a mango-rose, a dessert, that was developed in Fasih household as a symbol of Fasih family’s love for mangos and high standards of presentation of food.
In Karachi he enjoyed sweet and sour Sindhri mango cubes with rabri. There couldnt be a more royal treat.

His next favourite fruit was pineapple. Not the canned ones, but the fresh whole pineapples- he would bring a whole pineapple from COSTCO, leave it few days to ripen and then meticulously peel and slice it himself. It followed a tyical dialogue, which he repeated a gazillion times, perhaps after every chore, ” Yeh tou ho gaya. Begum, ab aur koi khidmat?” 😀 He wanted to travel to Malaysia again as that is where he found the sweetest pineapples. In our last visit to Key West, did he also find delicious Cuban pineapples. 🍍
Fasih’s love for fruits merits a separate blog.

And ofcourse good steeped tea and strong coffee were our common addictions. Having the last cup of chai before sleep was a religious ritual. When we did nothing, we drank tea or coffee together as a passtime. 😍 I haven’t had the last cup of tea ever since Fasih left. 😦

Tea at night

Thinking about Death- Sudden & Premature

I tried a great deal but I fail to understand the concept of sudden and premature demise.
On one hand it is said, the only thing definite, universal and a great equalizer is death. And on the other hand, there is no certainty or durability or guarantee of when will it arrive.
A healthy young person suddenly hits a truck or a random person happens to be in a wrong place at a wrong time suddenly gets fatal shot in a cross fire without being the actual target. Or even in COVID you hear of people on 80s, 90s or more or with comorbidites or cancer survive while a fit doctor despite all precautions catches the most virulent strain & succumbs to it.
First time I heard of a doctor dying of an iatrogenic infection was of my son in law’s uncle who had died more than a decade ago after operating an accident patient carrying CONGO Virus in Karachi. Only he was randomly selected to get cross infected, while no one in his team caught the infection. I was scandalized when I heard this story from the family.
And now, it actually happened to my own guy. One can console, or argue these covid times are uncertain times snd he is not a lone victim like Abdullah’s chacha, who was barely 34, had a 2 year old daughter, and his own FCPS in Surgery result came out after his demise. The family says their lives were turned upside down….quite like I feel. Or perhaps must have been a lot worse, as he was much younger, and there was no pandemic either.
Coming back to the point, why is death so unpredictable? When so many other things follow rules of nature, why not death?
Have you heard of someone being born normal and surviving at 16 weeks or even 20 weeks? For survival it has to be beyond a certain age. If not survival after birth, why should death be so unpredictable?
Has anyone seen sun rising prematurely and suddenly at 2am? Or not setting until 12 midnight suddenly? Are they not following rules of nature? Then why not death?
Its okay if someone wants to choose to die. But why should it happen to those who wanted to live, who want to do good in life?
If everything follows laws of nature, why not death?
I know in faith it is seen as “The Will of God” and hence a full stop to all arguments.
I still cannot make sense of it or able to understand. Why? Yes why is death the only thing that does not follow the rules of nature?
Call me whatever, but I dont still get it. I am sorry. I am not just complaining about my loss, but lamenting on behalf of all the loved ones left behind after a sudden death.

jis tarah ḳhvāb mire ho gaye reza reza
us tarah se na kabhī TuuT ke bikhre koī
~ Parveen Shakir
On 25th Anniversary on 29 Jan 2015
Hisaab e umr ka buss itna sa goshwara hai,
Tumhein nikaal ker dekha tou sab khasara hai.
Ger baazi ishq ki baazi ho, jo chaaho laga dou der kaisa
Jeet gaye tou kya kehna, haare bhi tou baazi maat nahin

` Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Farewell to Dr. Syed Fasihuddin- 29

Please read this post with a strong heart. I still suggest do read as this is not fiction but a wretched truth of COVID-19 and its toll on doctors.

On May 29th, Fasih called me and told, “Dr. Mahmood passed away.” ( Dr. Mahmood was Fasih’s long time freind and colleague and had spent last 10 years in Makkah with him as a very close friend).
Me: What? What happened?
Fasih: His wife Huma called me yesterday that Mahmood was having breathlessness, and I suggested him to immediately go to ER, and phoned Dr. Qazi Moinuddin Ahmed to admit him in Zahir Hopsital.
Me: Hmmm…
Fasih: Today morning I woke up to check for him, and called Moin, and he informed me, Mahmood passed away within hours of admission due to COVID-19. The hospital is now planning for his burial. And his family has not been reached out.
Me: *speechless*
Fasih: I called Huma and first thing she said was, “Fasih bhai Mahmood is not picking up the phone.”
Me: Khudaya…
Fasih continued: I told her, “Dr. Huma, I am so sorry, Mahmood’s health deterioted after you he was kept in isolation. Unfortunately, Mahmood is no more.”
Huma winced on the phone.
Fasih: Please rush to the hospital, and have a last look at him please.
Huma went to hospital and then also accopmanied them to the graveyard to witness his burial.
After that, she too had to go into isolation with all her grief for 2 weeks. Both her kids were overseas, and too far to only reach through phone.

In one of the comments on Fasih’s wall, Dr Moin write, “Dr. Huma was a symbol of grace and strength, as she watched her husband the last time, with calm, and patience while we all were crying hard.

After Mahmood bhai, Fasih was visibly shattered. He had to break the news of his death to his wife, children and even to his relatives in Karachi, and that took a huge toll on him. All he talked was about Mahmood on all phone calls, until his own brother fell to COVID-19 in Karachi. Ofcourse with this recent tragedy, he left no efforts to get his brother into the best care and treatment.

I still did not have the courage to speak to Huma for weeks and I mustered the courage to call her around June 10, and she was still only “Thankful to Fasih for his help.”
I was bewildered at her grace, and condoled my heart out. She was still alone, in isolation and said all that helped her was prayers.

Just in next 10 days, on June 21, it was Huma calling me to support me after Fasih was admitted to hospital.
She made every effort to cheer me up and even when I told her, Huma, I dont understand how can you be so positive, when you are grieving yourself, she said, “Ilmana, Fasih bhai is healthy. And he is strong and resilient. Mahmood was diabetic. More than that, Mahmood wanted to die and be buried in Makkah. I am grateful to Allah he fulfilled his dream.”

I knew Huma was going out of the way to support me, and trying to find ‘positivity’ in her own husband’s death, just to cheer me up.

In subsequent calls all through Friday, she kept cheering me up with funny things like,
“Take your best clothes, now you will spend time with Fasih in his recovery, and he will be so motivated to get well soon, seeing you graceful.”…. numerous other cheezy suggestions.
She made every effort to express how exciting it would be for Fasih to be ‘enjoying the rest’ while I will look after Taj, under his supervision in his convalescence.
She had even given me a ‘gaurantee’, “Just wait and watch how bravely Fasih bhai will come out of this. Fasih is a person of different mould.”
I would put the phone down, motivated, but also at the same time, be in awe of the grace and strength of this selfless woman who was feigning to forget her pain, only to cheer me up. I knew and had seen very closely, and how close and beautiful couple Huma and Mahmood bhai were. It takes great courage to overcome one’s grief to cheer someone else up. My massive respect to her, and am indebted for life to her.

On the tragic Friday of 26 June, when the skies came falling on us, Huma called me crying, “Ilmana I have nothing to say. I am sorry, but I was sure Fasih bhai will brave through. I can still not believe it. I cannot even accept it.”

After that until today, I did not recieve any phone or message from Huma. I also was not in a state of mind to even notice it. So it just struck me suddenly yesterday and I sent her a message. Today I recieved a message from her, from the real Huma who was crying and mourning the loss of her husband, even after 2 months.
“Ilmana, I had no strength to call you. Its getting worse with time, and absence of Mahmood is getting more and more unbearable. I dont know how will life go on. This is too lonely a life without him. I know you are also in the same situation. I know what you must be going through. I dont know why and how, but our lives have been destroyed within days.”

Dr. Huma is now back to work after 2 weeks of break after Dr. Mahmood’s death as, “It is so hard to stay alone. I am back to clinic and also seeing patients, including COVID, just to pass rest of my life.”

I still did not have the courage to call her back. But I am mustering courage, and I will. She was the pillar of support and hope to me when I was the most fearful. For some reason, or for obvious reasons, I have lost all fear from my life. Alhamdulillah.

May all the current frontline doctors stay safe and strong.

#COVID19 #HealthcareWorkers #doctors

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