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The sound of Silence

A short story by Hamdan Ali Khan, 1st Year MBBS

The old man sat on the beach, barefooted and alone. Silence reigned everywhere except the occasional thrashing of waves which disturbed the acoustic equilibrium. Night it was, the sky filled with a million lanterns, the birds dozing off quietly and the sea like an old pirate sang a silent shanty. Oh! He missed his youth, when he could swim to the Black Rock without drowning, when he could shout at the vast ocean, his resonant voice fading upon the edges of horizon. But all good things come to an end, the voice that once resonated; now a husky whisper. The man who was the fastest swimmer; now an ancient remainder of time and its echoes. The doctors said he had terminal cancer that he would die in a week. He didn’t fear death, he had no family, nothing to lose except maybe the sight when someone would break his 50 years old record. The silence of the calm sea nurtured in him a desire to swim to the Black Rock once again, one last time. He …

The 'Doctor bride'

My husband and I are the stereotypical Pakistani couple. He is an engineer from a prestigious university, I am a doctor from King Edward Medical University which one of the top college in Pakistan.
Our story is typical too. We had our nikkah when I was still finishing up medicine. We got married just as I graduated. I shifted to Europe and walked away from career. No, I was not forced to do so. My husband had made my job prospects clear the moment he proposed. My parents told me to take some days to think about it. I made my choice on my own, knowing full well what it meant.
I didn't always wanted to be a doctor. As a child, I changed my mind over what i wanted to be every 6 months all through my school years. I had wanted to be a princess, artist, teacher, archeologist , astrologist, scientist, author, physicist etc etc. I remember when it finally came time for me to choose, I told my parents I didn't want to work. Their loving reply was to choose the thing I loved to learn. And so I did. They never kept the condition that I better not waste their money by not working.
We have shifted around Europe. I never pursued to get my licence registered,since every country has its own long procedure.
And now I find myself surrounded by idiotic articles and reports and videos abt 'Doctor brides',claiming girls study medicine only because they want to get a good proposal.
- First do people know how hard it is to get an admission? It took everything I had to get there. It takes just as much to come out as a doctor on the other side. With all due respect, aap ka putar itna awesome nahi hai kai is ke khair mai medicine karoon. Guys, please stop having delusions of grandeur.
- Secondly if it really does increase marriage prospects,how is it any different from girls dieting and working out just so they can have the size 0 figure. Or girls going out decked in make up, fancy clothing to make themselves attractive. Why is that OK?
-Thirdly, people go on and on about how it's a loss of workforce. Here is the thing, I earned that seat. I worked hard, my parents paid the fees. It wasn't a charity. If your 'ankh ka tara' boy deserves it, tell him to stop roaming the streets with his friends and sit and study. We girls don't have some special books or course that we do that help us get better grades. We work for it. Even in medical colleges, u see the non-seriousness of the boys. They would skip classes,not attend wards, and not complete projects that are major part of the final grade. And these boys are the ones who worked enough to get in! So stop acting like a spoilt brat.
-Fourth stop telling me 'itna parnai kai bad kuch nahi kiya!'. I am not sitting in front of the TV, munching samosa all day long. I have a husband and children, I cook, clean,pick and drop the kids, the list is never ending. Most days i drag myself up at 6 am, and collapse in bed at 11 pm not knowing where the day went.
What's sad is many girls are reading all these articles and feeling bad, when they shouldn't. Whether the choice was their own,or as a result of the circumstances of life, it is OK to walk away. To choose to do what's best for you and your family. How can that be bad? How can then society be mean enough to say 'us nai to kuch nahi kiya!'?
I have never regretted choosing my family over my career. I do admit, my husband's repeated affirmation of the skills I brought to the family from my medical background help take away any tiny bits of residual remorse. My husband has always valued my knowledge.
I am sorry for any girl who was forced to choose between family and career. I truly am. But I will not accept being insulted by a media who lack better topics to discuss.
At the end of the day, no one has the right to tell me what I can or can not study. And no one has a right to tell whether I should or should not work. Because here is the thing. It is none of your damn business.
Dr. Sara Zafar Khan
KEMU Batch 2009


  1. Assuming the admission is merit based, our government is spending approximately 2.4 million one each medical student. And the student is paying around 100,000 on his/her degree. (source: tribune pk). There are exceptions to this, like private candidates. But the point here is how a devoloping country like Pakistan, is investing so much on each and every medical student and is met with a yearly loss when these graduated physicians choose not to practice.

    When you say this you earned this seat with hard work, yes, but do you realize the great responsibility that comes with it? The responsibility to save lives every day. SOMEBODY( irregardless of gender) could have used this very seat to do that. To make a difference everyday in the lives of many people. That somebody could have made a living out of it. They could be curing people each day. That, in itself is the greatest thing as humans we can accomplish.

    But you chose to willingly take up this seat, only to later willingly discard it to marry and move to a first world country. I dont say that thats a necessarily bad thing (moving to a first world country, quitting medicine).

    But in the case anyone is presented with a choice, knowing they wont be practicing medicine, and will be taking up meagre resources, SHOULD they willingly pursue it? Do you think its fair to justify your argument by saying your skills have proved beneficial to your family, earned your husbands praise in a country where 12.4% of the people are living below the poverty line. (2011). As of June 2016, 40% of the population is in impoverished state. Only 50% of our population above 15 is employed.
    In a country presenting such a financial and economical picture, which reflects its dire and growing need for physicians, do you this its fair to use up government resources and give back your country nothing in return? The whole weight of this 200 million population doesn't rest upon a single person, but we must each do our part suited to our position and abilities.
    If you AREN'T going to practice, you KNOW that if placed in a situation where your in-laws and husband demand that you not work, you will accede, then STEP ASIDE. Please, give this seat to a deserving person who will uphold its solidarity

    Its our choices in life that define us. I am stressing upon choices, because that is something we control. I am not, as a wider part of this society, attacking or labelling you as a doctor bahu. But why are you insinuating that people placed in such situation shouldn't feel remorse? They should because not only do our choices define us, the define the lives of those around us. The destitute picture painted by the aforementioned statistics negates the notion that the youth of Pakistan should take up MBBS seats for any other purposes than serving people through practice.
    Its the widescale phenomenon that is occuring all over Pakistan that needs changing. As a part of this society, KNOW who you are, what career suits you, KNOW what you want in life.

    I noticed KEMU has included something in the admission criteria along the lines of a bond that requires doctors to practice for a year after the house job, or be entitled to paying a 3 million to the government. Change is on its way but changing our mindsets will take longer, I suppose.

    Dont choose medicine because its the 'default pathway' if your the smart kid with the good grades. Don't do it because its your parents dream, but because you want to.

    A swotty kid being forced into medicine


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