Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Tale of the Dry Nappy

The conversion of the NHS from an institution of noble aims and aspirations to a flogged mule of service-provision has had unexpected consequences. Gone are the legendary days of zombie-like doctors stumbling along corridors 72 hours into their latest shift courtesy of the European Working Time Directive. However, also gone are the expressions of gratitude and appreciation that would make the zombie feel like its work was worthwhile. Patients (deservedly) have rights but rights now far outweigh responsibilities (and medicine is not the only sphere where this holds true). The niceties that lubricate such relationships have been discarded and replaced by litigious expectation.

During a busy shift I can see upwards of a score of patients. You try and provide a caring, personal service but, with the likes of 4-hour targets, can't help feeling a little overstretched and hope that you're not holding back a smile or sacrificing banter for pure functionality. This is highlighted further by the fact that the patient does not have twenty doctors they are obliged to consult - you are the only doctor they will see. Your experiences of that particular on-call may blend into a montage of signs, symptoms and treatments but for the patient (and their family) that episode will have an individuality and significance.

I only came to appreciate this last weekend during a weekend of night shifts. I was asked to review a baby by the midwives, who having passed urine after birth had now gone for 36 hours without wetting a nappy. They assured me he was still opening his bowels and were certain it hadn't all got mixed up in the noxious concoctions babies' rear-ends can produce. They'd even left pieces of strategically placed cotton wool inside the nappy to capture any traces of moisture for posterity.

I consulted my registrar and trudged up to the postnatal wards to reassure everyone involved in what was rapidly developing into an anuric frenzy. I spotted the Arabic name on being handed the patient notes and greeted the baby's mother who was visibly anxious. Almost immediately her expression changed to one of pensiveness and then a look of recognition.

Arab Mother: Dr Mohammedali?
Me: Erm....No, Dr Mehrali.
Arab Mother: Yes, Yes. Dr Mehrali!

The panic siren was now sounding and the red lights flashing in my mind as it desperately tried to recall the source of the familiarity.

Arab Mother: (Now in broken English and Iraqi Arabic) You treated my son for asthma two years ago. He was very sick. May Allah reward you with goodness!

As she said this she deftly donned an almost opaque niqab or full-face veil. I began to recall the case, one of the first cases I saw after qualifying from medical school. The little boy was experiencing a moderate asthma attack which responded well to treatment - nothing remarkable there - but what made the encounter stand out was his parents' tolerance (and I think appreciation) of my broken Arabic with which I falteringly explained his condition, treatment and prognosis.

Me: Ah yes. I'm surprised you remember. How is your son?
Arab Mother: All praise is due to Allah! He is well.

I went on to examine the new addition to their family and lo and behold the baby's nappy was wet and a lesson was learnt.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bo Kaap Madness

Bo Kaap Madness, Cape Town, South Africa ©Tauseef Mehrali 2003

Monday, June 26, 2006

Who should I cheer for?

The World Development Movement has come up with a 'handy tool' to help you decide who to root for during World Cup matches you couldn't otherwise care for and/or that your team are not involved in.

Many people will cheer for the underdog - Togo has never qualified before - or because the team contain players from their club team. Or perhaps you go for more political criteria, perhaps by not supporting countries involved in the war in Iraq or with a bad human rights record?

How about supporting the team that gives the most aid to poor countries? Perhaps cheering on the country that spends the most on healthcare? Or booing the country that spends the most on weapons?

Here at WDM we have produced this handy tool to help you choose who to shout for when your own team isn’t on the pitch. Just click below on the teams playing in the match you are about to watch and see how they score on ten different supportability criteria.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors

Juan Cole, over at Informed Comment, sheds some interesting light on the belief system of the seven individuals arrested in Miami, who according to US authorities, planned attacks on the landmark Sears Tower in Chicago and other buildings as part of a pledge to al Qaeda to wage war against the United States.

I just saw the spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations on CNN saying that the Miami cult members just arrested are not Muslims. I'd say that is a fair statement.

For one thing, they are vegetarians!
Joking aside, the guys are thought to belong to one of several fascinating cults. Contenders include The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors,
The Black Hebrew Israelites and The Nation of Yahweh - all apparently share a similar relationship to Judaism as the Nation of Islam does to Islam itself. It's interesting to see these unique offshoots of 'mainstream' religion found in the African-American community that appear to have been forged under conditions of severe social inequality and disharmony.

Lighting Up

Lighting Up, Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Terrorist at my Table

An extract from Imtiaz Dharker's collection of poetry and art of the same name.

The right word

Outside the door
lurking in the shadows,
is a terrorist.

Is that the wrong description?
Outside that door,
taking shelter in the shadows,
is a freedom-fighter.

I haven’t got this right.
Outside, waiting in the shadows,
is a hostile militant.

Are words no more
than waving, wavering flags?
Outside your door,
watchful in the shadows,
is a guerrilla warrior.

God help me.
Outside, defying every shadow,
stands a martyr.
I saw his face.

No words can help me now.
Just outside the door,
lost in shadows,
is a child who looks like mine.

One word for you.
Outside my door,
his hand too steady,
his eyes too hard
is a boy who looks like your son, too.

I open the door.
Come in, I say.
Come in and eat with us.

The child steps in
and carefully, at my door,
takes off his shoes.

Monday, June 19, 2006


M.O.T., Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Just in case you thought your day was about to become productive...

Melanie Phillips gets a mauling
Phillips is a renowned controversialist whose spare, lean frame seems to be sustained by argument rather than food and drink. She arrives, at a French cafe in Chiswick, west London, tense and intense, in a pink shirt, and orders only black coffee.
Rory Stewart walks through Afghanistan
The book is replete with fascinating, if fearfully context-dependent, travel tips. If you are forced to lie about being a Muslim, claim you're from Indonesia, a Muslim nation few non-Indonesian Muslims know much about. Open land undefiled by sheep droppings has most likely been mined. If you're taking your donkey to high altitudes, slice open its nostrils to allow greater oxygen flow. Don't carry detailed maps, since they tend to suggest 007 affinities. If, finally, you're determined to do something as recklessly stupid as walk across a war zone, your surest bet to quash all the inevitable criticism is to write a flat-out masterpiece. Stewart did. Stewart has. "The Places in Between" is, in very nearly every sense, too good to be true.
The Nomad Fatwas blogging syndicate is established
The Nomad Fatwas is an alliance of free-thinking blogs and a carnival simultaneously. Every two weeks a coterie of ten blogs will circulate one older post each on a theme chosen by one of the Nomad Fatwas members. This period’s theme was "Life" and was selected by Eteraz.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji get busted by Laila Lalami aka Moorish Girl
This context--competing yet hypocritical sympathies for Muslim women--helps to explain the strong popularity, particularly in the post-September 11 era, of Muslim women activists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji and the equally strong skepticism with which they are met within the broad Muslim community. These activists are passionate and no doubt sincere in their criticism of Islam. But are their claims unique and innovative, or are they mostly unremarkable? Are their conclusions borne out by empirical evidence, or do they fail to meet basic levels of scholarship? The casual reader would find it hard to answer these questions, because there is very little critical examination of their work. For the most part, the loudest responses have been either hagiographic profiles of these "brave" and "heroic" women, on the one hand, or absurd and completely abhorrent threats to the safety of these "apostates" and "enemies of God," on the other.

Convalescent City

Convalescent City, Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Maharaja Jai Singh II's Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar, Delhi, India ©Tauseef Mehrali 2003

It does what?

Having already converted the family into disciples of the only toothpaste to sound like an intellectually challenged member of the Nation of Islam (RetarDEX), my sister, the dentist in-waiting, has moved on to Phase 2 and now launched a campaign exclusively directed at my teeth. I am the proud recipient of a state of the art electric toothbrush. The futuristic contraption resembles a piece of laboratory equipment with appendages that wouldn't appear out of place on a NASA lunar module and boasts 'unique 3D Excel technology: 40,000 in-and-out pulsations per minute and 8,800 side-to-side oscillations.'

Has it made a difference? With only seven days of power charged brushing behind me, the reaction's been staggering: people are stopping me in the street asking for my autograph; drivers have to flick their rear-view mirrors because of the glare; babies are being cured by a simple glance.

Will it continue? If I can remember to charge it! The power ran out while I was brushing yesterday and I was forced to downgrade to my meagre manual toothbrush. My gums cringed with embarrassment at the paltry 'in-and-out pulsations' and 'side-to-side oscillations' my biceps tried to muster up. My teeth openly wept at the lack of a pressure sensor. My tongue missed the soothing caress of the ‘FlexiSoft®’ bristles.

I wonder if you can tell I’ve just finished a set of nights?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Birmingham Burning

Late one evening last December I had my first encounter with Her Majesty's Police Force - an altogether surreal experience from which I think I'm fortunate to have emerged unscathed, my dentition still intact.

I'd completed a busy on-call and wasn't overjoyed at the prospect of delaying my return home by having to detour past Blockbusters to return an overdue copy of Shark Tale. The DVD was returned. The fine was paid. Mission completed. As I drove back home I impressed myself with the stealth and guile of my driving, culminating in managing to just sneak through a notorious set of traffic lights.

I continued over the roundabout and towards my destination when I caught sight of the unmistakable flashing lights in my rear-view mirror and heard the wailing siren of a police car. Being the dutiful citizen that I am, I remained in the left lane of the dual carriageway and beckoned the police car past, only to notice it slide in behind me and return the beckoning gesture. I drove on, innocently unwilling to accept that they could possibly be interested in me and my stealthy, guileful driving.

Eventually the relevant portion of my cerebrum accepted the possibility and I slowed to a halt. The police car stopped about ten metres behind me and the passenger door opened, revealing an Oompa-Loompa in police gear. He was the shortest, most hyperopic PC imaginable with a suitably disporportionate hat. He waddled towards my car. I wound down the passenger window hesitantly.

Ooompa-Loompa: Good evening sir (in a lisping Brummie accent)
Me: Hello officer
Oompa-Loompa: Any idea why we've pulled you over this evening, sir?
Me: Erm...sorry, but I've absolutely no idea officer
Oompa-Loompa: No idea (he muttered to himself). Well in that case can you join me in the squad car please sir?
Me: Is that really necessary?
Oompa-Loompa: It most definitely is.

After querying whether to leave my engine running; lights on/off; keys in car or with me; I joined the Oompa-Loompa and we walked towards the squad car. In the dim light I could just about make out the driver of the police car and he looked like a fairly sizable individual. I entered the back of the car and realised that the driver's neck was about the same size as my waist.

Big Cop: Good evening sir
Me: Good evening
Big Cop: Can you think why we may have stopped you sir?
Me: As I told your colleague, I'm afraid I really have no idea.

Big Cop looked at Oompa-Loompa

Big Cop: He has no idea

They shared a sly glance followed by a barely perceptible grin.

Oompa-Loompa: Do you regularly drive through red lights sir?
Me: (Rather alarmed), not really. No, never.
Big Cop: Well you just did.
Me: I could swear the light was amber
Big Cop: It was close. Perhaps the closest I've seen. But you jumped the light.
Me: It really wasn't my intention.

My tired face must have betrayed the overwhelming feeling of apprehension I was attempting to hide.

Big Cop: Don't worry sir. We're not going to prosecute or anything like that. This is just a gentle Christmas warning.
Me: (Obviously relieved) Ah. That's very kind of you. Much appreciated.
Oompa-Loompa: Lot's of people drink at this time of the year. You wouldn't be a drinker would you sir?
Me: No. Never touched the stuff.
Oompa-Loompa: Good
Big Cop: Good. We just need to run some of your details through our databases.

Oompa-Loompa proceeded to relay my name and number plate to some central office. In the meantime, Big Cop reached down to the area between the gearstick and the handbrake and fished out an odd looking piece of rubbish, almost like an ear of corn. He held it up to the light in the car where I got a chance to inspect it too.

Big Cop: I wonder what that could be?

It looked strangely familiar to me. Almost anatomical. Hang on. It was anatomical. Unable to restrain myself,

Me: It looks like a tooth!

I exclaimed

Big Cop: (Re-examines the item and looks towards Oompa-Loompa) Ha Ha. Must have been a scuffle in here eh?

He wound down his window and quickly threw the molar into the darkness. At this point I began to perspire and had visions of Rodney King being battoned to death flooding my thoughts. As a gut reaction I pulled the door handle only to realise that the door was safety-locked and could only be opened from the outside.

Oompa-Loompa: (Looking back towards me) In a hurry to get going sir?
Me: (Cue nervous laughter) Yes. It's been a long day and I'm feeling quite tired. It'd be nice to get home and unwind.
Oompa-Loompa: We know the feeling sir. I'll tell you what. Why don't we let you on your way? We'll follow you until your details are cleared then we can all go our separate ways.
Me: That sounds reasonable.

The Oompa-Loompa let me out of the car, I drove off in mine, was tailed a short distance and soon we did go our separate ways.

Monday, June 12, 2006

School's Out

School's Out, Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Patriotism - Birmingham Style

Taken on my Nokia 6680 on the way to work this morning. Enough to make Trevor Phillips cry. Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

Patriotism, Small Heath, Birmingham, UK ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Friday, June 09, 2006

After Asr

After Asr, Husrev Beg Mosque, Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sarajevo Cityscape

Sarajevo Cityscape, Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tram in Motion

Tram in Motion, Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Destruction in Mostar

(Don't forget to click on the images for larger versions!)

 Destruction, Mostar, Hercegovina ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Midday Minaret

Midday Minaret, Sarajevo, Bosnia ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006