a young pakistani doctor blogs...
Saturday, November 26, 2005
  The key to everything
Money makes the world go round. It also makes the world a dirty and polluted place. You can have friends, and you can have your family, but you’d better not get money in between you and them or you’ll lose them all. It’s really sickening how much we allow our greed to rape our relationships.

As you might have guessed, I’m in a thoroughly evil mood right now. I’ve been told by a very close friend of mine [let’s call him A] that he found out his wife has been cheating him out of money. A doesn’t want to confront his wife over the issue because A still wants to preserve the relationship. A told me about this in the evening and I was really saddened to hear this. After all, A works hard for his money and when he hands over the monthly budget to his wife, he deserves better. How to deal with this problem? I told A to just confront his wife about this and get it out in the open. Kind-hearted as he is, A refuses to let this be a option because he doesn’t want to upset or embarrass her. He doesn’t care about the money, but about the trust that was breeched. His feelings were hurt and so were mine. After all, if we can’t trust people so close to us, whom can we trust? Can we absolutely put our trust in anyone at all?

Is there anybody in this world whom we could utterly trust not to screw us one day? Is there anyone with whom money is never an issue? Betrayal hurts at the best of times, but stealing from a loved one is treachery. The entire incident left me feeling very dirty and foul, as if I’d been contaminated with some stink simply by association. I felt sorry for A for being betrayed and also for his wife for not having the moral strength to know better. I hate having to feel sorry for people. Sometimes is better to be a tough bastard and not be moved by anything at all.

I’d like to think that of all the people on this earth, my fiancé, my future wife is someone who’d rather die than betray me. I’m sure we have the kind of understanding and open relationship that will foster this level of trust. I just know that if I were in the same situation as A, I’d be heartbroken. That kind of trust is not easy to regain.

When I first watched the movie Casino, that Robert de Niro classic, I was struck immediately by the very first lines in the movie. They’ve always stayed with me:

“When you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point?”

I would never want to live my life otherwise and would be crushed if I were forced to.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Study is going quite well, alhumdulillah. I’m keeping the stakes of this time that I have in mind and stick to a very strict timetable. I’m in bed by 11:30 pm so that I’m sure to have fallen asleep by midnight. I’m awake 8 hours later and I’ve found that those 8 hours of sleep really help me go faster during the whole day. I’ve also noticed a pattern in my speed. I’m usually slow in the mornings but pick up speed around the evenings so much so that I actually enjoy going through the material. I’m keeping things simple, just sleeping, eating and studying. In my short breaks I blog an entry here or read google news.

My final year exam result is not out yet (which speaks volumes for the efficiency of the college) and today I was feeling a little paranoid about the result. Its probably going to be out within 3 weeks. I’ve never had a good result since I entered med school and although this last exam went great (much better than any other I ever gave), and although I can reason out rationally that I am certain to pass, I still has that nagging, cold creepy feeling of all my plans going horribly wrong with a failure in one subject. I know it won’t happen. I aced this exam and I’ll probably come out with flying colors. It just goes to show how a series of (academic) misfortunes, such as the ones I’ve had can make a person lose faith in the age-old adage ‘everything will be alright’.
  Naught for Naats.
There is a mosque very near my house that is blaring out naats right now prior to the khutba for the Friday prayers. I must say, I don’t really approve of this noise pollution. I have nothing against naats or anything, but why do I have to be forced to listen to them being sung by totally untrained voices at full blast? I wish you could hear them. Different people who have absolutely no aesthetic sense are singing them one after the other. It seems like a free-for-all, as if they’re inviting anyone who is willing to come off the street and lend their scratchy, out-of-tune voices to the mic. It sounds horrible, I’m sorry to day. Naats, when sung properly by someone who knows what they are doing can sound very nice, but I’ve rarely heard such performances. I’m all for spirituality, but this does nothing for me, except annoy me.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
  Another day, another blog
Another day, another slog. I did well today, going through a whole bunch of material and feeling quite enthusiastic about it all. I’m definitely walking through the day with a sense of urgency and purpose. When I wake up in the mornings, take a shower and have breakfast, I keep reminding myself (or rather, my conscience reminds me) that these days will determine a score that could literally decide how I spend the rest of my life. If I mess up… but lets not go there. I’m doing well, albeit horribly behind my targets.

Still a long way to go. Nothing much happened today, just studied all the time. Oh, and Rai, my bowel habits were great today. ;)
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
  Going bananas
When you do nothing but sit in one chair, and worry about nothing but one goal and think about nothing but that goal at the time, you’re mind starts to get weird on you.

I hardly talk to anyone at all these days. I’m in my room, studying or trying to study for at least 14 hours everyday. Time seems to go slowly and it seems to go fast as well. It goes fast because the hours seem to turn forward very fast and before I know it, the day is over. It seems to move very slowly because my blog entries of only a few days ago seem like a million years ago. It’s the weirdest thing - I have an altered sense of reality, as if I’m just a living-breathing machine with a singular purpose. I feel like I’m going crazy. It’s an eerie feeling, as if I’m on a spiritual level aware that this reality of ours is only transitory; that’s its just part of the journey our immortal souls will takes – that there is a life after this one and when we’re there, we’ll look back at this life, with all the problems that we had as a vague blur. I’m reminded of Neo from the Matrix frequently. I feel as if I can sense this world is not totally real.

Or maybe I’m just going crazy.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
  Mother, sister and wife.
I don’t watch TV much these days, but I took a gander at it today and saw this program on a cable channel called OneTV or something or the sort. It was the first Pakistani ‘reality TV’ show I’ve seen. I am shamelessly reporting here that I found the program gripping and couldn’t stop watching.

The show consists of a mock courtroom with a ‘judge’ who arbitrates between conflicting parties before an audience. The conflicting parties on this episode were a couple (husband and wife), the husband’s mother and the husband’s sister. The mother and sister did not get along with the wife at all, and these three women were the conflicting parties. They were flinging all sorts of accusations and counter-accusations at each other. They all seemed like normal human beings (Jerry Springer comes to mind here, so I stress on using the word ‘normal’ as a qualifier) but when it came to getting along, they turned on each other in the most vicious way. All three of them were incredibly petty, but the sister was the absolute worst, and brought out the worst on in everyone else. The wife seemed like a good person who was genuinely trying to get along, but the sister really needled her and brought out her ugly side.

The sister complained that the couple went to their own bedroom soon after dinner and didn’t spend time with the mother. The wife complained that the sister took her stuff and never returned it. The mother complained that the wife didn’t take café of her. The poor husband was sitting quiet most of the time, and could hardly get a word in. He was truly caught in the middle. The three women’s grievances didn’t really have any substance, but if I were to lay blame, I’d blame the sister and mother duo. They had defined a role of the wife of their only brother/son as one providing infinite servitude and attention. Her primarily role in life was to be at home and serve the interests of the mother and keep her house in order. Any deviation from this role in the slightest way was unacceptable. The two couldn’t find it in themselves to allow the wife to have some degree of independence in determining the nature of her own life. This was particularly small-minded of them because the wife worked as well to contribute to the household budget and also needed to look after the kids. She didn’t have much time left over to attend to the mother’s every need.

I have a question for all Womankind…. Why are you all your own worst enemies? Seriously, if you want to ruin a woman’s reputation in this country, you only need to drop a suggestion or two in a few women’s ears and before you know it, the rumor has become a fact and everyone knows it. I’m not being sexist here, believe me. I’m all for giving women more rights than they enjoy in our country, and I used to get really hot and bothered whenever anyone suggested that women were in some way socially inferior to men. This attitude of mine began to erode when I spent 24 days on my Gyn/Obs rotation and saw how the wards were run and how the female doctors working there treated each other and their patients. It was very dispiriting stuff and my conviction that women were better (not just equal) than men at managing their lives in a more peaceful fashion began to get shaky. Since then I’ve always noticed how, if a man and a home is at stake, women can sometime act like cats, practically urinating around their territory to mark it off. Woe to the woman who tries to cross over into territory that doesn’t belong to her.

Men are beasts, I’ll be the first to admit that, but women can be very ugly too. Maybe it’s just the whole human race. Allah said it in the Quran: we were all created weak. I guess we’re all hopeless.
  Google your time away...
As some of the more tech savvy of you will already know, Google the Giant is on a mission to scan all the world’s books. I think it’s a splendid idea and I hope some hacker finds a way to get into Google HQ soon and steal all the scanned books before the service becomes more secure. But anyhow, for now its not difficult at all to see as much of a book as you want. Technically, you can only go two pages forwards or backwards from the page you land at when you do the search.

Case in point, I searched for “Medical Biochemistry” and found, amongst many others, Mark’s Basic Medical Biochemistry published by Lippincott. I searched the book further for what interested me and read pages 225, 226 and 227. I couldn’t go any further, because of the whole copyright thing, but no worries, I just searched the book itself for “228”, and voila, a new search list gave me page 228 as a search find, giving me access to that page as well pages 229 and 230.

It’s a great service, although I’m sure they’ll come up with some features to prevent unscrupulous persons like myself from accessing too much material.
Monday, November 21, 2005
  What a woman wants...
My spirits were high today. I ploughed through some tough material and enjoyed the process. (Incidentally, there was also a minor earthquake here in the afternoon, which like all quakes I’ve experienced, scared the shit out of me.) I’ve stumbled across the wikipedia biochemistry section to discover to my present surprise that its got tones of relevant material for me to use as reference. I’m doing biochemistry these days and some of the stuff is murky so it helps to have a good reference to look into. The work suddenly seems a lot more interesting, and although I’m going painfully slow and have to speed up soon, I think I’ve turned the corner. I’ll be doing much better from now on, inshallah. The hours seem to whiz by as I grind away in this chair but I don’t find it very dreary anymore.

My fiancé however, was having a rough time of it. She’s my class fellow. She lives in Peshawar and she’s taking the steps with me. The dream is to score well together, get married soon after the steps and go for our interviews together, getting matched as a couple. She’s been very depressed and anxious the last couple of days. She thinks it study blues, but I know her well - its nothing more than PMS. My fiancé is the sweetest girl, and I love her for it, but when she has PMS, boy oh boy… sparks will fly. I’ve learnt over the last year or so that whenever she gets into these phases, the best way to help her is to give her some attention, to let her know I love her and I’m there for her. As sweet as she is, that’s all she needs. She was feeling really upset all evening, sending me desperate SMSs until I finally called her up and talked to her for about an hour. I just chatted her up, talked about sweet nothings and before I knew it, an hour had passed. Impoverished that I am, my mobile credit took a big beating and I’ll have to scour around for funds to get a new card soon. But it was worth it, she was very happy after the call and she’ll go to sleep soundly now - and so will I.
  Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you...
I’m afraid I had to delete the ‘3 men and a lady’ post. I sent it in to a publication at the same time I blogged it in here, and as it turns out, it’s going to be published soon. So in the interests of maintaining my anonymity and giving the publication exclusive ownership of the piece, I took it off. My sitemeter tells me only a handful of people actually read it, so everything’s cool.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
  Forums for USMLE hopefuls
For all those USMLE hopefuls out there, I spent the all day yesterday scouring the net for good USMLE forums. I found three, which in my estimation are very good and which I’ll be visiting regularly. They are, prep4usmle, the Student Doctor Network, and valuemd. (There is also a fourth, usmle.net which has been around forever, but its format is prehistoric. It’s amazing to me how in this day and age the good Dr. Carl of usmle.net does not choose to update his site and put in some good bulletin software for the users.) I like the notion of being tapped into the thoughts of several hundred USMLE hopefuls. There are many people willing to help with guidance on these sites, with good scores of their own. If nothing else, it’s a great source of motivation to hear people scoring well, and talking about their study habits, and their concerns. These forums are a buzz with activity and thoughtful feedbacks from many people just like me. It’s a far cry from my sleepy little room on the top floor of my sleepy little house. I’ve been pumped up quite a bit after scouring through these sites. I guess it’s a herd-support thing… humans are social animals after all.

Saturday, November 19, 2005
  Should I, or Shouldn't I?
I wonder if should turn this blog into more of a USMLE diary, where I blog my actual nuts-and-blots-of-it progress for your reading pleasure. I’ve got a least two USMLE hopefuls reading my blog regularly that I know of (Usman and Moiz). The many uuhhh millions of my other adoring reader fans who are not doctors will most probably not be interested and will not appreciate the move. It is the fear of several thousand such fans organizing themselves into crazed, wild-eyed protests groups hurling Molotov cocktails at my house that makes me reluctant to go ahead with the change.

I guess I could set up another blog dedicated to my USMLE ramblings… I’ll sleep on it.
  worried, depressed, anxious, etc...etc...
Every now and then we all gain insights into the workings of our internal machinery, but as time passes by we tend to forget. I’ve learned a lot about myself because of this blog because it freezes those insights in time and never lets me forget. I find that as I get older, I am in a better position to face my challenges because I understand myself better.

For instance, I know that these days when I don’t want to study and find myself playing computer games I used to play when I was a kid, I know I’m just escaping. I’m avoiding the pain of responsibility by transporting myself back to those carefree days of my youth. I also know that when I look at the biochemistry Kaplan book in front of me and it feels like I’m eating sawdust, I know its because this study really is boring and everyone finds it difficult to sustain their interest in it. I know that when I tell myself I start studying in a half and hour, or maybe an hour, I’m just demonstrating a lack of the will power I need to score well in this exam. I know that there is nothing wrong with me. I’m not sick or depressed and I’m not lacking something that would make me study right.

Its good to know all these things. It’s a good ‘sign’ that this understanding is firmly in place, because these months are very crucial to my life. Those who have been following my blog from the beginning will know of my efforts to bolster my study routine with dreams of becoming a writer. Before this blog every got started, there were dozens of things I tried that I thought I needed to complete that connection towards good, steady work habits. However, now, at long last, I know that I’m not lacking in anything per se. If I don’t utilize the days that pass me by its because I’m not willing to put myself through the tedium and pain it takes to study as hard as I need to. Its because I’m not willing to put my own happiness and peace of mind on hold for a while for a worthier goal. Its because I’m too soft. Because I’m not demanding more from myself. I try to squirm out of it one way or the other. I try to make the days less boring and tedious when I suppose they can’t really be.

Its good to know all this…. and while I reached these conclusions independently, they agree with what I’ve been told by several of my 99er friends, which is basically: life sucks when you’re studying for the preps. A good friend of mine, who got a double 99 actually used the word ‘suicidal’ to describe his state of mind during the steps. I think I have to give up my escapist inclinations and let Reality swallow me whole. Perhaps then I’ll stop running away from the books and stand my ground to meet my daily targets.
Friday, November 18, 2005
  New York, New York
I changed my desktop image from a totally blank, black screen to a picture of New York City buildings, all beautifully lit up at night, taken from above. It’s quite fantastic.

New York. I would love to sit down with a psychiatrist who could explain to me why I have such a fixation with this place. Here is a place I would love to live in for a while. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s this image of NYC as a melting pot of different cultural influences. I like knowing that something is always happening in New York. And then of course, so many Al Pacino movies were made in New York. That’s got to be one of the reasons I love it too. The Godfather Trilogy, Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way, to name just a few. And of course, New York is anti-Bush country, which doesn’t hurt either.

I’ll definitely be applying to many programs in NYC. I just hope I can get my shit together and get with the program, study-wise though. I’m very worried on that count.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
  For the veiled one.
Niqabi, I tend to avoid replicating other people's writing on my blog, with the very occasional exception. I made the "Is the Truth Relative or Absolute" question into a link. All you need to do is click on it. It'll take you straight to the page.

As for our 'duty' to convert all non-Muslims, I strongly believe it has long been a misconception that it is indeed incumbent on us to convert all the world’s non-Muslims. I’m all for encouraging good and forbidding what’s bad, I think that’s a function of any healthy society. However, the reason I have a problem with the whole “Non-muslims are going to rot in hell unless we save them” idea is that it fosters intolerance. We have Sunni-Shia conflicts because each group thinks they are on the path of God and that the other group consists of stubborn infidels who just don’t see the light. I’ll always have a problem with any belief-system that fosters an exclusivist doctrine. I can’t believe its healthy to think that you and your fellow believers alone will be saved and that all others who don’t think like you will go to hell. It’s just plain unhealthy.

I’m not trying to proselytize here and I’m not even trying to convince you I’m correct. I don’t mean any offense and I hesitate to try and explain myself any further because I’ve found that debates on religion tend to get nowhere.

I’ve managed to get a list of 1800+ questions from the Understanding Islam site all on one page. Go through the list if you wish and dive in to any question that intrigues you.

1815 Questions from UI
  No cure just yet...
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
  Spirtual Journey II
Before I came across the Understanding-Islam site, but after I had started praying regularly again, I was in a strange place. On one hand, my prayers were very effective in giving me a great deal of spiritual energy. I was feeling very close to God and felt all of the beneficial effects that such a state of mind gives you. I was more energetic, nicer, harder-working, more optimistic, and felt more at peace than I ever had before. On the other hand, I was dogged by all the doubts I mentioned earlier. It didn’t help matters that some of my close friends were very narrow-minded people with a “Muslim vs. Kafir” approach to the world. I just couldn’t accept that way of thinking. According to them, there were a hundred and one ways to sin everyday. God was a very petulant deity, who was just looking for a chance to throw my sorry ass in Hell.

These guys were mostly the tableeghi lot. I respected them for their regularity in prayers, but they really got on my nerves sometimes. According to them, all non-Muslims will go to hell and it’s our responsibility to ‘save’ them by going over to them and telling them all about Islam. If we don’t do our very best, then when these poor souls, who didn’t receive guidance because of us, are all thrown in everlasting hell, then God is going to have a things or two to say to us as well. It was a really depressing view of the world. I spent a lot of time with them. I went to an ijtima, I went on gushts, I bought and read all of Fadayl-i-amal and I discussed many issues with them. I was at a loss as to what to make of them. I liked the fact that they were so into Islam, but all the weird things they believed in disturbed me.

One of them, on being asked why God didn’t destroy the ‘Western kafirs’ replied blithely that this was because they had not been invited to Islam yet. Only when we go to America and advise ALL of them to ‘come into the fold of Islam’ and only if/when they reject Islam will our prayers asking for their destruction bear fruit. It was sheer stupidity and I just couldn’t swallow it. Islam was the only acceptable religion in the world, which meant the majority of the world’s population today would rot in hell when the time came. They could not see anything wrong with this way of thinking. They believed in miracles. If only we Muslims would all start praying again and doing what God ordered us to do, then we would be granted victory over the infidels. And why didn’t the Prophet prohibit slavery in his time? This was a big question for me, and I asked one of my tableeghi friends this. He replied that all kafirs could be slaves of Muslims if caught in battle.

The worst of it was that all the people there were neatly divided into two categories:

  1. The ones who believed all the Muslim vs. Kafir stuff and prayed regularly and did all the other 101 things they were ‘supposed’ to do.

  2. The ones who believed all the Muslim vs. Kafir stuff and didn’t pray regularly and didn’t do anything else they were ‘supposed’ to do because they accepted that Islam was too hard to follow properly so why bother trying.

I couldn’t really fit in anywhere. The tableeghis were hard-core exclusivists, and the other group didn’t have any spirituality to them. When I finally found the Understanding-Islam site, it was an enormous weight off my mind. I finally understood Islam to be something easy to practice. A religion that described a few basic rules of conduct and gave us freedom to decide the rest for ourselves as society evolved. No longer was Islam an enormous laundry list rules. How to eat. How to drink. How to shit. How to go to sleep at night. How to screw your wife. How to enter a room. How to leave the room. How to do this, how to do that. Yada yada yada. No more suffocating rules. I was free.

Eventually, when question after question was answered with wonderfully convincing logic, I stopped being afraid to question my religion. I was sure there was a good answer for any issue I might have had with Islam. Faith was not blind and was never meant to be blind. I knew that Islam would stand up to the strictest of scrutiny and that I shouldn’t be afraid to challenge and question any aspect of it I thought was weird. Islam went from being a big dark mess of tenuous beliefs and dubious rules to one of openness, freedom and crystal clear clarity. It was a religion that appeal to my humanist instinct.  

Why has the Quran not clearly prohibited slavery?
Is ‘Truth’ relative of absolute?
If men and women are equal…
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
  Spiritual journey
I like to think of myself as a religious person. That is, I would like my deen to play a larger role in my everyday life. In terms of praying 5 times a day, which I believe to an accurate index, for myself at least, of how ‘religious’ one is, I fare badly. Throughout my life, my regularity in prayers has come and gone. However, it lasted the longest time in my 2nd and 3rd year of college. At the time I was going through terrible problems in college and I reached out to prayer as a way of getting through.

However during that time there were many questions I had about Islam. I needed them to be answered first because if I had doubts, I didn’t want to be up there praying like a hypocrite in a religious garb I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. It must be said, the religious views in Saudi Arabia, at the time I was growing up there, dazzle the mind today. In the 7th grade, our religion teacher once told us that if there were a Jew in the room right now, he’d kill him with his bare hands. He got all worked up and sweaty as he shouted this at us aggressively, as if daring someone in the class to be a Jew.

Uncertainties started creeping in from the age of 16 and they grew because there was absolutely no one I could talk to about them who wouldn’t feel embarrassed or angry to hear such doubts. There were many things that crept up in my mind that troubled me a lot. A man could not cut his beard at all. A woman should speak to the non-mehrum man in a harsh tone of voice. That Islam was a “code of life” whatever the hell that meant. These issues remained unanswered and I found myself gradually drifting away from Islam. I stopped praying and later started wondering about other, more fundamental things. Will someone as good as Mother Teresa go to hell? Will only the Sunni Muslims to heaven? Will all non-Muslims go to hell? Will a person really go to heaven if he is just able to say the sahada, even if he doesn’t practice anything else about his religion? And in contrast, if a moral, upstanding Christian dies without saying the sahada, will he really spend eternity in the most horrifying cesspit of torture and misery? What if someone has never heard of Islam or even if he has, got the wrong information and decided it wasn’t for him, will he go to hell forever and ever as well? How can this be? Is this not at odds with Allah being the Most Merciful?

By far, the idea I had the most trouble with was of all non-Muslims being thrown in hell regardless of how they lived their lives. I just couldn’t accept that. What if I were born a non-Muslim? I might never have heard about Islam. I might have been too busy with life to ever stop and think about religion. I might have been too sick to do so. There were many reasons to suppose that a person not born a Muslim might stay that way. I just couldn’t accept it.

I turned to prayers again during my second year in college because I was going through a huge crisis in life and needed solace and hope, which prayer adequately provided. However the doubts were still there so I decided I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite. I was going to look into these doubts. By then the Internet was available to help me look for some answers.

I don’t remember exactly when I came across it, but before long I realized the scholars behind the Understanding-Islam website were changing my whole outlook on Islam. The site has a huge Question-and-Answer section where anybody can post a question with the answered displayed on the site. When I first came across the site, there were 1400 questions and answers on display. Now there are more than a 3,000. It had answers to so many of my burning questions, and the answers were convincing. I had my inbuilt bullshit detector cranked all the way up. I wasn’t going to accept an illogical answer to the issues I had. I wasn’t going to take anything on faith alone. I needed real explanations using logic and reason or I wasn’t buying it at all.

Some of the many issues I had were answered here:

What will happens to the Christians and Jews?
What is Taqdeer (Fate)?
Taqleed and the opinions expressed in “Understanding-Islam”
How do we judge between scholars?
What was Ayesha’s age at the time of her marriage?

These were just some of the questions I went through to get my head straight. Islam went from being a religion full of illogical medieval dogma to being an intellectually appealing, 21st century religion. I no long walked around with doubts or unanswered questions. My religion was good, it was modern, and above all, it just made really good sense. After months of reading and studying, I was at peace with myself. I believed in my religion and knew exactly why I believed what I believed.

More on this later…  
Monday, November 14, 2005
  Scratching your life away.
My father is a professor. He’s a highly accomplish man who has marked his career with awards and medals. No one did it for him, he did it all himself. His parents were both dead before he was five and he practically raised himself out of poverty. When he got a job in Jeddah in the university there, I was born a year later. Prior to that, both my parents lived a very difficult live.

When I was about 12, my father took us back to the village he was born. It’s in a Godforsaken desert in the north of the country, where little grows out from the ground and most people are hopelessly poor. That was the first time I saw my uncle – my father’s brother. He is a shy sort, very unobtrusive and gentle. He looks vaguely like my father, but unlike my father, he is not overburdened with intelligence, if you know what I mean.

My uncle doesn’t have job. He’s illiterate and has a bad case of osteoarthritis. Most of his income comes from growing crops in the little land that he has, and that isn’t much. My father helps him out regularly with money.

My uncle has 11 kids. All from one wife. And there are more on the way. When my father, occasionally raises the issue of the number of kids he has, the response is not very positive. The consensus amongst the people in the village is that if God wants to give them more children, then He will take responsibility for feeding them too. So you see, it’s all God’s blessings, not their own stupidity, that results in such families. The kids don’t have much of an education, are often undernourished and are bound to be trapped in the same life of poverty their parents are in now.

During the off-season, when the crops have been planted and there is nothing to do but wait for them to grow, the daily routine of most in the village consists the following:

Waking up from sleep.
Going to sleep.
Sitting in the chowk with the other men and talking.
Sleeping in the chowk.
Waking up from sleep in the chowk.
Scratching themselves.
More scratching.
Harassing the wives for favors.
More sleeping.

There are so many ways they could make themselves useful in the village. They could finish the sewer line they started so that the wastewater from the houses no longer snakes across their streets. But no, such activities are the government’s job, not theirs. They could get a job. But no someone has to stay back and do the scratching.

It’s argued that these people are stuck in poverty and for this reason, much cannot be expected of them. But shouldn’t they take responsibility for their own condition? They don’t work hard in the first place, so don’t they deserve to be where they are? How much is due to the poverty they were born into, and how much due to their own laziness? I’m coming to think that for many such people, even if opportunities present themselves, they will make little use of them. Their biggest setbacks are self-inflicted. Perhaps when Jinnah used to say ‘Work, work and more work,’ he was saying it with a certain degree of exasperation.

  More on Mr. Negative
Update on the HIV negative Briton: When I first blogged his story, there were 7 news items on news.google.com about him. Right now there are 103. The world is reacting the way it should. Like I said earlier, if this story is true, it could be the turning point in our fight against HIV. *Fingers crossed*
Sunday, November 13, 2005
  HIV news.
There’s a British man who seems to have beat back the HIV bug. If it’s true, then it’s a massive find and it could be the first step towards a cure. The news has just come out a few hours ago, and I suspect it will be Big News as the days go by. And this isn’t some juju man who claimed to eat camel bladders or smeared himself in cow dung mixed with tiger semen either. He was just an ordinary guy, and was told by his baffled doctors that his tests were coming back negative after having been checked three times. He himself couldn’t believe it and is overjoyed that he’s testing negative. The original tests also seem to be genuine. He was tested three times before and came out positive every time. Then after 14 months (of no treatment), he suddenly came back negative.

As I said, if this is really true and not due to some faulty lab tests, this man will change everything. I just hope he doesn’t get hit by a bus or something! We need to study him. This is big big news.
  A scary story.
A good friend of mine, two years my senior (in the same college) graduated with excellent marks and was looked at as an example to be followed. He was very well rounded. Good in studies and otherwise very active in extracurricular activities. He wrote prose and poetry, played the guitar very well, composed music, traveled a lot, and spoke four languages. A very well rounded individual indeed.

After final year, which I emphasize again, he did very well in, he decided he was not going to do his housejob, but go straight for the Steps instead. He started studying after taking a nice long vacation in January 2004. In the following months, he could be seen engaged in yet more extracurricular activities. When I asked him how his studying was going, he assured me it was going well. Months went by, and when we asked him when he was giving Step one, his answer would always be a few months later than the last time we asked him. The months turned into a year, and more months were piled up on top of that. We started getting concerned. When are you going for the steps, man? Its been a long time already. Finally, 18 months after he officially started studying and 21 months after he graduated, he went and gave the exam.

He’ll do very well. A 99er for sure, if there ever was one. We were all sure he’d go great. He came out of the exam stating that it seemed to be a pretty easy exam and that he finished the blocks inside of 40 minutes each time. Wow, he’s going to do great! we all thought.

After his exam, he went to Riyadh to be with his family there and I went to Peshawar to face my own final year exam. I lost touch with him and found out about his result the night before my 3rd paper. A mutual friend told me about him.

He had failed. He got a 72 and failed the exam after forsaking the housejob and putting 18 months of his life into this project. Later it emerged, from his confessions, that during this whole time, he hadn’t been studying. I was too embarrassed to tell you the truth whenever you guys would ask me about my progress, he said. After the result, he avoided all of us. I haven’t seen him since June. He won’t answer the phone and won’t meet anyone unless he needs to. He’ll be coming here to Islamabad to deliver something for me in a few days. It will be an interesting talk if he doesn’t run away after delivering my stuff.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
I being brainwashed! I told you about the boring physiology Kaplan guy in my lecture videos. He’s got the most monotonous way of speaking. It drives you crazy. I just noticed that I’ve started talking in the same way myself! Arrrrrgh!
  Look, don't touch.
Eat, sleep, study and worry about study. That seems to be the flesh of my existence these days. I literally don’t do anything else - just in case any of you thought I had an exciting life, like jumping out of airplanes. The monotony is sometimes punctuated by a movie, although I don’t have a very good video store near me in Islamabad to go to.

But its cool. As long as the study is going well, I can tolerate just about anything. I will sleep well at night and my heart will be at peace. I’m happy in a way because these days whenever I feel a little depressed, I know it’s the studies blues. This is an important realization for me to make be because previously I didn’t understand this. I honestly thought that there was something wrong with me. Not having many friends in Peshawar in the first few years, and being younger and less experienced in such things, the depression causes a viscous positive feedback. I’d be depressed and wouldn’t study because I got hopeless. This would cause my study to suffer even more. Then I’d get even more depressed. For weeks and months I would be walking through a haze of depression, desperately unhappy about my life, trying like hell to analyze it to find out what was wrong with me.

I’m not resentful of the time I spent in Peshawar. I’m not saying I would go there again if I had the chance, but all difficult situations teach us something about ourselves. They force us to be introspective (or that should be the appropriate response, I think) and through such self-reflection they force us to grow. Another reason I’m not resentful is that if I hadn’t gone to Peshawar (instead of Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad, where I might have fitted in better) I wouldn’t be engaged to the same woman as I am now.

Study is going well. Spirits are not high, they are tough instead, which I think is how they should be. I venture into the days like a veteran now.

On another note, I came across bloggers from Dubai. I’ve always been totally fascinated by Dubai. Who isn’t. I was born and raised in Jeddah, which is probably Saudi Arabia’ most beautiful city. While Jeddah is 10 times larger than Dubai is right now (although that might very well change in just a handful of years), the images I see of Dubai make me very nostalgic. I left Jeddah when I was 17, which I think was a great time to leave. If I had stayed any longer, I might have grown up in the most intellectually active part of my development, in a very suffocating atmosphere. Saudi Arabia is very restrictive and the particular backward brand of Islam they shove people’s throats, at least when I was there, is depressing. Dubai seems to have all the charm that Jeddah had without any of the baggage. I’m sure its not all angels and butterflies there, as I’m finding out in some blogs, but still the city fascinates me. Maybe I may still want to live there for a little while after my residency is over. For now though, I’m just looking at pictures on my computer.
Friday, November 11, 2005
  Tough as nails.
Near the middle of my final year exam – and this exam lasted about 40 days – I once reached a point of utter exhaustion. It was before the 4th paper, one of the surgery papers I believe. I remember sitting in my spartan, depressing room with its poor light, chipped walls and humid heat and thinking how I finally reached the last limit of my endurance. It was 8pm, the night before the paper. I had been studying for 16 hours straight, and had only 3 hours of sleep the night before. I still had a lot of work left and I needed to stay awake till 3am at least. There were some really important topics left for me to do.

I took a big sigh and looked up very depressed at the discolored wall in front of me. Then I decided that I wasn’t going to give up. I had work left to do, and no matter how damn tired I was, I was going to keep sitting to meet my targets. For the next 7 hours, I worked through my sheer mental exhaustion. I just stopped thinking about how fed-up I was and I just did it. It was a remarkable mental triumph. The temptation to give up and go to sleep never left me throughout the 7 hours. I just didn’t give into it. I was scared of what the next day might bring but I didn’t give in to that either. I just gritted my teeth and kept going.

This exact thing was to happen four times again during the next month of my exam. Each time I persevered. Each time I pushed the boundaries further and every time I did so, I came out more confident of my abilities. I was very proud of myself later on and even marveled at what I had managed to do. I almost wanted to be in the same position again so I could see if I could come out on top again. I was operating in an altogether different realm of endurance.

It was experiences like these that made me so confident of doing well in the steps. I have the strength and guts inside me to really do well. I’ve done incredible things before and can do them again, and I will.

Today was a good day of studying. It still evening as yet, I’ll be awake for another 5 hours, but I’ll definitely meet my target for today. I just dove into today - all guns blazing, determined not to fail my targets. From now on, I just have to be tough on myself like I was today….like I was during most days of my final year exam.

  Tick tock
I didn’t want to post last night because then I’d have to write about the day’s progress, and I was in no mood to rehash that. Suffice to say that it wasn’t good. It has been a week now since I’ve officially started studying and I have yet to gain any kind of momentum. The clock’s ticking. I must find someway to cope with this problem.

Let’s see what today brings. I’ve skipped breakfast and gone straight for the coffee. Breakfast tends to slow me down. I’m going to have a second cup of coffee now and then get cracking. I’m scared for myself. I need to regain that sense of purpose and determination for my study. I need to be in a frame of mind where nothing else in my universe matters but my upcoming exams. I am so desperate not to fail my goals. I aim for a high 90s score in both steps, and if I continue the way I am doing now, I will never make it. Let’s see what today brings.  
Thursday, November 10, 2005
  Doctor, heal thyself.
My day hasn’t even properly started yet, and I’m already feeling bad about things.

The good news is I’ve never been better equipped in my life to deal with the mental exertion that comes with studying for the Steps than I am now. After the ordeal of the 6-month long final year prep and exam, I feel I’ve learnt enough about myself to face ny situation.

So let’s analyze then.

I’m feeling really bad because I’m far far behind on my study targets. Before moving further, let’s fully appreciate that I do not feel bad for any other reason. I am not in a depressive state. I have no real problems to blame for my feelings. I am a normal, healthy, well-adjusted human being – so there is no point in looking for ‘problems’ for my feelings. The reason I feel bad is because I’m behind on my targets. No more, no less.

Every problem must have a solution when analyzed logically. Now having established the cause, let’s explore it further. Every time I start studying these days, I don’t feel as if I’m covering new ground, but rather, making up for ground I should have covered days ago. This leads to very low levels of enthusiasm for the start of the day because no matter how hard I work, I don’t feel as if I’m making progress. To my mind, I’m always going to be behind.

In order to ensure that I get something done during the course of the day, I need to feel good about myself when I get the work done. There must be a sense of pride associated with whatever progress I make, otherwise this difficult exercise will be even harder to bear. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I am indeed behind my targets and accept this - that rather than setting impossible ‘catch-up’ schedules that only set me up for failure and self-loathing…

…okay, so I’m behind on my targets. Big deal. Life never works out exactly the way you want it to. I’m not going to try and catch up to where I’m supposed to be in an act of desperation. I’ll just move along at 30 pages/day and forget about where, according to my Masterplan, I was supposed to be. Whatever happens today, I will not worry myself about being behind. I’ll just have to forget about my schedule and wake up everyday thinking only one thing: 30 pages today.
  'The solution is choice'
Well, today pretty much sucked. My study was really bad. I just couldn’t bring myself to get going. I got something of a panic attack around 4pm and then decided to watch the Matrix Reloaded and the Matrix Revolutions again. I had been wikisurfing some time back and happened upon articles on these two movies. When I first saw the movies, soon after their release, I thought the sequels destroyed the original story. I just rolled up my eyes at the sophistic bantering about choice, destiny, causality, the convoluted bantering of The Architect, not to mention the corny love dialogue between Neo and Trinity; “I can’t let you go. I love you too damn much.” (I might have felt like that in the beginning of my relationship with my fiancé, but I sure didn’t sound like that. I’d like to think I was more suave.)

The wikipedia articles shed some interesting light on the sequels, principally in the what-the-hell-is-going-on-here department. All I could get from the first viewing when the movies came out was there was a lot of fighting going on. Cool fighting to be sure, but I didn’t really know what all that fighting was about. Couldn’t they all just settle things over a nice cuppa?

I had to go through the wikipedia article very carefully to get the plots of the last two movies. I stopped short of making notes, but other than that, I paid close attention. It finally did make sense, although I suspect the Wachowski brothers really sweated to flesh out the story of the sequels. The story seemed so labored, I can’t help but suspect they found themselves in quite the creative pickle.

In 2002, when the finished movies were still in the future, I managed to get my hands on a script for the Matrix Reloaded movie. I found it in some dark recess of the internet and read the whole thing in one sitting. It was totally different than the final version of the movie. I remember little about it, but I do remember the freeway scene had already been written in because I distinctly remember reading Morpheus’ words “Then let us pray that I was wrong.” Just before they enter the freeway. That goes to show the Wachowski’s never planed sequels and had to go through at least one other version (that I’m personally aware of … who know how many more there were) before they reached the final draft. That also explained why the final plot was so complicated and why I needed to read the wikipedia articles three times to get everything.

Ah, but never mind that. My study really sucks, and I watched the movies just to get my mind off things. I hope tomorrow is a better day. I should think positively and not assume that today’s events will repeat themselves tomorrow… or any other day for that matter. I’ll get up tomorrow and get the job done. I won’t learn helplessness (Those who’ve read Behavioral Science will know what I’m talking about).

Neo said ‘the problem is choice.’ But that’s the solution as well.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
  Words of wisdom
My parents are off to the village for a visit, and my bhabi is taking the kids off to a wedding. It’ll just be me and my two older brothers in the house till Sunday. A whole pile of food has been stored away in the fridge for us by the good women of the house. We’re expected to keep the place reasonably clean, although the ladies smirked when saying that, as if the notion was ludicrous.

Its early morning here in Islamabad. Another day has just started and my USMLE prep is not going according to track at all. I’ve written much on the topic of studying. When all this studying is finally over, and I stop making such big demands from my brain, then hopefully, this daily self-bashing will stop and I’ll begin to feel better about myself. Till then, the whip will always be cracking and I will almost never be totally satisfied with the day’s work.

A friend of mine, who got a 99 in his Step 1, once told me never to wait for the day when I’d actually feel like studying. That day will never come, he said emphatically. Another friend of mine, who got a double 99, once said that if you’re studying and you’re always enjoying it, then you’re not really studying. I’ll take these words of wisdom with me today and try to get my 30 pages done.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
  Mysterious going-ons in the etherworld
A very strange thing happened. My Internet Download Manager downloaded three files without me knowing about them. I have no idea where they came from. Two of the files were Quranic recitations and the third was a song called Now At Last by someone called Feist. I never went anywhere in my surfing where I might have had the option of downloading this stuff. Heck, I never even heard of Feist. Nevertheless I played the song, and it’s GREAT. I wikified Feist and found out she’s a Canadian singer and the song, which I’m listening to the 16th time in a row now, is from a highly acclaimed album of hers. Should hunt down the rest of this album. According to my download manager, the file came from http://www.students.yorku.ca:80/~abbylee Now, I’ve never been anywhere near there so I don’t really know how I managed to not only go there but also find a song to download. Somewhere in cyberspace something must have short-circuited and I got someone else’s file. Now if it could only happen again… this time account numbers to some billionaire’s slush-fund in the Caymen’s maybe? Can always keep my fingers crossed.

If ‘mistakes’ cause downloads such as the one I had, I wouldn’t mind more of them.

I miss my fiancé.
  stone cold bored
Afternoons are so dreary. The wind never blows and outside the light seems to look the same from 9am to 4pm – it’s as if time is standing still.  By the time afternoon rolls around you kind of start wishing the view outside my window would be more dynamic. Like the wind moving the leaves, or dark clouds of a shower, or the new-found brightness of the leaves after it rained, or something… Instead, there’s a depressing stillness to autumn and winter.

The clock however moves forward very fast. The day seems to be over before I know it and it’s a chore to keep listening to the physiology professor in my Kaplan notes. He’s very very monotonous and has a sharp nasal voice. He only moves his left hand, his lips (as he’s talking) and his eyelids when he’s blinking. It’s like he’s afraid he’ll drop stone dead of a stroke if he moves anymore. The most exciting thing this guy ever gets is wearing a different shirt after every few videos. It’s a sharp contrast from Dr. Steven Daugherty of Behavioral Science and Ethics or the wonderful Conrad Fischer of Internal Medicine in the Step 2 videos. They make their subjects come to life.

  Early Morning Vibes

No nightmares lasts night, haha. Woke up to find that my older brother changed some setting on the server of our in-house LAN network and my computer is now cut off. It 5:30 am, and I’d dearly love to burst in his room and shout at him for doing this for the second time in three days. Will have to learn what he does so I’m not dependent on him to fix it.

Got really mad when I found out I got cut off from the net. I’m using the server computer right now and while its okay, it’s not my highly customized, firefox-browser system. Then I decided to ease up. No sense in holding in bad vibes over small things. I don’t really need the net that much in the mornings anyway. I wish I could be more mellow and patient with things. I used to be before, but now I find I’m short tempered. I think it to due with my irregularity in my prayers and subsequent distance from God. Prayer really does miracles for the soul. It’s a gift but I don’t use it. I’m go pray Fajr now.
Monday, November 07, 2005
  Raat ki rani
Work today went much better, I’m happy to report. Studying sucks, but now that I’m home, I can look forward to relaxing at the end of the day. There was nothing much to do in my hostel room in Peshawar. It was just about the most depressing place on earth. Thank God I’m done with it.

I went out for a walk just a while ago. It’s quite chilly here in the evenings and I put a big coat on, slipped my mobile-cum-radio in a pocket and plugged in to FM 89, a pretty good radio station that plays good music. I heard a 50 Cents rendition of The Beegees’ Staying Alive. Also listened to an oldie, George Michael’s Fast Love - an amazing song, sung with great grace and finesse about wanting to hump a prostitute, hehe. No one can sing songs about being horny like George can.

It’s great in Islamabad. I walked in the little streets in between the houses and there was the aroma of raat ki rani everywhere. I think I can force myself to study throughout the day now safe in the knowledge that in the evenings I can go for a pleasant walk, read my book Hannibal, or just go to sleep early. It doesn’t take much to make me feel good these days. I think, to a large extent, the depression and sense of anhedonia that plagued me for many of my days in Peshawar have gone away. All that suffering tuned me into myself and I can better read my emotions now. If I feel sad, I can usually look into myself and find the root cause. This must be the fun part about growing up. I may be losing my hair as well, but hey, it’s a trade-off.

Before I forget to mention it here….during my break in Ramadan, I passed many happy hours playing these computer games from my childhood. Monkey Island 1 and 2, KGB, Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Beneath a Steel Sky, and a bunch of others. Why don’t they make games like that anymore!!! I found a great site where you can download all these games for free. All the Sierra games are up there too for those who are interested. www.agamesroom.com. I suspect the site is not totally kosher as some of these games are still copyright. Anyone interested best download the games soon.
  Study Tips
I got these study tips from some anonymous guy as a comment in response to one of my earlier posts. It seems like spam, but I can’t really imagine who would want to spam study techniques. Anyway, I’m putting them up here without comment.

It’s 11:00 in the morning and your energy is waning. Minutes seem to tick by like hours and your mind feels foggy. You’ve still got six more hours to look alert and act productive and get over anxiety panic, so how do you cope with the afternoon blahs? Follow these six tips!

1. If you have a job that involves sitting at a desk all day or staring at a computer screen, take five minutes to stand up or lean back, close your eyes and stretch, especially in your shoulder and leg areas. Being seated all the time can make your whole body feel stiff and sleepy. A good stretch session helps limber up your body and gets the blood flowing again.

2. Avoid the tempting lure of caffeine or sugar-laden foods such as coffee, tea or chocolate. Caffeine may perk up your energy levels temporarily, but it also has a bad habit of leaving you sluggish after the effect has worn off. Instead, choose whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables to give your body the fuel it really wants! Eating healthier will boost your mood, elevate your alertness, change anxiety panic and make you feel better all day long.

3. Along with healthier foods, take a quick 10-15 minute walk during your lunch break. Just a few minutes will give you a burst of energy that refreshes you and makes you feel more alert – while burning off your lunch calories in the process!

4. Sometimes, afternoon slumps can be your body’s way of telling you that it needs something. You may be feeling tired if your blood sugar is low (which happens especially after the effect of those caffeine and high sugar foods has worn off!). Packing a low calorie snack like graham crackers, granola, fruit or vegetable slices can give your body a boost and keep you from feeling hungry in the late afternoon and caving in to the urge to devour the entire contents of the vending machine after work!

5. Drowsiness is often a sign that you’re not getting enough water. Drinking more water throughout the day not only helps keep you awake, but also keeps you from feeling those hunger pangs that inevitably creep up in mid-morning. Taking a large sports bottle that you can drink from throughout the day is a great way to get your recommended eight glasses a day as well!

6. If afternoon fatigue is a recurring problem, it may be a side effect of medications you are taking. Allergy pills are well known culprits, as are some blood pressure and anxiety/depression medicines. Don’t try to circumvent these effects with caffeine, otherwise you’ll overload your body with stimulants while it’s already trying to deal with drowsiness, and you’ll feel mentally and physically exhausted. Instead, try a short 15-20 minute catnap. You’ll be surprised how refresh you’ll feel when you wake up! (Don’t try this at work though – I know it’s tempting!)

If you follow these tips on a regular basis, you’ll not only make it through the afternoon blahs, but you’ll also feel better physically and mentally, sleep better at night, and wake up rejuvenated and re-energized the next morning. Make it a GREAT day!
  A new morning
Had another nightmare last night. Can’t remember the details, but in it I had a sense of great urgency to get moving. It’s a terrible feeling going to sleep at night knowing that the day could have been utilized better, that I could have taken more from the passing day. It’s good though that my conscience is active enough to insist on hounding me into my dreams and bugging me there too.

The Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams are probably the most important I’ll take in my life.  My scores will determine where, or if at all, I get into a residency in the US. They will also determine when I get married too! My fiancé happens to be a class fellow of mine and she’s up to page 300 of Kaplan physiology. She’s way ahead of me. Yipes! We plan to get married after our Step 1 and Step 2 CK and go for the interviews to the states late next year. If I mess up, that might never happen and we may have to postpone everything and draw up our plans all over again if I don’t do well. One of the advantages of this arrangement is that it pushes me to make something of myself. That is strong motivation, believe you me.

But that’s okay. Nothing will prevent me from taking a leap forward today. I feel sure of that. No more pussyfooting around. I’ll meet my targets for the day.

Fellow blogger Moiz Khan was kind enough to give me a mention in his blog. He’s right; we may very well meet on the day of the exam. What drives me forward is this guy was talking about chapter 6 of his Kaplan physiology a few days ago. I really have to get started myself. If we do meet on the exam day, I wouldn’t want to shame myself by being ill prepared for the exam.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
  thick fog-clouds of sleep
Lord I’m feeling soooo sleepy, it unbelievable. It only 8pm fer gawd’s sake. But still, it’s a delicious kind of sleepiness that comes to those who have started the day at the crack of dawn. It feels really good these days to slip under the warm sheets, protected from the cold and go right to sleep soon after. I bought Hannibal by Thomas Harris a few days back. I plan to do my reading before going to sleep, but what with my tendency these last few days to crawl into bed semi-conscious, I’ve only made it to the second page - and I may to reread page one again to be sure I’m keeping up.

In times like these, when I’ve got a warm bed to go to when I know its cold outside, I feel genuinely thankful to God. I know there are many in this earthquake who don’t have a warm bed, and winter is fast approaching, the outside will only get colder.
  Very cool tool
This word-blogging tool is really cool. I’m just blogging here for the heck of it. I’m very comfortable with word. Its one of the icons on my quick-launch tool-bar. This word page opens in seconds and I’m typing away. Spelling and grammar is checked as I go along (I just misspelled grammar as grammer, haha), so from now on if you see less of those kinds of mistakes, you know its not cuz I’m suddenly much smarter or anything. After I write the post, I click on the publish button and hey presto, it’s all there. Very cool. I’ll be blogging a lot more because of this.
  Another paki doctor blogger.
http://moizkhan.blogspot.com This is the blog that I referred to before, the one that usman’s friend writes. I’m going through it now (should be studying….ahem). It belongs to a Moiz Khan. The name Moiz is special to me. Moiz Amjad of Al-Mawrid, the keeper of the www.understanding-islam.com site probably saved my (spiritual) life. This is only the second Moiz I’ve come across.

Moiz Khan seems to be a lot more regular in his posts than Usman. I’ve just gone over Usman’s blog in its entirety. I skipped the poetry sections though. Never was a big fan of poetry, not after reading Sylvia Plath.

Its so refreshing to come across young paki doctors who think about things other than medicine. Who talk about literature, music, sex, love, friendships, life, etc etc… After being stuck in Peshawar for 6 years, it comes as a breath of fresh air. There’s a lot to share.
  Back for good..
I’m back at this blog for good now. I’ve got a 24 hour internet connection to my own room and I can log in and hound you all with thoughts from the dark recesses of my mind whenever the mood strikes me.

I don’t want to talk about the quake. It was a terrible time for me, and I’d just as soon let it go.

Let’s talk about the future. I’m back from Peshawar, thank God, finally free of that awful place for good. The result is not out yet. Our moronic, useless professors will take their time marking the papers, and then the moronic useless examination/results section of our university will spend sometime getting the result ready. We expect the result to be looming sometime next month. Speaking of which, I had a nightmare about the result and woke up this morning feeling like shit.

This is the third consecutive nightmare I’ve had. I woke up feeling horrible about myself. The good news is I know precisely why I’m having these dreams.

I started studying a week after I got here, while the earthquakes hadn’t yet died down. I got settled in this same room (albeit, without an internet connection) and got to work. It didn’t go well at all. For one, it was Ramadan and I’d start work after I broke my fast, and thereafter I’d feel really sleepy, bloated and useless. Secondly, the quakes had frazzled my nerves and the exam I just came back from had them stretched. I was out of sorts and decided to ease up on myself and take the last 2 weeks of Ramadan off. So I did. Here were are now, Ramadan is over and done with. We celebrated Eid on the 4th (Happy Eid, everyone!!) I decided to take eid off as well, because, y’know… its Eid man! Yesterday then, was supposed to be my first official day of work, except I didn’t really do any. I just puttered around on the net, and before I knew it the day had gone. The nightmares, all of which are related to studies, started when Ramadan had finished and I knew I had to get going.

It’s noon now, and my second day of official study for the USMLE Step 1. I plan to give it around the end of April 2006. Which is just a little shy of 6 months away. Its doable, but I’m just feeling really nervous about things. I should get going. I “wasted” the morning looking for fellow bloggers from Pakistan who were in the same shoes I was, and I’m glad to report that I found two. One is usmantm.blogspot.com and the other belongs to a friend of his who is linked to Usman’s site. Both are recent graduates of Aga Khan Medical University. They seem to be decent sorts. Not jerks or anything. Usman appears to be quite the humanist and a voracious reader, reporting to have collected 2000 books over this 5 year stay in AKU. That’s stretching the imagination a little if he’d had claimed he read them all, but to the best of my knowledge he never did make that assertion.

It’s strange how Usman’s experiences mirror my own. Packing up their belongings in the hostel and going back home as their stay in med school finally came to an end. Facing lots of depression during med school. Unsatisfied with this medical knowledge base. Thinking of becoming a writer. Heck, he’s even a Beatles fan (I’m a Beatles fanatic). The only difference is he really misses his alma mater, whereas I couldn’t be happier to be rid of mine. I felt a little jealous. I wish I could have enjoyed my college life enough to get choked up about it when I was finally leaving it behind. Alas - not meant to be.

Okay, so we were talking about studying. I’m glad I’ve got this blog to bitch at. Like I said when I was studying for my final exam (which went very well, thank you very much!), this blog make me feel I’m not so alone.

I wish I had access to the net for the sake of this blog when I went to Peshawar at the end of August. Although I was incredibly busy, I still might have been able to post here and apprise you all of my progress. Like I hinted at earlier, I had grown a lot during the last weeks of the prep and then more so when the exam started (and lasted for an incredibly long 45 or so days). As the days go by, I’ll put down the experiences of those days here.

I’m off for now, to study. Kaplan physiology lecture notes and the video lectures… here I come. My target is 30+ pages a day. I need to move at least that fast to keep my head above water. Be back later tonight with updates.
Recent med school graduate from Peshawar, Pakistan. Started blogging when in throes of final year exams. Currently studying for USMLE Step 1. Aiming for the 2008 Match. I blog about my studies, my worries, and my thoughts on life. I live in Islamabad.

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