Dr. Haider Shah

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance (Plato).


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OVER A COFFEE: The ordinary is extraordinary, Daily Times, 16 April, 2016

Self-indulgence has attained the status ofan art as social media has become an integral part of our daily life. We often get inundated with a deluge of selfies and boastful status posts of friends and relatives, some of whom make a running commentary on their daily routine from dawn to dusk. Someone who uses social media only for sharing ideas on public issues, I avoid making my personal life publicin an excessive manner.This piece can,therefore, be treated as an exception. The purpose, however, is to extrapolate personal experiences to the outside world as, at times, reflecting on life and its many shades can be a refreshingly rewarding exercise.
“The more the merrier”, they say in English, and “Aik se behter do”(two are better than one) in Urdu. But when you wakeup in the morning and find that the two images produced by the lenses of your eyes fail to merge into one, and hence you see an interplay of images,you would certainly not agree with the wisdom of such sayings.A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning I woke up with this annoying experience. Undaunted, I watched a T20 match with one eye shut,and when after considerable time the situation didn’t settle I had to call the medical helpline. I was advised to see an eye doctor who referred me to the local hospital for further investigation.So what I had been treating as a minor eye issue got me admitted in the Acute Medical Unit (AMU) where patients with serious symptoms and conditions are treated.
The AMU of the hospital is a ward with eight cubicles separated by curtains. Shakespeare says that life is a stage where we perform different rolesas we advance from infancy to old age. The ward appeared to me a stage where watching the human lifecycle and lying in a cosy bed I was reflecting on mystical questions, as I could hear stories of patients around me as they briefed the doctors and nurses. Suffering from chronic diseases most of these patients were quite elderly. I could clearly see that such elderly people need round-the-clock support and medical attention for carrying out simple tasks like going to the toilet or taking a meal or medicine. Old age homes where such elderly patients can be looked after round-the-clock by medically trained, adult-care staff are, therefore, a natural public policy answer to this challenge as society is ageing due to longer life spans and smaller family sizes.We in Pakistan are also experiencing this issue in our urban areas but we are in the habit of burying our heads in the sands of denial. Ideal solutions to social problems seldom exist as every remedy comes at some social cost. But feigning that a problem does not exist is also not a remedy at all.
In the neighbouring cubicle on my right I could hear an elderly patient complaining in a very feeble voice that he was feeling a bit warm. The nurse was telling him that his temperature had been checked and was found to be normal. I then fell asleep for some time before subdued crying of a female in the same cubicle woke me up. I thought that a new patient had been admitted, but, gradually, the exchange between the sobbing female and some younger voices made it clear that they were talking about the patient who had passed away. The young were trying to calm the lady by saying that the deceased died in grace and comfort after leading a good life. I could figure it out that my neighbour had left the stage after performing the final act of life. As a keen observer I also reflected upon how different cultures deal with various phases of human life cycle and get them ritualised.
The examinationsabout my situation included various blood tests, CT Scan and MRI to rule out any sinister causes. Luckily, no cause of concern was found. I was, therefore, allowed to go home with a few scheduled follow-up visits. During my stay at hospital and later visits I was greatly impressed by the caring and friendly nature of the medical staff of a free public hospital. Over the past few years, like other public sector organisations, the British national healthcare has faced efficiency savings demands. Despite the squeeze, I always found the staff to be smiling and affectionate.
The purpose of sharing these experiences is to remind my valued readers that what we take for granted is often the most precious in life. Don’t think that you will be happy when you touch the sky. The fact that you are firmly standing on the ground should give you the real pleasure. You can feel the warmth of a loving hand, be it of a cuddly child or of a caring mother or of a loving partner, or that you can have a hot cup of tea and can walk down the stairs. These may appear to us very ordinary things, but it is the ordinary that is the real extraordinary. Awareness of this can bring bliss and contentment to our lives.