I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

...Of A Return To General Practice

It is exactly ten years to the day I joined Medical school. To say that the five years I spent there were life changing would be an understatement. Apart from the obvious fact that I entered a 17 year old awkward undergrad and left five years later as a chubbier but still awkward doctor, there were other imprints the place left on me. Most of my enduring friendships were formed in those five years; mainly because, due to a rather nomadic upbringing, Med school was the only place where I had lived for the extended period of five years. The degree of financial independence I achieved there afforded me ample opportunities to indulge my (at least at that time) burgeoning pursuits. I dabbled in, explored and discarded quite a few of those pursuits, and made the best use of the opportunities for discovery that were available to me. During those five years, my newly discovered passions ranged from music (Dylan, Waits, Young, and later, Qawwali) to books (enlarging my Wodehouse collection, the divers pleasures of Rawalpindi's second-hand bookstores) to travel (the beginning of my love affair with Lahore).

After Med School came a year of internship (House job) in Lahore, and because my family had shifted there, the city that had intrigued and enchanted me on various (mostly surreptitious) visits finally became Home. The internship year is probably the most demanding year in a medical professional's life, and my case was no different. I managed to get a maximum of two or three nights free per week, and holidays were almost nonexistent. But I managed to make the most of the precious little free time I had to explore the historical, cultural and culinary (mostly culinary, hence the ever expanding waistline) treasures of Lahore. At the end of my year in Lahore, I prided myself on being better informed about the city as compared to many longtime residents. On a professional level, I managed to acquit myself fairly well in a trying and sometimes overwhelming schedule.

The number and variety of patients and diseases that I got to observe, treat and monitor was both exciting and a little bit daunting. However, the natural evolution of a career in medicine tends to turn a doctor from a Jack-of-all-trades to (if he/she's lucky), a Master-of-one. A specialty has to be decided early and the course of study altered to fit the specialty. I chose my specialty fairly early and applied for the necessary examinations. After months of fairly intense study (including a month of sixteen-hours-a-day drudgery), I managed to pass the examinations and get selected for training in my desired specialty. The training will start next year (touch-wood) and I will hopefully be limiting myself to patients who have been referred to me for specialized treatment. So from my early years of attending literally hundreds of patients a day, with complaints ranging across the spectrum of disease; I will eventually be able to give my undivided attention to a handful of patients per day, with problems and illnesses that fall within the narrow confines of my specialty.

The reason I have set out the story of the last ten years of my life in rather unnecessary detail is that I have found strange parallels between the trajectory of my professional life and (of all things) my blog. My blog seems to be hitting the same pit stops as my career as a doctor, the only difference being that while my career has trudged along at the speed of an arthritic tortoise wading through a pool of treacle, my blog has raced ahead like a coked up, amphetamine fueled rabbit.

Before my drug crazed animal analogies get out of hand, allow me to explain.

For the initial three years of its existence, the blog was as random as could be. Topics ranged from explorations of the world of show business to football to half a century old cartoons. I wrote about whatever interested me. Of course, grumbles about lethargy, laziness and bloggers' block abounded even then, but i managed to churn out a respectable number (if not quality) of posts every month. Gradually however, a change came over the blog. Over the last three years, I have started writing almost exclusively about the subject that has interested me most. That subject is music, and especially "Sufi" music ( I hate the moniker as much as you ). As the topics of my posts have gotten more specialized, the number and frequency of the posts have decreased. The main reasons of this decline in output are my old friends lethargy, laziness and bloggers' block; but another factor has also contributed.

Since the direction I have chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to steer my blog in demands more than a passing interest in and knowledge of the subject, each post has to be prepared to a stricter set of standards compared to before. Each post has had a fair amount of audio/video accompanying it, which has meant long uploads. I have listened to each recording a fair number of times before writing about it, and the writing itself has been a result of concentrated effort at getting my point across without resorting to pedantry. This has had a rather unfortunate effect on my already crippling procrastination habit. I have hesitated to commit myself to the preparation that each post demands, refraining from writing about subjects that I felt I wasn't qualified to write about or where I felt I couldn't get my point across in a manner that I saw fit. As a result, there have been one and two month intervals between posts and the annual output has declined sharply.

My blog has specialized a full five years before my medical career shall, but there is a small but nagging difference. While I am willing to narrow down the spectrum of diseases I want to treat, I have not been able to narrow down my interests. Over the last few weeks or so, I have been thinking of pulling a Benjamin Button on my blog. In other words, I have decided to turn it back from a specialist to a general physician. I shall of course continue writing about Sufi music and Qawwali, but I shall also begin seeing other patients again. Topics and themes that have greatly affected me but which do not require extended preparation or exercises in meticulousness shall (hopefully) be discussed again. It might alienate some of the newer readers, but it might also recapture some of the esoteric, fly by the wire feel of the early years. Lets see how long this experiment lasts.

Book Of the Week : 'The Diaries : 1969-1979" - Michael Palin
Movie Of the Week, 'The Innocents' 1961
Music Of The Week, 'Popular Problems', Leonard Cohen

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