Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation

Friday, July 31, 2020

When I was growing up, we lived in a subsidized housing apartment on the eighth floor but since then, I have not lived in a high-rise and miss some aspects of it. Living that high up provided my sister and me an unusual source of entertainment as well especially out in the balcony. My mother used to decorate the balcony in the summer with multiple baskets of colourful annuals and plastic grass carpeting so that our imaginations could transform the place into our secret garden. We enjoyed countless tea parties with our barbie dolls and other stuffed toys while imagining we were princesses of distant lands gathered there that day to discuss important political events between our kingdoms. Our discussions would range from who would host the next Barbie horse races and how to defeat the evil queen who was always preying on our lands. 

    It was also exciting looking over the railing at the vastness of Greater Toronto before us and the CN Tower off into the distance. The world seemed so massive to the little self that I would sit at my window and ponder over its size and life. I could gaze out in the summers and watch the clouds rolling in ominously with the low rumble of the thunder warning us of what was about to happen. Then just as suddenly, there would be flashes of lightning and the show would begin with a sudden downpour of a wall of warm water that would drench you down to your toes. The lightning would be both terrifying and awe-inducing especially when I would curl up on the top bunk bed beside the window and watch the powerful display before me while letting the energy of the storm absorb into my ever wild imagination. 

But our world changed and became even more exciting after an unusual circumstance. My sister and I were fighting for a few days because she recently developed an obsession for ripping off my Barbie doll heads and chewing them. As we were fighting, she ran out into the balcony and tossed one of the heads over the rail. We both stood there watching the doll head drop all the way to the first floor in silence. For some reason, we were mesmerized. We were so mesmerized we decided to throw other things off the balcony just to watch them fall including the rest of the detached Barbie doll heads. 

Going to the Doctor's

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Going for a doctor's appointment can sometimes become a daunting or frustrating task. It may feel like there is pressure to be quick and not ask too many questions or just forget exactly what was concerning you as soon as the doctor steps into the room. Here are some great tips that will help you feel prepared for any appointment that you go to and help strengthen your relationship with your physician of any specialty. 

  • Write down everything you would like to ask or talk about at your meeting. This is a great tool for not forgetting any important concerns that you may have about your conditions or medications. This also helps the physician streamline their discussions with you to ensure that you both are talking about what matters. The physician may not be able to discern your questions automatically though they will try to cover everything they deem is important. 

The Little Big Victory

Monday, July 27, 2020

In life, there are so many different challenges, obstacles, and hoops that we all must maneuver through. They begin in childhood and don't stop until we are free from this world. Because the curveballs are so constant, we forget to take time out of our day to enjoy the small victories that come our way because we are so caught up on the next big thing in our lives and that is our only fixation. I am also guilty of having these long term goggles that keep me out of focus of the everyday positivity surrounding me. 

    My husband was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder last year although he had been suffering from its symptoms for over eight years. Psoriasis attacks the skin and psoriatic arthritis attacks the joints. Over time, he began losing flexibility in his knees where he could not fully bend or put any weight on them. As a typical male, he chalked this pain in his joints up to osteoarthritis (old people joint pain) and the skin condition as something independent and annoying but not worth a visit to the doctor's office. Once we began talking and our relationship became more serious, I urged him to revisit his family physician to figure out exactly what was happening since the joint now progressed to his elbows and wrists and followed by neck pain after a bout of strep throat. 

    His family physician, gave him steroid injections in both his knees to relieve the joint inflammation after extracting out the fluid collected within and referred him to a well known orthopedic physician. Meanwhile, we focused on improving his diets and adding supplements. The orthopedic physician assessed the joint fluid and told my husband there was nothing wrong as far as his department was concerned. He stated there was some mild joint inflammation and that if the pain is worse he should continue using the temporary fix of steroid injections even though the joint pain continued to worsen to the point where he was unable to climb up and down stairs without difficulty. 

Guiding Star

Friday, July 24, 2020

Oh my dear,
Look at you,
in your eyes,
shows what you've been through,
the turmoil of the past,
though it didn't last,
etched in your soul,
what you wished not to tow,
there a reminder they remain,
even though you feign,
to be an angel made of stone,
instead of flesh and bone,
but the diamond you become,
with the strength of more than one,
as you protect those who are near,
and all you hold dear,
the past does not hold,
your permanent mould,
this mask is meant to break,
for your own benefit and sake,
so let yourself grow,
and bloom and flow,
and be who you are,
for you're your own guiding star


Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

When Empowerment Means Imprisonment

Thursday, July 23, 2020

As a Pakistani woman, I am aware of many cultural issues that form a cage around my freedom. Others, including women, will tell me that I can just say no and escape the situation and that will make me empowered. But empowerment is not as easy as just saying no. There isn't just one shackle that needs to be broken and some become so entangled and entwined that a lot of energy and help may be needed to truly escape the burdens of cultural expectations. 

    Saying no or pushing back from a norm developed around you and sustained for several decades or centuries, will result in some form of isolation. Sure you can disagree to not marry early and focus on your career but what do you do when you are ready to find a life partner and most of the eligible bachelors are taken? Or you can disagree continuing to remain in a toxic marriage but are unable to find someone who matches with you because you are blacklisted? The consequence of defiance is loneliness and when extreme, ostracisation. This is not easy to overcome along with the insecurities or training received during childhood. This is not a one-step process. How do I learn to differentiate what is abuse and what isn't when I did not learn to differentiate those things at any point in my life? 

    Making change requires a group effort and professional support otherwise there is nowhere to go for the women fighting for their rights. There is a lot to learn in order to become independent or strong enough to be able to make these decisions for a future that seems so uncertain. There is a desire for a community where one can feel a sense of belonging and departing from that safety, even when it is harmful, is so difficult. The community and family have been my home as long as I remember so how I will continue my life or bring up my children without them? Having to make new friends or retaining friends and family who are understanding will limit me severely especially if I don't find them around me. 

The Interview Part 3

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

As I stepped out of the train onto the outdoor platform of my destination, I was met with a blast of sweltering humid heat. Until this point of time, I had forgotten I was in New York in July and that walking outside in the heat would present something of a challenge. This was not the weather to be wearing a long-sleeved black blouse that stuck to my skin like a vinyl sticker on plastic. My pores all dilated simultaneously to allow the free flow of sweat that drenched my skin. According to Google Maps directions I had printed, the interview location should not be far off, a fifteen-minute walk. As I stepped off of the platform the road split right and left leaving me undecided in which direction I was supposed to start my journey. I obviously picked the wrong way first requiring me to u-turn towards the right. What Google did not mention in the directions was that the fifteen-minute walk would start off on a steep incline up the hill for the majority of the way since the train station was at the bottom of the hill. Why did I not bring a hat?

    Instead of a roller suitcase I decided it would be best to bring a backpack to lug around New York and for the most part, it proved to be the right decision. My back, however, screamed to differ. The black backpack created a barrier preventing any airflow to my back as I walked causing a thick moist film to build. This combination was of course paired with black pants that clung to my legs in a tight fit also preventing any airflow from reaching my legs. It was a beautiful day with not even one cloud in the sky and on any other day and in any other circumstance I would be enjoying myself immensely. On the other hand, at least it was not raining. As I walked onto the college campus where the interview was being held, my next task would be to figure out in which building the interviews were being held. 

    Based on the information provided, I walked to the main building which had some signs and open doors. As I walked through the empty halls, I noticed formally dressed people standing around an open doorway with a sign. I sighed with relief and briskly walked over smiling. The moment of slight elation happened to be brief though because as I approached I noticed the people were dressed a bit too formally for a medical school interview and on closer inspection, all happened to be brown-skinned. As I stood there watching in confusion, I noticed some women walking in wearing decadent sarees with beautiful jewelry. This was not the interview location this was some sort of wedding party that I was not invited to. The guests walking in looked at me in confusion and judgment since I was not dressed in the proper attire for this event. My anxiety returned and the palpitations began once again. I needed to find my event which I was now late to.

The Interview Part 2

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

My flight was at 4 am in the morning allowing me to arrive at JFK early so that I had time to make it to my interview at 2 pm. Unable to sleep the previous night, I groggily collected my luggage after waking up at 1 am and made sure I did not forget anything important like the address to the interview location and of course, my passport. My mother dropped me off at the airport three hours before boarding because we wouldn't be Pakistani if she didn't. 

    At the airport, I went into autopilot mode while going through customs and finding my gate. I was in the strange twilight zone where I knew where I was but also everything had the soft fuzzy edges of a dream. I knew I should have slept earlier but I just could not fall asleep that night because too much was happening for me to take in and my mind was on overdrive. After what seemed like an eternity and just at the cusp of falling asleep, boarding began and soon we were off. I am on one of those flyers who just cannot get comfortable enough to be able to sleep on a plane no matter what position I am in. Even with the neck pillow, I would doze off for twenty minutes and then jerk back awake feeling the soreness in my neck. 

The Interview Part 1

Monday, July 20, 2020


Even when I was applying to medical schools in Europe by fully completing the applications and paying the fees, I still was not expecting to receive an interview and when I did, I was in complete shock because I did not know what to do next. At that time, I was applying without my parents knowing to recover from the shock of a failed wedding that I walked out of. This was supposed to be a distraction until I figured out what I was going to do with my life. This may sound really absurd but that was my coping mechanism. I could not just fly away somewhere without my parents agreeing and giving their blessing because I would not be able to afford such an endeavour on my own. 

    I did not know what to do with the interview invitation especially since they only had a handful of dates and times left because it was nearing the end of their interview season. And to make matters even more complicated, there were no spots left in Canada. I could not let this slip through my fingers like I had in the past so I mustered up the courage to let my mother know when she came home from work in the evening. I could feel the queasiness well up inside me from the palpitations I feared would become unmanageable. The anxiety building inside me was for the rejections I was expecting from my mother, or my father if my mother agreed, or the medical school after the interview. This was becoming too much for me to handle but I had to push through it. 

Don't Tell Lies!

Friday, July 17, 2020

I clearly remember what my earliest memory is but unfortunately, it is not a happy one. The memory appears to be more of a flashbulb memory formed in response to the strong feelings evoked by the confrontation with my father. Before delving further into the memory though, I would like to provide a little background first. 

    I met my father for the first time in person when he returned to Pakistan from Canada at the age of three. He left Pakistan within a few months into marriage by himself to the shock and disapproval of my pregnant mother leaving her alone at her brother-in-law's home. This separation would become the main crack in the foundation of their relationship due to no development of a bond or intimacy strong enough to hold over time and distance. Living with the in-laws did not make it easier either. There would be phone calls and occasional presents from my father but for the most part, being a toddler, he was as real to me as the existence of Santa Claus. 

    Returning back to my memory, it was the first time I fibbed about something and my father found out. I don't even remember what it is I lied about at that age which I guess my brain found irrelevant with the reaction I received. At the age of four, having met my father for the first time, I was truly terrified of him. Back in Pakistan, nobody other than my mother ever raised her voice at me, and the rest of the male figures surrounding me utterly adored me to pieces. Now here stood this man overshadowing me, huffing and in rage and demanding to know why I had lied to him. My flight and fight response was fully activated. Being in survival mode, I decided it was best to continue with the lie so this scary moment would pass if he believed me so I stood my ground and denied lying. Bad decision. It was the first time in my life but unfortunately not the last that I would be spanked.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

When you step out of the plane and climb down the steps at the airport in Pakistan, you are immediately enveloped with this dense warm smoky heat that sends a welcoming kick to all your senses. There are so many nostalgic memories of this country that are formed more from senses other than sight. This is not to say that sight does not play a huge role as well since this Pakistan is brimming with bright bold colours that play an equal role in overwhelming the senses. 

    I want you to close your eyes and take a trip down memory lane with me as I guide you through my life back home and entice you with sensory flavours you will soon not forget. I may be woken up just before dawn by the gentle dim sound of call to prayer (adhan) sprinkling over my ears through the window, or better yet, as a soothing wake up call in the brick backyard of my grandparent's home. The bed I am lying on a "charpai," is made of natural fibers strongly and lovingly woven by a generational Charpai maker whose shop is a fifteen-minute walk away. The charpai is covered with a bedsheet while I drape myself with another one to stay warm during the coolness of the night. As I slowly open my eyes, the morning's silence engulfs me like a shroud because the world is just beginning to wake. The smell of Queen of the Night flower and jasmine caresses my nose with their uniquely beautiful scents that blend together in the most perfect harmony. As I glance up into the clear sky, the heavens display the changing of the colours from dark blue to purple and reds morphing as I blink while the stars twinkle their last goodbyes blinking away as the sky lightens up. And then, to ensure that I am awake, the rooster begins its morning call as if I hit the snooze button on my alarm and the clock once again starts to remind me that it is time to begin my day. 


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Life drips with each drop of sweat that he sheds,

The insignificant one without a name,

Death alone he welcomes without dread,

For his effort draws in vain,

Yet each time the sun rises,

He is up again,

Wears and grinds his bones,

As his soul fades,

His voice sighs in anguish,

His eyes plead to see,

What his hands ache to touch,

And his heart screams to feel,

Virtue and Garments

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

When I was four years old, I wore dresses with stockings all the time whether at home, at school, or meeting friends. That was all my father considered acceptable attire. Although I must admit, my outfits were so adorable I wish I could share them with you. Pants were scandalous and shorts were a straight ticket to hell. There was such a fierce urge to protect the values and culture of our home country and religion, that anything related to Canada or western culture would be outright refused without discussion.

    However, once I graduated from kindergarten, gym class required pants or shorts in order to participate. This put my father at a crossroads. If he allowed me to wear pants where would it end? Would I be demanding to wear shorts and skirts soon as well? T-shirts? It was outrageous that I should be allowed to wear pants and be showing my arms and knobby elbows to the boys in my class! I, however, was thrilled to go to Zellers and BiWay to shop for my new wardrobe until I saw what my mother was picking out for me. I was being offered large-sized t-shirts that would come to my knees from the women's section and sweatpants loose enough to fit two of my legs through one hole. I wished I could go back to my dresses and stockings because at least I looked cute in them. 


Monday, July 13, 2020

My grandparents narrowly escaped India during the Indo-Pakistani partition of 1947. Their escape was so close that the Sikh mob going through their village was entering the front doors of their homes while they ran out the back with only the clothes they were wearing, however, it was also a Sikh family who helped my maternal grandparents hide within their homes to wait for the military vehicle that would safely take them across the border to Pakistan. Once they arrived in Pakistan, they began building their lives from nothing. 

    My maternal grandfather (Nana Jan) became a stationmaster with a humble income. They would be relocated every few years along Pakistan's railway until retirement. They were lucky enough to be provided a home and some house help at each of their locations. My grandmother (Nani Jan) cooked on wood and coal-fueled fire in the hot dusty heat. They received fresh milk every morning which needed to be boiled for use and water was provided from a well with a hand pump that required an effort to pump out enough water for the day's use. This water would be used for everything: cooking, washing dishes and clothes, drinking, and bathing. Giant blocks of ice would be delivered every morning as well for keeping food items cool for the day in lieu of a fridge. Wheat and red chilies would be washed and soaked in the summer heat through a multi-step process so that the wheat could be milled and chilies crushed in a large enough amount to be used for the rest of the year. They would also occasionally have a buffalo for milk and chickens provided fresh eggs. Butter churning and yogurt making were also done at home with a traditional wooden churn. My Nani Jan, aunts, and mother would all be required to help contribute to the daily and seasonal chores which, according to my mother, every day was quite a workout. Although they were provided with some house errand help, the cleaning and washing were done by hand by my Nani Jan and her daughters. All the women of the house also learned cloth dyeing, embroidery, sewing, knitting, and crocheting. Nana Jan's income did not provide enough to buy new clothes, sheets, and blankets every year so my Nani Jan who loved changing decor and colour schemes around once a season made sure they were able to do it at home. It wasn't until much later that my grandparents could afford a working girl at home as was common there. 

Cough Syrup

Saturday, July 11, 2020

By now you may be experiencing a certain duality in my posts that seems to oscillate with hints of several opposites: the good and bad, sweet and sour, failure and success. This is what life is all about. I would like to introduce you to my current situation since we have not discussed that yet. 

    I am a medical graduate from a university in Europe whose general location I might reveal a little later. What is life without some suspense and secrecy? In my final year of school, I met my amazing husband who changed my career trajectory mildly. My original plan was to return to Canada and practice as a physician there, but I instead decided to put my focus on achieving a license to practice in the USA instead. This is where I am now. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Even simpler if I were to tell you that I was already preparing for the USMLE exams. But no, I am still struggling to find my bearing. 

    In our culture, as with most cultures around the world, the bride packs her bags and moves into her husband's world. For most if not all brides, this is a daunting task especially if you are moving countries. It requires leaving your comforts, family, and friends for strangers and new challenges. Luckily for me, my husband and I did discuss the future prospects in great detail before marriage. I made it clear that I had worked really hard and spent a lot of money to get to where I was at the time he met me and there could be no compromise with my career. My future would still require a lot of moving around depending on where I was finally awarded a residency spot. I consider achieving a residency an award because it is not easy, to say the least. My husband would have to move from his current location to wherever this new venture took me. Initially, I was against getting married till I was in residency so I had more surety in my life but things always tend to spring on me when I least expect it. This is a difficult conversation to have in a traditional arranged situation as mine was but it could not be ignored. 

Letter to Myself

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dear Me, 

I remember you. The girl with the unruly hair and wide brown eyes always asking too many questions. You are the one with the wildest imagination always ready to plan every little detail out regarding your future. Everything appeared to be straightforward, and you knew what you needed to do. As your Pakistani parents implored upon you, study, become a doctor, and get married. So simple. Oh wait, don't forget your moral values along the way. No boy distractions allowed and it will limit the choice because as you very well know you will have to marry within your religion and culture preferably. The funny thing is my dear, that it does not matter what age you find this letter, this plan will not be news for you. 

    What will be news is that nothing will go as planned? Your goal to have a full-fledged career and husband by twenty-five, have a child by twenty-eight, will not happen. This sounds frightening, doesn't it? At some points, it was. Many things could have theoretically gone in a different direction. However, you will not give up. You will continue trying to pursue all those things you love. Yes, you will find love. I wish I could write back to you and say you did everything exactly the way you were supposed to and made your parents proud because their happiness, especially our mother's, is what fueled your soul. I am sure you are not entirely shocked to read this either. It already presents you with a myriad of challenges. So let me give you the advice you are so desperately seeking. 

Day 1

Thursday, July 9, 2020

So here it goes. This is my first time unraveling in front of an audience. Do I have a set direction of where to take this blog? Most definitely not! However, what I would like to achieve with this is to share my life experiences so it may help touch a few of you while also guiding you along. This is for you just as much as it is for me, and I am not afraid to hear what you may have to say. 
    I am not terribly old, though I will not disclose my exact age, I feel I have definitely lived through enough. Hurdles. There has been an excessive amount of hurdles in life so far. The hoops have had rings of fire and sometimes teeth, yet here I stand. I continue. And boy, do they love to keep coming. I am still not through some of the scariest ones. This affects all aspects of life, my dear readers. Which is why I will address everything here that comes or passes? 

    So this is what we will talk about here: life, love, career, fashion, music, and pretty much whatever else comes into my head. What I will focus on though is how culture and religion fit into all this as well. This part is important. I was born in Pakistan, grew up in Canada, and now I am transitioning to move to the USA. I am a woman. As you may tell, this will also be my travel diary because yes, I have been here and there. 

And so, with this introduction, let me take a deep breath and begin my musings.

It is embarrassing to admit that after watching "Jane the Virgin" on Netflix, I have transported myself here because Jane made me want to write again. I miss the act of pouring one's thoughts onto paper, whether virtual or literal. Although the advantage of typing is that I can keep up with the overflowing thoughts easier than writing, in which the thoughts flow so fast I end up with cramped fingers by the end of a night. There is always a fear that someone will read my thoughts and my life will turn into living hell through the humiliation I will face at the reader's hands. This used to be my parents who would snoop through any suspicious lined paper book hidden beside my stash of novels, which I was not supposed to read until I had completed my homework. The pain I have faced having my journals read without invitation led me to suppress the urge of ever writing anything down. In my world, secrecy means survival. In my culture, taboo topics are left unsaid, hidden, even when in plain sight. There is a lot to work through. 

    But perhaps, now that I am an adult, and not a child scared to take a wrong step in any direction, I can slowly start allowing myself to come undone here. I am in a secure enough place now to make this leap. Do I want others to read what I write? I believe I do. I am ready. 

   Until next time,

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