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PROF: not a JOKE!

After going through the circuit these last few years, once, then twice, and now thrice, I’ve come to a realization that this year it is different.  ‘PROF’  is no longer an obstacle that one can maneuver around, over, and, under: the beauty of grace marks, internal assessment, cheating or sheer luck (not to mention, studying your backside off), is still viable but lackluster.  PROF has emerged formidable, and challenges you.

Now, before I say anything, I don’t intend to generalize.  I don’t intend to confuse or eve misrepresent a very large and respectable cross-section of student population known as ‘theethas’.  I belong to that stratum which natural selection hasn’t exactly favored.  We tend to lack the dedication, ambition (and rote learning tools in some cases) to excel.  People like us aren’t great and don’t do great things.  We work (study) to survive.

Now, from the obvious change this year includes; work load!  It has increased and the amount of material that has had to be covered, and will keep increasing in future.  Along with it so will responsibilities, and a need to adapt and overcome various tiresome and phobic frights such as interacting with people, touching patients…obeying orders…and the list goes on.

One thing that I have come to recognize and appreciate is going through past papers.  It really is convenient and helpful, as questions tend to repeat.  Yet, I only managed to do a few for just one subject.  Not very conscientious, I suppose.

A feeling that has started increasing in its urgency and pressure on my moral compass is that MBBS is not only about intellect and skills and saving lives, it is also a rat race.  A vicious one at that, with people clamouring to be at the top or at the front.  Once someone gets there, skills do play a crucial role.  But it’s the whole package, including right way to show obeisance, to form alliances, the ability to suck up – the petty politics – always looming overhead.   An undignified life for someone sensitive about self-respect.

Another important factor, perhaps most of us, including me, overlook is our deeds!  Without elaborating or trying to preach, I think the following incident will suffice:

Imam Ash-Shafi`i said: “I complained to Wakee` about the weakness of my memory, so he ordered me to abandon disobedience (sin) and informed me that knowledge is light. He said that the light of Allah is not given to the disobedient.”

These abovementioned thoughts revolved in my mind quite vividly, that one fateful exam (won’t name the subject), like frames of a motion picture reeling in front of my eyes.  As I sat there doleful and resigned, I resolved myself into consolation, come what may – maybe even a “suppli” (God, I hope not) – I’ve tried and still got to keep doing it, a milestone has not been achieved as of yet…

                                                              Ibtidaa-e-Ishq hai Rota hai Kya

                                                         Aagay Aagay Dekhiye hota hai Kya

The PMC Watch- An Epilogue

[Note: this article has 2 parts, both are being presented here for the reader.  Enjoy!]

PART 1

The PMC Watch?!  I will cut to the chase; the idea was conceived one eventful night more than a year ago, in a dark corner of a study room, while chatting with a friend.  He was confided in, so there were two of us.

Messages were discreetly sent to individuals who we believed had a potential to write, and were most likely to collaborate.  Out of all the people we invited, and there weren’t many, only one showed interest, and gave an encouraging response.  He came onboard.  I must say ever since he has been our best asset.  So, there were three of us.  Much later a fourth was brought on to the team.  So, there were only four of us who ever were involved with running of, and writing for the PMC Watch- the blog and the facebook page.

Why the PMC Watch?  This is a difficult question to answer.  But, it was borne out of a need to provide a different edge and angle, to views and commentary on life at PMC.  And, to think in a different paradigm than the prevalent one.  Candid sarcasm, raising serious questions, and giving truthful conclusions has had been our hallmark.  The ‘need’ to do all of this was felt, after having observed that it wasn’t necessarily the ‘intellect’,  the ‘right’, the common sense, that prevailed in the PMC culture.

So, the very core of our message was and is the ability to ‘self-criticize’.  This stands important, because it is only after one confronts one’s own faults, at individual and societal level, and the weak ivory towers are demolished, does one begin to see with a higher level of clarity.

How successful we have been in imparting this message, I cannot say.  Whether our work has been appreciated or slated, is something I am not too concerned to seek an answer for.  As a wise woman once said:

“If we have been accused of what is not within us, then how many times have we been praised for what is also not within us.”

I believe a point has come where we need to benefit from some introspection for our own good.   Whether the PMC Watch is a worthwhile endeavor or not?  Whether we facilitate ‘change’ and ‘thinking outside the box’, or do we pontificate?  Do we have an audience or are we just hitting the wall?  Are we sincere in our work, or just self-serving?  And, so on.  Add to this the pre-PROF drama, and we have valid enough reasons for a BREAK!!

As I make a ‘temporary’ departure, from this ‘fiefdom’ (lol) of pen, I am reminded of, in a caricatured way, of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s verses, which he penned while being exiled to Rangoon:

My beloved tormented me so much

We were forced to leave our native land;

As drops of wax from the burning taper

So as we quit the circle of life

Fell tears from our eyes.

The gardener forbade us sporting in his garden,

With laughter we came,

With wailing we parted.

No I don’t suddenly feel forlorn and heartbroken!  But, the point is, just as some have their text messages and the ‘significant others’ [a sign of manhood these days], and others have their hostel life and its hustle and bustle.  Then, there are those who have their medical books to cherish and hug.

For me, it was (and is) as much as a question of ‘survival’ as of not being quiescent, in an environment which is lopsided, layered with pretenses, fueled with group-think and sheep mentality, seeking to be something it cannot be, and all the while passing off as normal!  So, you can understand the dilemma.

So, my ‘circle of life’ to borrow the poet’s words, which helped me survive (and hopefully will in future), is writing with a ‘cause’.  It is as much an antidote, as it is a symbolic expression of shattering the ‘idols’ that are such degenerate values and ‘mores’.  No one questions these, no one sees through these, but all find ways to twist and twist!

Anyhow, at the moment it is time to close this chapter in PMC’s lackluster history; only to emerge once again…sooner or later.  Or maybe not!

– The Obscurantist

PART 2

Preamble has already been given by The Obscurantist, I guess. I would just like to add a little bit from my side.

It was a fairly cold day in the first week of March of 2010, I remember. The Obscurantist approached me while we were leaving the Physiology Lab. He handed me a tiny piece of paper on which “pmcwatch.wordpress.com” was written. I asked him about it and he said that I should check it whenever I had time. I visited the blog and found the idea really striking and felt kind of flattered too because The Obscurantist had himself invited me to contribute to it. So, I hopped in! I contributed my first article the following Sunday. The Obscurantist welcomed it and I was added to the list of the authors.

Basically, I joined The PMC Watch for two purposes: ‘Recreation’ and ‘Catharsis’. And, I got both of these fulfilled through the course of time. I was aware of the fact that people mostly don’t go about reading anything written in English unless they have to prepare for some exam etc. But still, I thought that it would be worth writing even if just two or three people read it and it would be enough if I successfully impregnate even a single mind with my ideas. I never considered it a platform which could change anything significantly and neither had I ever thought of it as a mere pastime.

For me, the most important of all things has always been expressing my mind in as subtle a manner as possible. I prefer releasing the frustration in a cloak of humor; the frustration begotten by the sense of not being able to do something in a broader perspective. The PMC Watch provided me with the opportunity to do it, that is, express my mind, and I am grateful for that! Even if I get to write my thoughts on a wall (preferably, my Facebook wall :D), I get contented. And undoubtedly, The PMC Watch has always been better than a wall :). As Meer has said,

وقت خوش  ان  کا  جو  ہم بزم  ہیں  تیرے

ہم تو  در و دیوار  کو احوال سنا جاتے ہیں

(waqt-e-khush  un kaa  jo  hum-bazm  haim  tere

hum to dar-o-deewaar ko ahwaal suna jaate hain)

The question as of whether or not to carry it on arose when The Obscurantist recently intimated to me that he seemed to be getting too egotistic regarding The PMC Watch. I said, “Do whatever you deem right, I will support”. He made a decision and hence I am talking to you now, which could be the very last time we ever talk. Everything that begins has an end, and if it is going to end here, I would like to end it with one of my very favorite verses of Faiz.

 فیض، آتے ہیں راہ عشق میں جو سخت مقام
آنے والوں  سے  کہو  ہم  تو  گزر  جائیں  گے

(Faiz, aate hain raah-e-ishq mein jo sakht maqaam

aane  waalon  se  kaho,  hum to  guzar  jaayen  ge)

Regards,

The Philosopher’s Stone

PARWAZ 2010: A Review

Parwaz ’10 has finally arrived.  For all the hype that’s supposed to build up in the run up to its arrival, one is wont to see people having philosophical epiphanies, while reading it in the corridors, or the lawns, or the library, or wherever.  But, you get the point?  Parwaz is HERE.

Things aren’t hopeless; this year’s Parwaz has something to offer.  The fact that it is better [English section*] than last year’s, is an accolade in and of itself.

First I will discuss, what I thought was worthwhile in Parwaz ’10, and then, obviously, in a PMC Watch-esque style I’ll indulge in some criticism too.

I’ll be honest; I opened Parwaz, with the intent to find something to criticize.  And, having flipped through the first few pages, I did feel quite justified.  But as I laid my eyes, much to the chagrin of my brain, on more and more material, I realized that there was something substantial to be found in it: if read it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.

Let’s take a few noteworthy examples:

The title that first caught my eye was “Free Will Eschewed”.  I admit my weakness for ‘big’ words, hence the excitement.

Even though, the piece was disjointed at every other paragraph, and that the author seemingly contradicted herself.  I still thought it merited mention because there was a peculiar abundance of difficult and obscure words in it, many having been employed properly.  The author deserves credit for that.  Though, if it had been well thought out, it could’ve been a great piece.

Another article that stood out was verbosely titled: “Ridiculous Fashion Modes (Invented by Ignorance and Adopted by Folly)”.  This article contrasted well with the abovementioned piece in many ways.  It had coherence, was easy to read, and made sense.

Its content happened to discuss a very pertinent issue: the shallow standards of our society, and what it imagines  the so-called ‘modernity’ to be, and tries hard to adopt, especially through ‘fashion’(faayyshaan).

The article also had a hint of wit.  For instance:

“…Their clothing is beyond description (seriously!  But I’ll present a little picture), pants would seem to fall any minute, their hairstyle[s] are beyond imagination, working like new mountain ranges.  These ‘dudes’ (I am stressing on it, mind that) with spikes look more like a bunch of porcupines.”

The author has done a decent job, she should continue writing.

Another piece that I particularly liked was “Group Nomenclature” , because it discussed an issue that touches at the very heart and core of PMC’s culture: Group-ism, a need for ‘identity’, and the boundaries, all so meticulously constructed, that exist at PMC.  Or, how people feel compelled to ‘change’ their selves, and adopt a new social ‘identity’.  How, we so often see that those who only yesterday were meek bookish nerds, turn, almost over night into local versions of ‘Jonas Brothers’ [Click to get a better idea :P], or ‘Gossip Girl(s)’ [Yes, another pop culture reference, but no pic this time].

The article had a good dose of sarcasm, and the author cleverly utilized medical terminology, and that added to the effect immensely.  It’s worth a read.

There were quite a few ‘discourses’ on religion too, which is commendable.  But, they were either pseudo-intellectual interpretations (such as that of Shikwa/Jawab-e-Shikwa), OR, reminiscing and lamenting the course of history.  When indeed, the need of the hour is to talk about ‘relevant’ issues from an Islamic perspective, and connect past to present and make “it” relevant.

Much of the rest was the same old drill, with the same trite and pedestrian topics:  we need democracy, we need this, we need that, and of course ‘political’ commentary having self-bestowed the ‘expertise’ to do so.

Then, there were the token ‘My first day at PMC…’/ ‘How I love PMC…’ topics.  Nothing wrong with it, but there are innumerable ‘real’ issues at PMC that one could talk about and there’s a dearth of material on these.  Instead of paying lip service to already used and abused topics, explore more avenues.  Nonetheless, the authors should be congratulated, as they at least chose to write!

In passing, I must mention that I do have a bone to pick with one particular poem, “The Potion of Love: A Panacea” .  I’ve been befuddled with this rather convoluted (and probably tasteless) recipe of ‘Love’, as it does not make much sense, even with layers of metaphor.  The aspiring poetess states that it is love [quote], “…for which cupid shared the blame.”  Apparently, it is the ‘magic’ of this cupid’s love that gives [quote], “…birth to hope, banishing barbarous plunders.”  Is she suggesting, that if every man in the world had a woman to love, and every woman a man, it would be a ‘Panacea’ [remedy/solution] to all of the world’s miseries?  I am confident, even a Bob Marley intoxicated with Marijuana, would think this far-fetched.

Now, to some constructive criticism, if I may.  Allow me to begin with the ‘editorial’.  I can’t recall having last read such a deplorable ‘editorial’.  To mention just one illustrious mistake; whoever even writes an ‘introduction’ (‘tamheed’) in a second paragraph?!  And, to think the Editorial Board had a ‘whole’ year to get it correct.

A further proof of the lackadaisical job done by the respectable Editor-in-Chief, is how he made a factual and historical error in one of his numerous articles, by calling the caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (ra) : ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz.  What happened to proof-reading?  Cross-checking?  In short, editorial duties?!

Another beautiful example of how the whole range of Editors, Sub-Editors, Asisstant-Editors […], were completely blind-sided by the enormity of their task, that they seemingly decided to not do it at all: is plagiarism!  Yes, they even managed to have plagiarized material published.

To quote someone is one thing, but to have a whole page filled with someone else’s words, and write two measly sentences of ones own at the beginning, then have it published under one’s own name [even after having mentioned the actual author ‘Gabriel Garcia Marquez’], is blatant plagiarism.  No excuse for it.

I really can’t comprehend this conduct of Parwaz’s editors.  If they take their jobs more seriously, it could greatly uplift Parwaz’s stature.

Notwithstanding the unforgiveable editorial shenanigans, there IS a silver lining.  In this year’s Parwaz, some raw talent has shone through, which definitely needs to be developed.  Even with the unoriginal material, the standard of language, content, and its delivery has improved.  This by all means is an achievement.  Parwaz certainly has cause to celebrate, but still not much to boast.

For the Love of Urdu.

Urdu!

I have been reading Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi lately, and even though I can’t comprehend half of it, I feel enamored by it.  Not just with the way he writes, or what he writes about, but the vehicle of his expression: the language.  Not just trite, repetitive trash that passes off as ‘fiction’ these days, but refined and rich language that reminds one of what Urdu is (or was) all about.  Words and sentences that create a flurry in one’s mind, and add color to one’s imagination.

The greatest asset of an expressive language is not merely being a means of ‘communication’; rather it’s giving meaning and, layers of meanings to things small and large.  It is this expansiveness of words that gives life to ideas and concepts.  If words or their usage become obsolete, that much of meaning and understanding is also lost.  This is the greatest tragedy faced by Urdu today.  The Urdu as it was known, and what it represented in its heyday of literary achievements and scholarly output is arguably no more.  What little use of proper Urdu and its appreciation remains in our collective conscience must be preserved.

The following excerpt from towards the end of first chapter of Yusufi’s ‘Aab-e-Gumm’, I found it amusing yet true.

 

مرزا اکثر طعنہ دیتے ہیں کہ تم ان معدودے چند

لوگوں میں سے ہو جنہوں نے متروکہ جائداد کا کوئ کلیم داخل نہیں کیا

وجہ یہ کہ چلتے وقت تم اپنے ساتھ متروکات کا دفینہ کھود کر

! سموچا ڈھو کر پاکستان لے آئے

تفنن برطرف اگر ان میں سے ایک لفظ جی ہاں

صرف ایک لفظ بھی دوبارہ رائج ہو گیا تو سمجھوں گا عمر بھر کی محنت سوارت ہوئ

 

One needs to read Yusufi, to see the sheer humor in this excerpt.  I thought the use of word ‘matruka’ was quite clever.  Whether the person the person who said it intended it the same way as I am interpreting it, it does get the point across at so many levels, that Urdu words and terms are becoming antiquated.

But, the question is; if something has become obsolete, what is it replaced with?  And, what are the reasons?

Urdu really is becoming ‘matruka’, left off, unclaimed, irrelevant…

…Because of the cultural and social status we have accorded it.  It is considered unbecoming to use it in formal settings (and increasingly in informal ones too).

…Because, we are required to read, write, and understand ideas, concepts, skills – knowledge – in a language other than Urdu.  I’m not against it, I’m utilizing this very language.  But, the lack of emphasis on Urdu has meant that ideas, concepts, ethical precepts, religious injunctions, that are all by far and large better explained, or need to be explicated in Urdu, for the general masses, are overlooked.  If the ‘educated’ ones are failing at this, this could only result in gradual irrelevance and loss of language, and with it such crucial knowledge.

What is happening to us, more complex than ‘loss’ of language, but it is a critical aspect of this dilemma, this ‘loss’ of culture.

وہ لہر نہ پھر دل میں جاگی وہ رنگ نہ لوٹ کے پھر آیا

 

There’s no particular reason for singling out Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s words, while writing this little article, except that his Urdu is extremely expressive (and hard!), and I had the epiphany of writing this down, while reading Yusufi.  I’m learning Urdu, for which reasons are many (some discussed above), and this is just a small token of appreciation.  As I learn and understand it more, I intend to cherish the fact that I ‘know’ it.  For now this should suffice.

 

یہ افسانہ اگرچہ سرسری ہے

ولے اس وقت کی لذت بھری ہے

 

Inside the Walls

Inside the Walls

I had originally decided to write a long post on the little trip I made with some friends to the Old City Lahore.  I had even managed to write four pages of a rough draft (I have a habit of writing on paper before I type it out).  But I decided to scratch the idea.  In fact, it wasn’t exactly a trip, because once we entered that intricate labyrinth of narrow allies and streets, that is old city Lahore, we didn’t know where we were going.  But, we kept on, turning from street into another…

…I guess this really is the whole allure of ‘exploring’, you don’t always know where you are going, or what you may come across.  But, also whatever you see, you find meaning in it…

An old building we saw, while finding our way through the slender streets:

After managing our way through a particularly narrow street, we suddenly found ourselves in much more open space, and realized we had finally found Masjid Wazir Khan:

 

Inside the Mosque:

 

 

 

In a bid to explore even more, since we had much time at hand…we decided to look for some other historical places.  It turns out, alongside Badshahi Masjid, and Masjid Wazir Khan, there are other mosques that are quite historic.  One of them being a certain ‘Saleh Kamboh Mosque’, which is mistakenly referred to as ‘Chinian Wali Masjid’ in many travel guides, which we later found out is yet another Mosque.

 

Outside Saleh Kamboh Mosque:

 

Probably the only thing I regret from the trip, is having missed the authentic Lahori breakfast, and that too in the very center of real Lahore, when I had the chance…I guess there’s always another time.

Kick Ass M.B.B.S. !

 

 

Altruism; chivalry; women. In many ways these are the three essential components of what truly makes one a Kick-Ass.  In fact, these are the three principles by which he abides.  I am quite justified in using this term; Kick-Ass, especially because we have a very befitting pop culture reference:  Kick-Ass the Movie.  The movie is about a kid who gets obsessed with becoming a real life super hero, who goes around doing good things, and also finds it an excellent way of winning over the girl he likes.

 

We however are not discussing the movie.  It has been mentioned to give some necessary background on this term “Kick-Ass”, as the three principles mentioned above can be observed in this movie.  It holds some useful cues for an aspiring PMC Kick-Ass, who more likely than not, had a very suppressive teenage.   No quick judgments should be made, as this is not a complete tragedy.  We are after all going to discuss how a PMC Kick-Ass unravels:  The story of a true hero in making.

 

In order to do this, I will have to contextualize the abovementioned three principles into PMC’s environment and realities, and how these reflect in a PMC Kick-Ass.  So, bear with me as this is nothing short of celebration of a crucial aspect of PMC’s lifestyle.

 

Altruism

Altruism technically means giving to others, being charitable, and caring for others, and so on.  The question is, how is Altruism embodied by a PMC Kick-Ass?  Surely it can’t be donating blood, and other clichéd manners of ‘caring for others’.  A true PMC Kick-Ass always has an excuse; from life threatening health condition to wrong blood group.  As an uninitiated new comer, he must first learn to appreciate what Altruism really is, for this he turns to the ‘sages’ often referred to as ‘seniors’.  Remember, he is already a PMC Kick-Ass in spirit.

 

The very first lesson he learns is, “puttar spending on yourself is the greatest act of charity in PMC”. Hence he acquires the key to being altruistic.  The process of extreme makeover begins.  Out goes the checkered   formal looking shirt that he once buttoned up to the collar, with great pride, suddenly tight t-shirts and fake polos are in.  Branded jeans, a sure eye-catcher, and of course, china made pair of converse.   The first step to completion of his manhood has been covered.

 

Now he busies himself with spreading his altruistic spirit by giving much needed fashion advice to other aspiring PMC Kick-Asses.  Soon, he gathers and establishes PMC’s very own, and abused version of Backstreet Boys (I say abused, because there’s a history of precedents).  On a thoughtful second note, I should probably scratch the reference to Backstreet Boys, what I really meant was macho, testosterone laden Kick-Asses.

 

 

Chivalry

Chivalry means having valor, generosity, gentleman ship.  So, it is not terribly hard to mistake the Kick-Asses as knights in shining armour.  This alliance of evil fighters goes out into the corridors of PMC everyday to scout ‘possible threats’.  Their primary aim is to save the innocent and unsuspecting girls from the ‘marauding’ theethas, who aren’t “JUST” discussing viva questions, or exchanging notes, or suddenly showing up in the same societies, or running for sports rep.  There’s a more ‘sinister’ reason.

 

A PMC Kick-Ass, after all those facials and threading routines, not to mention the military like regimen he has to get used to, in order to look like a cheap rip-off of MTV Roadies, has a greater right to such reasons.  Or so he sincerely believes.  Only he should hit the jackpot.  He’s the man, no…the superman!

 

Women

Naturally, many would ask the question: why be altruistic?  Why be chivalrous?  Why ‘save’ the ‘unsuspecting’ girls?  The answer, which is biologically and psychologically sound, is: because they are GIRLS!  This one is a no-brainer.

 

After years of being walked over, of the survival of the fittest going awry, girls are quite literally ‘the forbidden fruit’.  Being disadvantaged is a great motivator!

 

So, “women” (ladies, take no offence; ‘women’ is being used a suitable synonym for ‘girls’, there’s nothing wrong with being in touch with your feminine side) is the last and most important principle and component of a Kick-Ass’s existence.  First two principles are a corollary to it.

 

In not so far past, when he wasn’t a Kick-Ass, the PMC Kick-Ass’s expertise in this field included:

 

Ogling girls sheepishly, hiding behind pillars and doors.  All the while pretending to fix his thick prescription glasses.

Reading depressing poetry.

And, of course being in touch with ‘modern ways’, like those ‘love meters’ on such educational outlets as Aag TV.  He loved (still does) utilizing such digital means of finding the perfect other to message late into night with.  After all what are the ‘youth packages’ for?  A 70% on the ‘love meter’ would turn out to be so incredibly exhilarating that he would go to sleep with head held high, like a warrior who had won a most prized trophy.  The only problem is, he imagined his name on the ‘love meter.  He was too clever to spend any money.

Today, the PMC Kick-Ass stands a real chance, or, at least he thinks.  And, he is always looking for motivation.  What really boosts his morale is the fact that the girls he wishes to court (or has been successful courting) aren’t exactly ‘houris’ either.  This in itself increases his chances exponentially.

 

Now, all of this may sound a little bizarre and even disturbing to a non-PMCian.  He or she may ask: why go through all this trouble?  What could possibly create a desire in a person to become a Kick-Ass?  What are the possible social and psychological causes?

 

To my untrained mind, these sound like intellectual and philosophical questions.  Attempting to answer these is likely to bore me, the PMC Kick-Asses, and rest of the PMCians.  So, I’m going to leave these unanswered.

 

As for the outcome of such endeavours, it isn’t always as a PMC Kick-Ass expects.  The success rate is quite abysmal.  Only the most skilful ones actualize their ‘goals’, most others have to settle for ‘less’.  It’s ruthless competition.  Many PMC Kick-Asses may have withdrawal symptoms that feel like Spiderman in his real life, except that this is their only ‘real’ life.

 

However, there IS a silver lining.  After having spent five years with much philogynist vigor, a Kick-Ass is not simply Kick-Ass, he is now the PMC Kick-Ass M.B.B.S. Here, his story turns a new page.  What happens next does not concern us, but the legacy of PMC Kick-Ass lives on.