Monday, January 29, 2007

Follow your bliss

I’ve mostly stayed away from an ultra-liberal campus where I did my post-graduation. Because, it seemed to be mugged by a malicious mix of rampant inhumanism and controlled corruption. Especially, when some girls (who haven’t yet turned into women) talk about grandiose ways of liberation by smoking, boozing, drugging and all those revered postmodernist ways of running away from reality. Truth and trust are uprooted for mistrust and illusion to be supplanted. They tell me that until they can resolve some overarching issues like their sexuality, they can’t tackle the ills around them. As if everyone around is worried over similar issues or even if they aren’t, they are coerced to comply with the false importance of such issues.

Anyway, what are the issues that invite genuine concern for women and what are the ways to tackle such issues? I’ve been always puzzled by the extra-concern given by some women for personal vendetta and under-concern they give to larger concerns.

To start with, here is an amazing tale of a brilliant woman physician…

A faculty at University of Washington School of Medicine, Nassim Assefi just couldn’t see the plight of Afghani women at the hands of whichever government came to power. She gave up her illustrious faculty position and moved to Kabul. And she has unearthed this frightening statistic: “One out of every seven Afghan women dies during pregnancy, and one out of every five children does not reach age five.” Moreover, for her “moving to Afghanistan was a very personal decision.

It has given [her] an unprecedented opportunity to apply all of [her] skills and background at once–medical, cultural, and linguistic—toward [her] life mission of improving the lives of vulnerable women.” Living amid “horrendous state of affairs,” Ms. Assefi has seen most of her friends being killed and because of these “extreme situations,” she began to “deeply appreciate the happy moments, and to realize that happiness is not so complicated as we make it out to be in the West.” She is an Iranian-American specializing in women’s health and her happiest moments were when she helped women outlive their pregnancy and children live beyond the age of five.

Though she doesn’t wear the burkha that may have covered her completely from her patients, she wears the hijab – the headscarf. No religion would want its followers not to alleviate the pain of others. For Ms. Assefi, all that matters is to better the conditions in Afghanistan. With funding from United States Agency for International Development, her project has helped her run crash courses in healthcare covering pre- and post-natal care, family planning, and mental health all over Afghanistan. Ms. Assefi has also transformed rural healthcare helpers -including physicians, midwives, pharmacists- into lifesavers to reduce maternal and infant mortality rate.

She is also a budding novelist, humanizing medicine for the sake of often dehumanized woman. Her novel Aria “examines the struggle of a young cancer specialist and a single mother to come to grips with her daughter's death and to reconnect with her estranged Iranian parents and heritage.” For Ms. Assefi, writing is like a scalpel helping her to “get under the skin and understand processes at work in human life that can't be explained by science alone.” Her second novel set against the Afghan backdrop, would deal with prevalent question in/about the Islamic world.

Now, this is what I call a real existential decision to listen to your true self, following your bliss and, fill life with aliveness and humaneness. Kudos to Ms. Assefi who has lived up to a physician’s wisdom, aptly worded by the greatest physician ever, William Osler (1849-1919):

“Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day's work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition.”

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