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The first few days

Updated: May 27, 2020

Lower Limb and Summer Holidays

Holidays after a period of six weeks or so in College, were hugely welcome. We had not visited home for this time, even for the weekends. Fact that we had been extremely busy, helped in the manner that we did not get enough time to think about being ‘home sick’. Working hard, does have its advantages! Whatever time was left after the Upper Limb stage, had been taken up by the tests of Physiology and Biochemistry. Moreover, before we could ‘properly’ relax, the Lower Limb had started. Keeping up with the already established pace of studies, we had covered a sizeable segment of that limb too. This time, we were determined not to repeat the mistakes of our previous stage. We also did not need the basic ‘grounding’ in anatomic terms. Therefore, right from day 1, we tried to be on the ball with anatomy of inguinal canal and groin lymph nodes.

The atmosphere in dissection hall, as far as batch ‘A’ was concerned, had not changed. Sir Shafqat, as you would recall, was still in charge of our teaching. He had however, made it clear that he would only be teaching us bones and would do our demonstrations. He would NOT be looking after and guiding our dissection. That, we had to manage on our own. That meant, that we were entirely dependent on Qazi sahib for showing us where everything , that we had been studying, was in real life!

I have to say that Qazi sahib, was not half bad at this task. He would go through the dissection stages in his typically meticulous style. He would remove the fat from around muscles and important structures as if he was doing surgery on a real alive patient! Demonstrating the direction of fibers of External Oblique and how the fibers of Internal oblique ran at right angles to these and how the fibers of thin transverses ran at yet another angle. He would even explain the way in which spermatic cord would pierce these muscles and in which direction a hernia sac would descend in scrotum thus venturing in the area of studies, which our teachers wanted us to go to- that is Applied Anatomy. Fact that they did not want to take the pains of showing us the way is an entirely different discussion!

This teaching by Qazi sahib, was all very nice. The down side was that in the absence of an experienced mentor, Qazi sahib was finding it difficult to do his own studies AND to teach the rest of us. Not fare. But then, life is like that. Another advantage (or shall we call it disadvantage/added pressure) for our beloved Qazi was that he would have to give a special demonstration session to the five female members of batch A! This is how a typical dissection hall session would pan out.

Qazi would do the dissection whilst one of us would read the relevant section of Cunningham’s dissector. Painstakingly, the various elusive and hidden structures would be uncovered and shown to us. This exercise would take a good hour or so. Many a times during the dissection, it would transpire that what we had been thinking was profunda femoris artery was in fact a mere perforator and the actual profunda had been cut away in a bout of overzealous scalpel incision! After this session was over, and we would wander off in our individual little corners, Qazi would relax and would try and get some of the smell of formalin out of his nostrils. At this time he would be gently approached by the ladies. “Er…excuse me”.. Qazi would be expecting this. “Ji ji?”. “ Who, aap please humain bhi dissection dikha dain gay?”. Qazi would give a little giggle by putting his formalin soaked hand in front of his face and would begin an encore performance of demonstrating all the various muscles, arteries and nerves. This repeat performance would be almost an ‘Action replay’ of the first session with the major difference that Qazi would just smile and giggle more often!

Seekhain hain mah rukhon kay leeay hum ‘ anatomy’

Taqreeb kuch to behr e mulaaqaat chaaheeay !

Surprising fact: The college authorities never bothered to provide us with surgical gloves for dissection.

Amazing fact: We never thought of this ourselves and braved dissection with bare hands. Yuck!

After we had had our ‘Hip’ sub-stage, it was time for the summer holidays. At last! Our first academic session in College was over and we were to visit our parents, siblings and family members. In those days, even small and relatively trivial things would give us immense pleasure. Going to home for full four weeks after the time that we had spent in the college was a massive occasion and hence the euphoria was also accordingly big.

On the last Thursday before the holidays, after lunch, I picked up my already packed bag and walked to Sadar. Taking the public transport bus from the station, I was off to Peshawar. Journey of around two and a half hours seemed to take ages. Over the next 2 years or so, I would do this trip on countless occasions. Every time, the trip of going home would always be full of excitement and anticipation and the journey back to college, mind numbingly depressing!

Over these years, l discovered that leaving for Peshawar early on a Thursday morning was a far more enjoyable experience than leaving in the afternoon. This would of course mean having to bunk the classes on Thursday. This was a potentially dangerous exercise but with well meaning friends to cover you, was being practised very commonly. My dear friends Asim Rafiq and Asad Mehmood had taken the exercise to an art form. I too learnt from their experience. So this is how the day would unfold.

Wake up early on Thursday. Get the breakfast and morning attendance out of the way. Go to College attendance and report ‘sick’. Walk over to the MI room whilst our other class fellows marched towards the lecture room. Explain to the MO I/C MI room that you have been experiencing abdominal colic/head aches/ some other feigned illness. He would invariably give you some tablets and ask to report back to the class. Salute him, collect the tablets and on walking back, just slip over to the barracks. The class supervising NCOs were simple folk and could easily be dodged. Back in the room, change clothes, collect the already packed bag and off you go to Sadr. The expert tip was, not to walk directly to Sadr. That route was heavily monitored AND had the risk of getting caught by the much loved/dreaded ‘baba’. If baba caught you, then God help you! So what you were supposed to do, if you really wanted to play safe was to walk towards Dheri from back of the barracks and catch a Suzuki towards Sadr. Cost:1.50 Rs. Advantage: no one would suspect that an honorable Medical Cadet, ‘creme de la creme’ of the Nation was hiding in the back of a measely Suzuki on his way home. Disadvantage: Smell K2 smoke all the way to Sadr!

OK, arrived in Sadr. Catch the Ford wagon towards Peshawar either from close to Mei Kong Chinese restaurant or from behind Moti Mahal cinema. The wagon would have around 10 passengers. The front seat was usually reserved for ladies (on which sleeping was forbidden!- Front seat par sona mana’ hai). The wagon would leave the Pindi hustle and bustle and would start speeding on Peshawar road gaining speed after Kohi-Noor mills. Winding past Sang Jaani it would soon cross the Nicholson’s monument and enter Taxilla/ Wah. The glow of Autumn/winter sun rising above lightly foggy plains with a crisp cool breeze would lift one’s heart with joy to unmeasurable levels. It was this early morning feeling of going home, which could never be gained if you were to travel in the afternoon and was worth every lie that you had to utter, every risk that you had to take and every puff of foul smelling K2 smoke that you had to endure.

After crossing the historic Attock fort the wagon would stop for a comfort break across the river. Crossing the Indus at this point is a fantastic experience. Sight of clear bluish green water of Indus and the darker muddier Kabul river separated by an invisible curtain always brought a sense of awe. The hotel where the wagon would stop would not be far from the river. You could not see the two coloured water spectacle from there but the back ground of rugged hills, sprawling fort and the sight of new and old desecrate bridge was powerful enough to make you gaze at it all for many minutes. Enjoying a cup of tea in these surroundings used to be an essential part of the weekend experience.

Road from Attock to Peshawar was in NWFP/KPK and was of a much better quality (courtesy late Gen Fazl e Haq). The wagon would race through the newly carpetted highway and would soon cross Jahangira, Akora Khattack, Nowshehra and finally Pubbi. Soon the outskirts of Peshawar would be reached and the wagon would join the crazy traffic of this beloved city. Wagon would pass by the historic Qila Bala Hisaar and reach Peshawar Sadr. I would gather my bag, walk towards the Gunna juice stall and enjoy a crisp and cold glass of freshly squeezed ‘Ro’. Walking on Arbab road (‘The most charismatic road strip in Pakistan’ according to Shahid Rasheed) I would reach Peshawar Mall where my house was located. In this short walk, you could see many a ‘stars’ of Peshawar TV if you looked around you (Remember Anita Camphor? LOL).

Well, home at last! Seeing parents, brothers and relatives was a fantastically joyous occasion. Ami would have invariably prepared a feast and invited my uncles and aunts over (we had quite a large family in Peshawar). A most memorable weekend would start which would include playing cricket with my brothers and friends, watching a movie, playing some video games at the local arcade (27 The Burger) and meeting relatives. was so much fun. Of course the carefully packed dissector/biochem book (Grays/Guyton were too heavy to carry!) would stay packed!

Those my dear friends were the days..

Aik baar dekha hai, dobaara dekhnay ki havis hai

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