Friday, June 1, 2012

Dr. Javed Suleman, through years - A story shared.

A blanket of humidity, as per the tradition of a summer’s afternoon in Karachi, enveloped the city as I headed toward Sheraton. I had been informed earlier that day that the interview that I was looking forward to take since quite some time was scheduled for that very same day. It was an interview with a very prominent name. The idea that this person had many years ago, as a medical student, walked through the hallways of the same medical college, where I study today, made it even the more special for me. Upon reaching the grand lobby of the hotel, so many questions, so many thoughts raced through my mind, but within a few minutes, I found myself keenly listening to Dr. Javed Suleman,a senior faculty member in the Department of Cardiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and the President-elect of APPNA for the year 2012, as he vibrantly spoke of his experiences as a medical student at Sindh Medical College, from where he graduated in 1986.

While talking of the years gone by, he recalls that it was a great learning experience being a medical student at SMC and he considers his days spent there as the most memorable days of his life. He shared with me an event that he still remembers very fondly. It was when Faiz Ahmed Faiz had returned to Pakistan from Beirut and was invited to SMC. While reminiscing about it, he told me that it was the first time that a poet of such great caliber had visited SMC. During those days, his health was deteriorating, and Dr. Javed Suleman helped him climb the stairs that led to the stage so that he could give his speech. Faiz, the poet, the revolutionary, in his soft, deep voice that had a touch of anguish and helplessness to it, spoke of struggle, sorrows, tyranny and lack of freedom of expression; but finally, he culminated his speech on an optimistic note, leaving the mesmerized young audience with a message of hope - hope of a new dawn. As he recalled this whole event, Dr. Javed Suleman smiled and said, “And we had a great photo session with him.”

The main driving force behind medicine being a career choice for him was his urge to help people. He lives with the same motto today. He visits Pakistan a couple of times every year, bringing the necessary cardiac supplies including the Drug Eluting Stents with him from USA for the non–affording patients and performs a great number of angioplasties on such patients each year for free. For his services to the underprivileged patients of this country, he has been awarded the highest and the most prestigious civilian award “Tamgha-e-Imtiaz” by the Government of Pakistan.  

He being one of the topnotch Interventional Cardiologists globally thinks that it’s very necessary to train the emerging Cardiologists of Pakistan and keep them abreast with the latest innovations in the field of Cardiology. Thus, in 2004, within the structure of APPNA: Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, which is the umbrella organization for all the Pakistani doctors residing in North America, Dr. Javed Suleman founded APCNA: Association of Pakistani Descent Cardiologists of North America. APCNA provides a platform to the Pakistani Cardiologists living in North America and is aimed at improving the field of Cardiology in Pakistan. Each year, he gives academic presentations, leads interventional workshops and shows live interventional coronary cases at the reputed Cardiovascular Institutes in the major cities of Pakistan.

He is the founding member of SMCAANA and has remained its 10th President in 2004. He has played a pivotal role in establishing the crises center for the 9/11 victims and their families and also in the recent fund-raising for the internal refugees of Pakistan. 

Dr. Javed Suleman has been a leader and has believed in fighting for the right cause, since the days he was at SMC. In his opinion, SMC, since the time of its inception, has seen struggle. Dow Medical College was the only college the city had and there was a rising need for another medical college, hence Sindh Medical College was established in 1973. Later, when the first batch of SMC graduated, they had to face yet another ordeal as far as the house jobs were concerned, since the administration of JPMC, being under the Federal Government, declined to accept all the graduates of the first batch of SMC for house jobs and only 30 percent of the graduates were accommodated. It was once again a long and tiring struggle during the years 1982-1983 by the SMC Student Union, of which Dr. Javed Suleman was the General Secretary, that finally proved as an important milestone in the history of Sindh Medical College and the administration of JPMC agreed to accept all the graduates of SMC for house jobs every year from there on. Another major accomplishment by the same Student Union was the construction of a mini auditorium at SMC. The purpose was to provide better clinical learning to the students, as it made it easier for professors to demonstrate the examination and the findings of clinical cases to a batch of hundred students from the stage instead of demonstrating it in the crowded wards.

            He believes that in those days, the students of SMC were more closely connected, despite the differences in opinions and they always stood united in times of struggle and difficulties that SMC faced. 

As he looks back at the initial years in the United States, he says that they were filled with struggle as he was new in a foreign land. It seemed like a difficult road was ahead of him, as he had to study for months and months without employment so as to be able to pass the exams. However, now, being where he is today, serving humanity in the best possible way, he feels that the struggle was worthwhile. 

Dr. Javed Suleman aspires to see Sindh Medical College as a university in the years to come and he hopes to see a compassionate and just leader in every student at SMC who should serve humanity irrespective of caste and creed.

His father was a businessman who passed away when Dr. Javed Suleman was in first year of medical school. His mother lives with him in New York. His wife and elder sister have also graduated from Sindh Medical College and all his children are interested in opting for medicine as a career. 

He likes to spend his leisure time with family and friends. He prefers listening to mellow music. Being an avid reader of Urdu Literature, he comments that the book that he has read many a times from cover to cover and which has been of profound significance in his life has been Faiz Ahmed Faiz’sNuskha Hay Wafa. He is also fond of many other poets of Urdu Language, but believes that the poetry of Faiz supersedes the rest and leaves a great impact on him each time he reads it. 

As the interview session ended, the mighty day light hours giving way to the pleasant evening breeze as the sun set, and the silhouette of Sheraton behind, I was on my way back home with a smile on my face. It’s rare, and a great honor indeed, to get the opportunity to interview a person as learned, humble and welcoming as Dr. Javed Suleman. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Book Review)

Two strangers, one a bearded Pakistani, well aware of the surroundings and another, an American, come face to face in Old Anarkali, Lahore. Changez, the protagonist, approaches the American and offers him to have a cup of tea with him at a café, and from there on, while they have a cup of tea, one takes over the role of a listener and the other, that of a narrator.

As the late afternoon deepens into the darkness of night, with the ambiance shifting from that of a lively market place panorama in the midst of all the hustle and the bustle towards gloominess, Changez discloses his life story; the series of events that eventually led him to embark upon this new journey, in search of new “fundamentals.”

What is the significance of those confessions?

As the novel goes on and Changez unfolds his story, we enter into a territory where we have to unlock several questions and understand several devices. One of them is either to agree with Changez’s actions and confessions, or to go with the second one, that is, being able to separate the protagonist’s perceptions from what might be the actual state of affairs.

Being a dramatic monologue, we only get to hear Changez’s voice throughout the novel and get to know of the listener’s expressions and body language, only and only when Changez describes or questions them.

Observing the setting of the novel, the style, the use of italics in places stressing upon and suggesting the changing nuances, and the confession session ending within that signal meeting, Hamid has ingeniously framed this whole novel, proving how an extra ordinary piece of literature can be produced, without introducing unnecessary characters, excessive descriptions or a style, flamboyant but lacking in substance.

Despite of the fact that he is aware of his roots, the decline of his family’s social status and the vulnerability of his homeland when compared to the massive American empire, he adopts the American way of life, putting in all his energies to achieve success.

His personal world is complacent, until the day he witnesses the September 11 attacks on the television. His first reaction to this news unveils his inner feelings for America which he had for so long suppressed or glossed over, unconsciously as well as consciously.

The attitude of America after 9/11, after her people devastated and her pride injured, and in all that, Erica who completed the rhythm of Changez’s dreamlike world, vanishing in front of him into the shadows of her past, leaves Changez disillusioned with the country he had so readily adopted.

The tone changes from one of pride to contempt and then to of one that is intimate; confiding also about the weakness of his character at times when strength and substance could have saved Erica, his beloved and helped her accept him instead of drifting away into a life that had ceased to exist.

In this story of a life full of aspirations, dreams and love drowning into turbulence and disillusionments, the reader gets to see the edgy relationship between the East and the West. The representation of the American as a silent haughty observer, and the mocking and sarcastic tone of the novel at places, where Changez breaks the chain of narration to remind himself and his American listener of the present, at times gave me the impression as though it’s a conversation between the East and the West and Changez is just being used a mouth-piece.

“For we were not always burdened by debt, dependent on foreign aid and handouts; in the stories we tell of ourselves we were not the crazed and destitute radicals you see on your television channels, but rather saints and poets and – yes – conquering kings. We built the Royal Mosque and the Shalimar Gardens in this city, and we built the Lahore Fort with its mighty walls and wide ramp for our battle- elephants. And we did these things when your country was still a collection of thirteen small colonies, gnawing away at the edge of a continent.”

What eventually works as a final blow to his distraught state of mind is when it dawns upon him that he is a janissary of the contemporary world, trained and being used as a piece of equipment to fulfill the needs of American capitalism and that is when the fundamentalist becomes the “reluctant” one. This is one of the threads to the title of the novel and I would leave the rest of the threads for the readers to figure out, when they read The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The book is devoid of any obvious religious affiliations or religious fundamentalism. However, to me, what it does focus on is the way at times, nationalism flowing through one’s veins can become a force even stronger than humanism and love.

The book being Mohsin Hamid’s second novel is the kind of book that does make you think and reflect upon your own alliances and strength of character. Though, when I attended his reading session at the Karachi Literature festival this year in March, had time permitted I would have asked him why he chose “Changez” as the name of his protagonist in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Although Dara Shikoh is understandable as the name of his protagonist in Moth Smoke, but for now let me do justice with the book review and leave it for you readers to figure out the answers to all these questions while you read The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Moth Smoke.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blood Tests for Thalassemia and HIV mandatory before marriage.
Recently, the Sindh Assembly passed a unanimous resolution urging the Government to make blood tests for screening of various diseases such as Thalassemia, HIV, Hepatitis C and other fatal diseases mandatory before marriage.

In Pakistan, we have a yearly increase of 6 to 7 thousand babies who are a case of Thalassemia major. And at present over 1, 50, 000 patients of our country are suffering from this disease. It's not just the patient who suffers; their families too are emotionally and economically traumatised. In addition to that, since Thalassemia is a genetic disease, the trend of inter-marriages, increases the risk rate. Therefore, people should spread awareness and discourage inter-marriages in order to reduce the chances of concentrating recessive genetic traits within the family.

Considering all these facts, I think that it is a very positive initiative on the part of our provincial assembly and the masses should move forward and make this plan successful by being rational about it, instead of taking offense and by understanding the importance of a pre-marital blood test, so as to save their children from suffering later on.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The scars of the Swat operation...

As soon as there is an interval in the curfew, hundreds of thousands of inhabitants from the different parts of Swat Valley move out to join the stream of vehicles, for the safe exit from the area and among them, many begin their journey on foot. Many people are still trapped in their houses, being terrorized by the Taliban and not being allowed to move out. Thousands who are unable to reach to the camps have to spend the nights in the fields. In the camps that are set up, there is lack of proper food, medicines, and proper hygiene and sanitation facilities. According to today’s news report, diseases like malaria and diarrhea are on the rise in those camps. This struggle and misery of the internally displaced people should not be taken for granted by the government. Since we do not want to inculcate feelings of hatred amongst the internally displaced people and a little lack of management and carelessness on the part of government might prove as a trigger in rising elements of another form of Talibanization in the people who now are internally displaced.

This is probably one of the worst times in the history of Pakistan and I fear that if the government does not deal with the crises of the internally displaced people of Swat beneficially, this defeat of the militants might prove as their victory in the end.

First, we need to acknowledge the fact that the launch of a military operation against the Taliban was the only way to wipe them out of Swat and the adjoining areas. Since,dialogue with such a barbaric faction(Frankenstein, created by the Pakistan army under General Zia and the US itself) was an idea absolutely out of question. However, this war has brought a major fear along with itself and that is, if the government fails to deal with this humanitarian crisis in a just way we might end up devastating our own people.

Some hours ago, I was watching a report on a news channel regarding the conditions in the camps, which are now the only shelter left for the internally displaced people of Swat. This report was being shown as an evidence of the views of the grief-stricken people. It is not very surprising to see that these homeless people are infuriated at the government and the army since they are not being provided with sufficient food and medicines. For the displaced people, the militants and the Pakistan Army are equal because while living in Swat they were being terrorized by the militants and now when their houses are being damaged and they are homeless, they are not even being provided with the basic necessities of life properly.

The government has organized all these camps in haste and a lot of poor planning has been done. A lot of mistakes have been done on the part of the government as far as the displaced are concerned and a lot is still going wrong. At this crucial stage, we all need to remember one thing that the people of Swat have abandoned that area and are now suffering only to erase Taliban from this country. Therefore, since the army is doing its job very efficiently, the government needs to strategically plan the issue of the internally displaced people if we wish to see long-term results of this Swat War.

The internally displaced people of Swat