Seeing the Monster Within Ourselves

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Today was a sad day for all Pakistanis. More than four decades ago, Pakistan lost half of its population to a new country. Today we were struck by a different kind of calamity. An army school in Peshawar echoed with deafening roar of AK-47 firing. The targets were children. The killers were barbarians.

More than anything else, the news made me think about how even such an act can be humanly possible. True, wars have brought the worst in people across cultures -armies have countless times in the past decimated populations, torched food supplies and crops, raped women and children and plundered and razed entire cities. History of us humans is no stranger to savagery. But then, humanity moved ahead. We learnt to value peace and civilized living. The fruits of peaceful coexistence were for all to see and enjoy. A part of me wants to think that we gave up our vicious instincts to inflict senseless pain to our enemies.

The force in our hands have been becoming deadlier. I imagine holding an AK-47 -havingan infinite power to bring death around myself; being the sole judge of who deserves to live; sparing a few lives when my heart feels soft. 

But then I also think about having a 14 year old  target locked. How can any part of my entire existence let me proceed with it? How can even dare move my finger on the trigger? A helpless, scared, fourteen year old. A boy I do not even know.

And yet 132 times the trigger was pressed. Classmates watched each other falling; silence replaced their shrills; and mutilated caricatures stared back at their former friends.

I also think about what would be going on in the children's minds as they left us for a better world. Was it about how to tuck his best friend in so the terrorist take him for the dead? Or was he weaving a safe story to give his mom when she asks what he has been up to? May be he just took comfort in the thought that it is all a bad dream. After all, why would fully armed terrorists ever get into his classroom and shoot at all his friends?

To know that people this perverse, sick and dastard share this land with us is disturbing. As unfathomable as this is, we cannot go back from here in denial. Yes, humans walk this Earth who are capable of shedding blood of 132 innocent children in  vain in front of their best friends. Yes, they live among us, either in our own very country, or somehow connected to our people. They communicate with us through tweets, Facebook and TV. These are real human beings, who are born to mothers and may be even loved by some. Somehow, somewhere, somthing has gone awefully wrong, for humanity cannot have allowed it.

Denial in the face of severe grief and shock is understandable. We may find people among ourselves saying that such people are not humans. As inhumane as the acts are, they were committed by humans. Even animals would shy from such henious atrocities.

We also get to hear that such acts cannot be committed by Muslims. It is impossible to find out the faiths of the attackers. To me, the fact that such inhumane acts can even be carried out makes their actual faith completely meaningless. Nevertheless, these attacks were later claimed by an organization that professes not just to be Muslims, but in fact champions of Islam.

'Being a Muslim' is distinct from 'Acting in accordance with Islam'. Being a Muslim is an identity that connects one to the greater community of people of Islamic faith. In  Pakistan, we also have a legal definition for a Muslim. So are Taliban Muslims? I opine that, yes, very much so. Have they been acting in accordance with Islam? Clearly and outrightly, No!

It is understandable to distance oneself from people who have committed henious crimes of unthinkable scale. We all do it to reiterate our own commitment to staying civilized. That is perhaps what leads us to conclude that such people cannot be Muslims.

But beyond such denial should follow realization. That yes, people like us -Muslims, Pakistanis and sons of this soil, have committed such grave crimes against humanity. We should do so not because the blood is on our hands, but because the solution is. This realization would most definitely follow an introspection, which would lead to rethink the way we interpret our religion and  the way we educate our coming generation. The menace of terror that we face arises from a thought discourse that is very much ours. We need to rethink it so that extremist views are not encouraged.. These people are no aliens. Courage requires that we are able see the monsters in our own selves.

So Why Am I in Milwaukee?

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The sun doesnt shine so often in Milwaukee. It is cold and it promises to get colder. A much smaller version of Chicago is how I see it, though by American standards it is a fairly large city. I have already made a bunch of friends, seen a few places and been to at least one cafe.
But why am I there in the first place?
Finally I was put across on a phone call with a really important heart doctor and a researcher in the Milwaukee region. His team includes some of the pioneers in echocardiography (the art of looking at the heart using an ultrasound probe and some gooey gel) and the center is one of the center of excellence for cardiac care. My phone conversation with him was on Thursday. I got here on Monday. That's right, 800 miles, two luggage pieces and a new place to live -I made the move in 3 days.
I am now a 'Volunteer Researcher' at Aurora Healthcare. Its a precious opportuity to learn how to research. Research, by the way, means something very specific. It is the systematic effort at collecting and analyzing data to further scientific knowledge with the intent of getting published in existing body of scientific literature (paraphrased)
Sounds tough? Well yes it is! Research involves unyielding focus and determination and the ability to construct a path and follow it where none exists. It is an effort to chart a course in the future of science, to discover what is not yet known. Research can both be frustrating and exhillarating. It can be fun (when you are getting paid for it) or stressful (when your job rests on your ability to get published).
For me, it is an effort to broaden my own horizons at the moment. I want to learn how to research in an academic setting as much as I want to contribute to the scientific body. The passion is already there; I am just trying to build the right skills to channel it productively.

Travelling Alone -the Biggest Team Event I've ever been Part Of!

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For almost five months now, I have been travelling between different cities. My longest stay has been less than a month in Karachi. I have also been to Virginia, New York City, Chicago area, Lakeland, Orlando, DC and New Jersey. On my list for the months ahead are: Connecticut, Alabama, Milwaukee and Chicago again. I set my sails all alone, and even then it is amazing how so many different people come together to take me where I have to go.

Its a mini-miracle to me everytime I set to travel or move to another city. I have stopped counting the number of times someone offers me a exactly the help or  tip I need -getting a place to crash, or a room close to where I am working, or a great desi foodstore, or a great opportunity to work. They are acts of God to me, and the right way to be thankful to God is to return them the favor and be thankful to them. That's
what I believe.


'Hey! I Have Read 'Rich Dad; Poor Dad' Too!

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This is a 60 minute documentary series by the BBC -one of the surviving bastions of true journalism in my opinion. It tells the story of those behind and in front desk of a growing economy of knowledge training and 'wealth skills'. In true journalistic fashion, it retells the story as it is for the trainers ,the average Joe consumers and those who truly did become wealthy by using the mantra.

The Book 'Rich Dad; Poor Dad' sits in the centerstage of many of the wealth training aficandos. It is read with fanatic zeal that borders on the religious reverance. Halfway through the documentary did I remember, I have read the book too! I did it when I was 18 or so, and I remember clearly being impressed by the ideas. So much so that I rung up my best friend and asked him to read it. Then, even more strangely, I drove to his house and dropped off the book. Needless to say given the usual friends I have, he did not read it.

Why was I so impressed by the book? Perhaps because it validated what I have seen and been taught by people around me. My dad was a true entrepreneur, and like many of the 'wealth experts' that rake millions in speaker fee, he somewhat even despise being 'too educated'. This contrasted with what I saw at school. Every other kid was preoccupied with education, grades and career, as early as end of O Level's.

So this book did give a lot of credance to the idea that moneymaking goes best when uninhibited by preoccupation with being in office jobs. I have been seeing it since childhood.

But now, when I see this video after having completed my formal education in a medical school I see a different picture.

I see the speakers luring people into paying heavy fee (definitively; upfront), by showing them a prospects of a luxury living (mere prospect; distant).

The main market of such trainers are people disenchanted by the standard education model (middle school, high school, college). Getting wealthy will always be something everyone will desire, and working for it will be something everyone will despise. But this model seems to have narrowed down on a demographic that would likely bring the maximum revenue.

There can be two reasons for someone to struggle in school. Either A: the schooling does not bring in their best potential, or B: they do not have the neccessary talent/capabilities to excel in school. The speakers want people to believe, that the reason they sucked at school, is never option B.

I am absolutely certain that they are being dishonest about it. They do not want to push away potential audience by telling them to build more talents or capacities. They instead want to validate people in their beliefs and use it to fund their own spree of fanciful training sessions across the country.

Many of the core wisdoms are true financial maxims. Every person, top scorer or school dropout, must understand them and be financially informed. The only way a healthy financial education discourse can replace the existing dichotomy between 'book-wise' and 'money-wise' is to take it back to schools, and have a solid curriculum in financial education included. Schools and their curricula are monitored and are accountable. They have to respond to changes in society and markets. They ahve to remain truthful and honest. Financial gurus do not run their shops primarily for the interest of the population. They have to fund themselves foremost, and as part of their aura of success, have to do it by living it large.

Let's take it back to schools. Make them more accessible and open, and their curricula more robust and inclusive. That is what should be making the next generation of millionaires.


Quizlet -the Ultimate Flashcards to Hammer in What You Need to Know

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It takes a genius to convert a highly common tool into one that really works. Websites that let you make, save and flip through flashcards are abound. They are essentially a simple tool, but in the hands of a Quizlet team, it has now become a launching pad for exciting headways.

Dummies Guide to Doing Well on Computer Based Exams

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Reading from books all along and now have to appear for computer based exam? Bad news, because your every passing exams will be longer than the previous one.

Bus Rides Really Good for Inspired Writing

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The place where I am really pushed to write is one with a fairly mellow background level of stimulus  -not so much as to completely overwhelm my senses, but not so boring either that it completely stalls all creative thought.

Step 2 Ck –The Final Thorn of My Student Life!

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My Step 2 CK Prep took a grand total of 4 months and 10 days. It began right after Step 1 exam in March and continued into the crunch time through to mid-July. As ECFMG brought forward the last acceptable date for appearing in exams to be in time for the Match, a rush situation developed, compelling students to appear for exams somewhere in July. I was luckier to have more liberty in my schedule and not immediately affected by the change.

The Most Damning Sports Injury is Known as the Unhappy Triad

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Angulation away from the knee (leg below the knee deviated away from the axis of the lower limb); damaged medial meniscus; damaged medial collateral ligament; damaged anterior cruciate ligament.

What the sportsman would call it -Shit that ended my career

What the doctors would call it -'UNHAPPY TRIAD'

When doctors call something unhappy, it really is something this worrisome. That's about as much expressive as doctors can get with their descriptions. The most debilitating and psychologically taxing of all injuries probably, one that is feared by anyone in contact sports, and yet at a hospital, it’s just a patient with an unhappy triad.



Broken ACLS by Hellerhoff - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Should you support or not support the youtube ban?

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Its two months since YouTube –the world’s biggest video junction, is banned from Pakistan. Two months ago, a shoddy movie depicting Muhammad (SAW), the Prophet of Islam in a derogatory way was popularized on YouTube. Later, the producer was found to have conned the artists and studio owners into working on the said movie. Later still, the producer was jailed for fraud.

The whole affair was a disgusting sham. The ploy worked, and thousands of Pakistanis came on streets, while hooligans looted and committed acts of arson. The government then decided to block YouTube until the website removes the sacrilegious movie or at least make it unavailable in Pakistan.

Google usually does that. It blocked access to certain pages on YouTube’s website in other countries where the content was deemed inappropriate, like India and Bangladesh. But it did not do it for Pakistan. So, as the said content remain available, whole YouTube remained, and still remains blocked throughout Pakistan.

I have my reasons to believe our government and its officials has little interest in religion. Neither do they base their decisions on Islam. In fact, it can be argued they are not even remotely sincere to the cause of Islam. Yet, they cite religious reasons to press on the ban on the entire YouTube –which has millions of videos on thousands of different topics including a treasure trove of Islamic videos, when clearly the ban is not even serving the religion.

Rather, I believe that the government apparatus is only keen on suppressing avenues of free speech and whistle blowing which are widely accessible to the general public. Already, YouTube videos have exposed influential media public figures and business tycoons. They regularly lambast political bigwigs, and recently, they have been instrumental in getting the word out to the world from rebellions in Syria and wider Middle East. Government of Pakistan feels much more in charge without such a wayward avenue which was fast becoming part of the mainstream media. The mushrooming growth of broadband connectivity in the last decade  have made Internet videos a potent tool at the hands of anonymous reporters and political activists.

The government could not have cited a more indisputable reason to take down Internet media. There is legitimate anger at the small group of miscreants who initiated this devious ploy of instilling unrest in the Muslim world. However, we need to ask ourselves who are we really empowering by banning the entire YouTube. Can the people at the helm of this decision can really be trusted for their sincerity to Islam? Aren’t we making the tyrant rulers stronger by suffocating free media? Are we also not surrendering a very powerful tool to bring down injustice at the orders of these very people who propagate these injustices?

I feel that this debate needs to be taken up in the national discourse. Rather than having a small fanatical pressure group pressing the government, and the government only too happily blocking access to free information, we need to have a more mainstream debate based on reasoning and keeping in view the immense contribution of YouTube to Pakistani society, politics and even religion.

My facebook-suicide note

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This week, I have put an end to a consuming relationship with Facebook that has been part of my life for almost seven years. I have tried to pull off in the past as well but realized life isn’t all that better without it either. However, this time I think I have reasons to believe otherwise.


Over these seven years, Facebook has changed enormously and has -like every other serious contender of a long-term relationship -tried to be an ever-increasing part of our lives.

Why Pakistani Society Leaves no Paper trail

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Pakistani society as it stands today is extremely dynamic. It is metamorphosing with such rapidity that it makes any analysis irrelevant in a matter of days. Each morning, we wake up to a new set of experts, commentators and news analysts, and the issues and headlines take just weeks to radically transform. And then, politics is not the only socially relevant aspect in flux –take economy, demographics, human development indicators, or even cricket, and you are bundling up an enormous amount of social change, all happening by the day.

Failure and the Need to Tackle its Challenge

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Failure must be viewed as any significant compromise of the full functioning of a system. The compromise doesn't have to be absolute to merit being called a failure. Any compromise that takes the level of function below any perceived 'minimum passable grade' should be called a failure.

I have noticed that Pakistanis have a general unwillingness to improve on a failed function. Rather, they treat it as a given conditionality. In short, they believe and give the impression that such reduced level of function is in fact the 'natural' level of functionality.

Firstly, a prevelant definition of failure equates it with total disaster and loss of all function. Hence, a dilapidated school education system would still not be deemed 'failed' until it completely stops imparting services.

Second is perhaps a natural response to any challenge. When we face a challenge, we are facing a choice between either tackling it, or mending our ways and complying. Usually, we would tackle when we think that the challenge is surmountable, that we are strong, and that the complications of a failed attempts are small. If the challenges is too big to tackle, or if we are not strong enough, or if we deem tackling too risky, we mend our ways and comply.

Failure looms as a challenge in front of us all. However, probably since we are so demoralized, we tend to overly weigh factors that favor compliance. So we have developed our own science of profitable mending of our ways so as to not tackle the challenge.

The government functionaries are a good example. They pose several challenges including inefficiency,  cumbersome processes,  and lack of modernity. But there are also innovative ways of hoodwinkng this creaking system, with options including political pressure, corruption, shuffling personnel and using archiac laws. In the end, someone who is willing enough will get things done, but the larger willingness on part of the wider public to make the process smoother remains missing. This chronic deficiency of a critical element -the larger desire to avoid failure -remains a key detriment to the progress of a genuinely Pakistani development culture. 

Polio Does Not Do Politics

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Polio immunization campaigns, despite registering landmark successes worldwide in Pakistan, have come under fire in a military conflict in North Western Pakistan. Last year, American Intelligence recruited Hep B Vaccination teams in its hunt for OBL. Taliban commanders, holding sway over large tracts of tribal belts, have recently outlawed access to children for polio immunization teams. Later, Tribal jirga (assembly) echoed the sentiments of Taliban commanders and put directed tribal populations to refrain from having children immunized. On 19th July 2012, an expat physician came under fire while moving in his UN marked vehicle in Karachi for an immunization drive.

YDA Strike 2012–The Events, Results and Conclusions

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The Young Doctors' Association Punjab strike lasted for almost 3 weeks and left in its wake 1000's of patients deprived of rightful medical care. Amid media reports of clash, chaos, deaths and police actions, the strike was eventually called off on the 9th of July 2012, without the original YDA demand for a service structure adequately

Passion for Pakistan: The Mystic Journey to True Development

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Pakistan has a mystical glory to it. An elusive spirit –indefinable and intoxicating; one that waits to be dispelled, but still lingers. It has defied conquerors, stood its many masters and provided for millions who poured on to it. A country like no other in multitudes of ways –it’s a paradise for a geologist, an enigma for anthropologist, a delight for a trader, and a true treasure for an archeologist.

Common Lab value changes for alcoholics

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Choose a Study ModeScatterLearnFlashcards

Table Tennis Remains the Pariah of Commercial Sport (to my dismay)

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Table Tennis is one of the most remarkable sports ever. It’s easy to learn, agile, reflexive and immensely enjoyable. That makes it popular too –the Table Tennis table can be found everywhere from schools to colleges, workplaces, common rooms and homes around the world. The number of people who play it makes table tennis one of the most popular games in the world, even surpassing soccer. But, I would ask: is it really a proper sport?

Why Med Students Need to be More like Office Clerks

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Across each of the scores of office desks that line any government office, we can find our typical government office clerk. They sip tea, eat biscuits, take breaks, comb their hair, rock their chair, and then, when their mood and motivation permits –do some paperwork that comes their way. They aren’t particularly fast at processing your applications, but the stash on their papertray stays slim. Every morning at their fixed time, they punch in their attendance card and occupy their chairs. They sit through the office hours, go about their stereotypical routine, and then they go home.

My A&E Elective in the Heart of UK's Healthcare system

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February is not the best of months to acclimatize in London. Granted, London’s fast-paced lifestyle is hard to catch up any time of the year, but for February, even the weather brings out a new surprise every morning. For my four weeks of electives break that I spent in London, I walked through thick snow (first that London received for the season), defied sharp cold winds, got wet in occasional showers and basked on some lovely sunny mornings. And then at the Hospital where I spent most of my time, the diversity of scenarios was even more exhilarating.


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