Children · Family · Medicine · Volunteering

In memory of little hero Mubarak ️

Back to my memory in the ER at the 2nd level hospital, there was a 13 months little boy called Mubarak, he was accompanied with a young woman with an old man, they were his parents. The child was in a very bad condition (severe acute malnutrition with sepsis). 
Dr Anke a colleague of mine from Germany (who became later one of my best friends) and me took the lead to work and manage the case of that child patient.

I approached the mother looking for explanation, why they didn’t bring him earlier?!!.
She replied that just now her husband (the father) agreed to take them to the hospital because their village was more than 100 kilometers away and to afford the cost of the travel they had to share the taxi with other passengers.

Dr Anke was monitoring everything concerning Mubarak she didn’t leave her sight at all, taking care of his medication managing fluids and trying out to control the convulsions, all this time I was there too. I was her assistance and she was my mentor. Hours passed and Mubarak lying on the bed, it seemed that he was getting a bit better. 

By that time his parents were about to leave, I couldn’t believe what was happening and the reaction I received as I was trying to convince the mother to stay with her son in case we needed her. The father was next to her, he shocked me with his cruelty and selfishness and replied as commander:” No she will not stay, she has to go with me to prepare food for me and take care of the other children back at home. I was pointlessly explaining how critical their son condition was. But he simply won’t listen as if Mubarak wasn’t his own flesh and blood. My eyes went towards the mother as the father left us but she said submissively: “I can’t do anything if I stayed he will divorce me”. I saw her walking away as the father did. I stood there speechless as the nurse commented that it’s pretty normal here. The doctor was trying all the possible ways to save the poor little boy who left by his own struggling his illness.

But no matter what we were doing his time to departure this life was then, he passed away less than 24 hours of his admission. He died between a total stranger lap instead of his own mother lab. He just left once for all. But I was telling myself to comfort it, it’s okay my little hero, it’s all right you are going to the best place ever (beside God). While his eyes told me: “No worries, I m not the first or the last one, yet to die.”
Dr Wedad Abood, Yemen, July 2010
This article has been written by Dr Wedad Abood, a UAE-based doctor who volunteers (currently with Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) Doctors Without Borders) and puts her life at risk to save many such lives around the world. She says she is present there where people need her. My salutes to Dr Wedad and thousands of other medical volunteers for their selfless act – Asma Ali Zain
Children · Family · Technology · Uncategorized

Opening their ears to world of sounds


Even the strongest of hearing aids no longer helped Renita until she underwent a surgery to implant a hearing device in 2010.

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The first sound she heard after six long years of complete silence was a beep followed by what appeared to be doctors screaming ‘can you hear?’ over and over.

Renita Lovelyn D’Souza, 26, was not born with hearing impairment. She was just seven-years-old when toxicity from a now-banned flu and fever drug impacted her hearing. “It was probably an overdose of the medicine that caused partial hearing loss in both ears,” she said.

“I started using hearing aids and life was not that bad until I turned 14 when one fine day I went completely deaf,” she said. “I was terrified since this impacted my life. I had to lip read to understand what everyone was saying and it also impacted my academic performance,” said Renita who was born and brought up in Sharjah.

Even the strongest of hearing aids no longer helped Renita until she underwent a surgery to implant a hearing device in 2010. Since then, Renita has not looked back. She is currently convincing people like her to get an implant and their lives.

“I learnt hearing all over again. sounds of a bird chirping, the whistle of the pressure cooker going off,” she said.

Last year, Renita got an implant in her second ear as well. Today she is learning to balance surround sounds while listening to chatter of her friends at the same time.

In the case of seven-year-old Abdur Rahman, his parents and doctors could not make out if he was born with an impairment or lost his hearing after he fell out of bed when he was four months old. “It was only when he turned one that we realised he did not speak like his siblings,” explained his father Saidur Rehman.

“Despite medical tests being done on my son, doctors couldn’t find any fault. They assured us that some children speak later than others,” he said. But during a visit to Bangladesh, Abdur’s grandfather noticed that the child could not hear, hence the reason he could not speak.

“We brought him back to the UAE and found that some hospitals carried out cochlear implants. But this was beyond our reach until Sharjah TV aired our story and the government sponsored the surgery for my son in January 2013,” explained the father.

Three years later today, Abdur has undergone speech therapy and can speak now but has not joined school yet. “Doctors recommend the implant in his second ear too but the cost of the machine is too high (Dh26,000) for me,” he added.

However, Abhinav Rathish, six and half, was born profoundly deaf. “No hearing test was done upon his birth,” said his father Rathish Vijayrajan. “It was when he was around seven months old, we noticed that he was not responding to sound. It came as a shock to us,” said the father. In 2011, Abhinav underwent a surgery and today he is attending school like a normal student.

David Raetz, CEO of MED-EL that provides hearing implant systems, said that the company had provided 10,000 people in the UAE with hearing system – including for children as young as six months – since its launch in 1996.

“While Renita’s case is unique, we recommend that parents take their children for complete hearing tests upon birth,” he said. “This rules out complications later.”

MED-EL on Saturday organised an event for patients and their families to give updates on advancing technology in hearing implant systems.

“Currently, many countries in the region, including the UAE, are taking active measures towards giving access to individuals with hearing disabilities. However, we believe cochlear implant patients are the true driver for increased awareness,” he said.

David Raetz said that new advancements in hearing aid technology meant easier options for patients. “Patients can even swim with the advanced implants,” he said.

Many insurance companies are now covering the costs and MED-EL is in talks with others to make the technology availability easier for those in need, he said.

NOTE: This post has originally been published on


Kashmir: Not a child’s play

Years ago as a feisty little girl, whenever I used to have a fight with my Indian friend, I used to pump up my little chest and declare importantly, Kashmir belongs to us Pakistanis. It always felt like I had had the last word and won some kind of mini-battle that had been raging amongst us best friends.

My Indian friend would also pull herself to her full height and repeat in an even louder voice and insist, “No, Kashmir belongs to us.”

Our elders would halt their chatter midway, exchange sheepish looks, pretend to choke and hiss through clenched teeth, “Children, please do not speak like that”. My parents would pinch my arm to silence me and I would glare back in defiance while pointing a finger in my friends’ direction saying that she started it.

My friend would retaliate pointing both hands in my direction and insist I was the culprit.

The elders would then incoherently murmur some words that would equal to, “They are kids and do not know what they are saying.” Once the brouhaha died down, they would whisper in sterner words that we had embarrassed them enough in front of the other.

Looking back at these incidents, now I have, of course, realised that our parents were right. We were kids and didn’t know what ‘owning Kashmir’ meant. We were just repeating what our elders had been repeating to themselves for decades. Today I can laugh off these childhood episodes but sadly, the ground reality remains unchanged even many years later.

While me and my friend grew up and moved on to stay good friends, Pakistan and India remain at loggerheads even today. The minds of yet another generation of Indians and Pakistanis are being fed well, and they are growing up deeply believing the rhetoric surrounding the Kashmir issue as propagated by their governments.

The recent attacks in India in Pathankot and Uri where a number of Indian soldiers lost their lives have brought the two neighbours to the edge of a war with India accusing Pakistan of carrying out the attacks on its soil.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, has raised the issue of Kashmir in his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday and has asked for a dialogue between both countries to settle the matter.

The matter has remained unsettled since 1947 when both Pakistan and India gained independence from the British.

The years’ long animosity between the two countries has been a source of tension in the region and after the recent attacks in India people from both sides of the border, not surprisingly, are already in the midst of a war of words on social media.

A verified Twitterati has even run a poll asking people how best it would be to teach the enemy country a lesson – using the hydrogen bomb, normal nuclear bomb or a conventional attack?, he asked.

While many have answered the question with a simmering rage, luckily the majority have laughed it off.  However, the seriousness of calling for war can never be undermined.

As a child, I have seen war from very close quarters. To retain my sanity, my mind has blocked off sounds of cannons and machine guns firing at a close range though I can still recall all of us huddling together under a piece of furniture hoping to save ourselves from gun fire. 

I have seen people starve around me, babies cry endlessly for milk and ask for a warm covering in cold nights when none was available because who do you ask?

And this was just a conventional war.

What Pakistanis and Indians are calling out for today is something way beyond their imagination. According to a study titled “The deadly consequences of a nuclear war” done at Rutgers, the University of Colorado-Boulder and UCLA, the consequences of such a war between India and Pakistan if fought with low-yield 100 Hiroshima-size weapons (currently available in India-Pakistan arsenals) will kill 20 million people from the direct effects which is half the number of people killed during World War II.

Weapons detonated in the largest cities of India and Pakistan will create massive firestorms that will produce one to five tonnes of smoke that will quickly rise 50 kilometres above cloud level into the stratosphere and spread around the world and form a layer that will block the sunlight from reaching the earth. Within 10 days of the explosion, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere will become colder than those experienced during the pre-industrial Little Ice Age.

Are we really asking for this? If humanity even partially understands the above drawn out scenario that is currently being called out for in a fit of rage and anger, will our call to war bring us the lifetime we will lose forever?

Disclaimer: The views represented in this article are those of the writer and do not represent the organization she works for in any way.





The tooting of car horn from far below roused him from his reverie. Thankfully that too, otherwise, teetering on the ledge that he was, could have proved fatal. Here he was, balancing on the wooden support attached to the 42nd floor building under construction and day dreaming!

Dreaming was what had brought him here. A plain and simple villager, he dreamed of…a lot. His mud-and-straw house with its dry and hard patch of compound that he could call his own, the adjoining mud-caked wall kept waist-high deliberately so that his wife could chat with the neighbour – all seemed like a dream to him now.

Nagging, nagging and nagging was what his wife would do all day. The never-ending bickering between his wife and mother and his semi-naked children squabbling over who kicked who first were nerve wracking for Majid for he was a simple and nature loving man with…

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The tooting of car horn from far below roused him from his reverie. Thankfully that too, otherwise, teetering on the ledge that he was, could have proved fatal. Here he was, balancing on the wooden support attached to the 42nd floor building under construction and day dreaming!

Dreaming was what had brought him here. A plain and simple villager, he dreamed of…a lot. His mud-and-straw house with its dry and hard patch of compound that he could call his own, the adjoining mud-caked wall kept waist-high deliberately so that his wife could chat with the neighbour – all seemed like a dream to him now.

Nagging, nagging and nagging was what his wife would do all day. The never-ending bickering between his wife and mother and his semi-naked children squabbling over who kicked who first were nerve wracking for Majid for he was a simple and nature loving man with no great desire in life. Even a single meal in a day was enough for him. But of course he had other liabilities. His children were growing up, his wife needed a brick house while he…wanted peace.

His mother was the only ray of light in his life.  With that wise look in her eyes, she would often guess what was going on in Majid’s mind and often shake her head upon the turn of events in his life.

Then one day he got this God-send opportunity to go abroad. The pressure to accept the offer from his overbearing wife was too much for Majid to handle. “Think of the wealth that we will have. Just think how the villagers will envy us. My dream of a huge and beautiful house will also be fulfilled. Please say yes Majoo,” she crooned just like she always did when she needed a favour.

And like always Majid said: “Anything you say Reshma.” And she, whooping with delight, skipped of to tell her neighbours that Majid was going to Dubai.

What disturbed him was that his beloved fields, the huge oak tree under which he spent hours and hours of bliss dreaming and capturing the beauty of his land on crude paper that he often picked up from the garbage, would be left behind.

His fellow villagers often tauntingly called him The Great Painter. A painter he was now. Wasn’t he teetering on this great height painting the 50-odd floor building? Though he sent money home regularly, it was years since he had last visited home. Of course he could go, but then money was much more needed that he was, wasn’t it?

It was as if the spark was gone. He didn’t ever feel like painting the landscape here. In fact, he hated the feel of the sand on his bare feet. How he loved the soft coolness of the earth of his land. For him, the high-rise buildings marred the beauty of the golden sun rising and setting in the horizon. The beauty of watching the birds sweep across the early morning sky was lost somewhere behind these towers that symbolised man’s desire to reach out to touch the skies.

Life had become stagnant for Majid. Off to work before day break and often back late at night hardly gave him time to do anything except dream. Often his fellow workers would chide him for being careless. But then Majid did not care anymore. This was his private world, full of colour and…peace.

And then one day, as usual, Majid was dreaming of his fields where the warm rays of the sun were playing hide and seek with the hovering fog. It was as if they were beckoning him. “Come home Majid, come home.” And smiling with sheer joy, Majid put a foot forward to touch the cool earth and found peace at last.

This short story is a tribute to the hundreds of thousands of blue-collared workers who leave their home countries for foreign lands and toil to make the lives of their families back home better.

Children · Family · Uncategorized

The Room

The room was stifling. Stifling her breath and her soul. The dull grey interior was a sharp contrast to the bright and cheerful ambiance that she was used to. The plain walls, very often, closed down upon her. Besides, no matter what she did, could not add life into the room’s dead spirit.

This room was her bedroom. The place where she spent most of her conscious time awaiting the bliss of losing herself to the dark and velvety slumber. Besides the sweet unconsciousness, the only relief she got was when she left the room but that too only when required. In other words, once in the morning to make breakfast for her husband, the second time to make lunch and dinner and the third when he took her out – out of the house.

It was a tad too cool to switch on the cooling machine and, sadly for her, there was no fan to swirl the stuffy air. The only window of the room was on the far right hand corner and that too opened half-way, hence blocking the air passage.

She kept shifting from the sofa to the bed – the only two pieces of furniture that could give refuge to her amble form.

She was carrying hence her senses seemed to be on fire.

Suddenly a gust of the cold wind, that had found its way into the room by chance, cooled her burning face.

It was as if someone or something struck a chord and she found herself far away. She remembered letting her hair down and thrusting her glowing face into that of the rain. How the cool water played on her flickering eyelashes and then channeled down through, along the soft contours of her face.

It was bliss. It was freedom.

The errant winds were playing havoc with her senses. The whispering in her ears gave her a heady feeling and she swirled round and round with delight. And then suddenly, she fell with a dull thud. Opening her eyes with a start, she found herself back in the room, dizzy and gasping for breath. Sighing, she realised that it was only a dream and the hot and stifling room was bound to be her destiny for some days to come at least.

This post was originally written after I had recently moved to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Like many couples in this country, we had also started our life from a sharing room which basically was a single room in an apartment that was rented out to us. This is my experience.

Children · Family · Parents · Uncategorized

When the sound of life fell silent

How many of you know your parents really well? I mean really well, as in you would know your bestie… their childhood and teenage years and the struggles along the way…

It is somehow difficult to imagine that your parents were youngsters also once upon a time, right? Maybe imagining isn’t the difficult part, it is the fact that only a few of us actually make an effort to know our parents when they are with us.

Why do we take it for granted that their life begins and ends with us when in fact they had a life before we came into their life…they had friends, thoughts and secrets that they haven’t ever shared with us.

Sometimes I think that if my father had been my friend, I might have known him much better as a person. Sadly I knew him only as my father.

My father is no more.

Its been one and half years that he left us on July 1, 2014. It was a silent parting – from his side…we cried, prayed, ran from pillar to post for 20 days but he lay there silently possibly oblivious (or maybe not – can’t be sure) of our predicament.

On the second night of Ramadan (the month of fasting for Muslims), he quietly breathed his last, leaving us four, his children and his wife totally bewildered and heartbroken. It still feels surreal not having him between us.

Strange are the ways of this world. Even if you can feel and see the life of your loved one seep away silently little by little everyday, you are in denial until they lie wrapped in the white sheet infront of you. You don’t want to believe even when they feel cold to your touch and do not respond to your calls even if you cry hoarse.

Even after a year and half, I am unable to erase the memories, the exact moment when I saw him lying there very still on the hospital bed. All monitors attached to him were silent too…the beeping sounds of life were no anymore.

And now even after living without him for over a year, I still catch my breath when I think of that exact moment. The lump that builds up in my throat when I think of him every single day is still difficult to swallow.

It’s taken me this long to pen something about him and am still doing it in pain.

My father Zaheer Iqbal Qazi in his heydays

My father was a very straight forward man, sometimes so much that his words hurt others. He didn’t really have any close friends possibly due to this characteristic of his. In fact even his close family were no longer close to him.

Truth hurts.

My father was a gem for us. He loved his children to bits, sometimes blindly. I don’t remember him ever saying no to our financial needs or emotional ones along our journey and we took it for granted that he would be there for us forever.

He came from a very humble background. His mother was a housewife and father a postmaster but they had a vision to see their eldest child achieve greater heights. My father literally burnt midnight oil to gain a Masters degree in Economics. He achieved much success in his life due to sheer hardwork, honesty and dedication – the same values he instilled in his children. He was known as a very punctual man, sometimes reaching venues even before the hosts themselves!

He had a tough childhood growing up a quiet city (Pasrur) in Pakistan. He was required to (traditionally) take responsibility of his younger brothers and sisters since he was the eldest which he did to the best of his abilities. My grandfather was a quiet man, not very opinionated, while my grandmother was the final authority in the house.

She had a very strong influence on my father until he married and moved out of Pakistan a few years later. She later died of complications related to diabetes.

In his absence now, I feel like I no longer have a backbone. Maybe I will never be able to standup as straight and proud as I did when he was with me. For every achievement and failure in my life, he was standing there in silent support.

He also had his weaknesses as much as any human being has and I had my shares of fights with him. But we would always make up soon after. He always said that never sleep on an empty stomach and without resolving an issue.

Some memories with him are mine and mine only. I remember him holding my hand and teaching me how to write on a blackboard until it was declared that I had the best handwriting in class. I also remember the spanking I got from him once when I acted stubborn, his pulling out my first tooth, trimming my nails, teaching me how to cycle and drive – with lots of loud instructions.

When I left home years later, my first call was always to him to seek advice on taking up a job, asking for an increment or telling him that I had been promoted. He was always so proud!

His final days are hazy in my memory since we were connected only through Skype except the last meeting I had with him some two months before he passed away. We were having an intense argument and he just looked at me with an expression I will never forget.

He loved his garden much and we have made his final resting place as green as we could.

He is gone but not forgotten.