The Ripple Effect of Friendship & Camaraderie

My coming here in Darfur, Sudan has turned to be a great opportunity. I have learned many things about life, its implications, principles, its real connotation and value. I feel it is a lifetime of ‘firsts’ for me. I have come to realize that each day is a miracle; you can be your own hero or at least choose one. Miracles come in ripples and form defining moments. Sometimes they save our lives, sometimes they change our lives, sometimes they inspire us and offer us insight simultaneously, and sometimes they give us a gentle cue and the strength to go on.

When I was selected for Darfur, my first reaction was  ‘Whoa!’ At the time I hoped it was USA instead. You see, being grateful was not my forte and when I Googled Darfur, I was like ‘Noooooo!’ It was only when I got here, everything and everyone was completely different. I had a chance to deal with a variety of people from different countries and diverse cultural backgrounds. Despite this, it was not hard for me to embrace the way people live here. I may not adopt their culture or traditions, but they have my utmost respect. And out of that respect comes acceptance and then lifelong friendships. You see inspiration everyday even when you’re not seeking it. And here’s a newsflash: you make friends everyday too, from every color, creed and land. These friends become your inspiration and strength in everyday life. So, my ‘Whoa’ and ‘No’ transitioned to ‘Wow’ and I owe it all to the people that surround me in this Land of the Fur.
Do you believe the quality of thoughts you have change your life or can change your outlook on life? Let me tell you about my senior, a dear friend and a mentor Maj Dr. Amna Khan. I will admit whole-heartedly when you land in El-Fasher, 7972km away from your motherland, you’re not in the best of spirits. I was worried about my accommodation and amidst all the deja vus back from Pakistan flashing before my eyes, comes this shining beacon of hope in Petra Camp that I have met for the very first time in my life and she hands over my assigned room keys to me. Just like that! No strings attached, no questions asked! “You can stay here Sana, eat all you like from the fridge and be comfortable. I cooked chicken and rice for you. The room is well stocked; no need to buy anything at all. If you need anything from Pakistan let me know!”  she said. You see what she did? I was so blown away by her generosity that even today that ripple moves me. And it moves me to do good without expecting reciprocation, to trust blindly. That is one life lesson Ma’am Amna Khan Orakzai, The Medevac Coordinator in Force Medical Office, UNAMID, gave me right here, on my very first day.

I have realized I have been very impatient in my not-so-distant past. Resultantly, I missed many opportunities and lessons that life offered me. Being a doctor, you take patience of patients for granted, yet it is here that I learnt or witnessed true patience. Living in a new country with a different set of rules is the most challenging experience one can ever have. Sometimes when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade and other times you squeeze the lemon right into life’s eyes. I learnt this art from an amazing woman called Maj Sidra Aslam — who served as Staff Officer Policy in Plans in UNAMID. I came down with a horrible stomach bug in El-Fasher. I woke Sidra up at 0300 hours and I don’t know how she did it but 25 mins later she showed up with medicines, sprite, water, and — the best part — Khichri! The patience and resilience of this woman is beyond words. Every day she would pick and drop us all to our offices, one by one, happily! Every day, she catered to all of our needs in some way or another. And every day I would be speechless. Every day, I would try to mumble some idiotic gratitude to her and she would say, “Dost c’mon! chal chaye bnati hun, pakoray khanay hein?” and we would laugh like maniacs way past midnight.

Contentment of Being
I read a letter by Neil Armstrong once that left a lasting impression on me. It was so on point, so hilarious and had charm written all over it. That letter has been my inspiration at my workplace or a benchmark for interpersonal relations. I’m the eldest in my home and being the firstborn in a family of a military personnel, all spectrums of high achievers, I kid you not, take a toll on you. It makes you very multi-dimensional. Then I met Maj Kalsoom Afridi who epitomized all of the above. Serving as Deputy Gender Advisor, the woman has a heart of gold and nerves of steel. You want anything done in your life, be it your room, be it your car, and be it any place, any time, Kalsoom is your go-to person! She went to Sweden on a course and coming back after a long and arduous journey of 18 hours, she still fixed a leaking pipe in my kitchen and cleaned the pool of water that had accumulated in my room.

Destiny has a strange way of choosing people. I am still curious at this conundrum — chance or choices I made in life made me who I am. Let’s say I’ve been lucky with my choices. And let’s say I have been extremely lucky with my friends. These women are my mentors, my guides and my inspirations, which to date fuels my passion. I believe that moment-to-moment human interaction contains an incalculable soul. I believe there is something paradoxical, too eccentric and interactive to be mimicked by machine life that we're used to now. Am I a friend in need? Indeed! Not to pests in need, though. For six months that I have been living in this foreign land, God has taught me how to live a simple life, how to cherish people who matter, how to appreciate little acts of kindness and how to be grateful for any kind of life that you are living. All acts simple or complex, create a ripple effect in someone’s life, trust in karma, let it grow, let it traverse beyond boundaries and believe that someday it will come back to you again in form of another Miracle or Ripple! HH


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