Can the intrepid duo stop the heinous crimes that are inveigling themselves into society like a virulent cancer? What lengths are they willing to go to save innocent lives? Well, we will have to see what they are up to when we read Heartlines, the third book of the Journey Series.
In the meantime, meet Dr. Sarah Shah and Agent Tanya Kareem.
And as they go on their new journey, I will keep you all updated.
I would like to say that book reviews are more important than a person may think. It could be the Lifeline (yes pun intended) of the longevity of the books and the author’s visibility in the vast Bookverse.
Reviews can definitely be considered a form of literary criticism, and every single word written is valuable to the author. The written opinions about a particular book(s), in this case for me it’s my journey series LIFELINES & BLOODLINES, help me to get better every time I sit down and want to write a story. Obviously a good review makes me feel on top of the world too.
For those people who usually are hesitant to write reviews because though they enjoyed the book, they don’t know how or what to write, I would like to tell them not to worry because book reviews can be brief or long. Just a few words are as valuable as a long paragraph. They can critique and/or summarize the book and they can be written by readers as well as professional book reviewers. In my opinion, I believe that reader reviews tend to be more personal, focusing on the individual reader’s experience while reading the book. But since my readers can have such widely differing views of the same book, it is valuable for all involved when a book has a variety of reader reviews available.
I would therefore like to ask you to enrich the reading experience of my books by leaving a short (or even a long one, I won’t complain heh heh!) at Amazon or Ausxip Publishing (links given below).
Thanks in advance. I genuinely look forward to all of your opinions!
I am incredibly happy to let my readers know that the exciting sequel to LIFELINES is now available. I am so thrilled that I was able to write BLOODLINES. It was rattling around in my head for a while, and as a friend of mine jokingly said, the words just flowed from my fingers!
The story of the intrepid duo as I call them starts from an uncomfortable stalking to a harrowing kidnapping in London.
Their strange travels take them to the picturesque northern areas of Pakistan whose beauty rivals the alps of Austria and Switzerland. but the underlying raw anarchy creates unforeseen situations that Dr. Sarah and Agent Tanya must extricate themselves out of.
Medical emergencies, paranormal incidents, missed transportation of several unusual types, and the anxiety of being caught spices up the story of their journey back home. But the question arises… will their friendship and love be able to survive the escalating tension?
Come join me on their journey. Come and live their adventure. With BLOODLINES.
It was a sultry day. The heat of the summer was morphing into the cooler evenings. It was now pleasant to sit under the trees outside the cafeteria and drink tea while munching on hot samosas and pakoras. The breeze was lazy and gently lifted the hair of the almost somnolent couple sitting at the tiny table. Sarah and Tanya were enjoying the evening. It had been a very hectic day for both of them and they were just enjoying the silence punctuated by the sounds of nature around them. An occasional giggle from other students or the sounds of the cafeteria sometimes intruded on their tranquility. But they were happy. Content to be in each other’s company for the evening.
Suddenly Tanya spoke up. “Do you know what day it is tomorrow?”
“Have no clue.” Said Sarah with a lazy smile not wanting to disturb the relaxed mood she was in.
“It’s the 14th Safar (2nd month of the Hijra calendar)”
“And? Am I supposed to know what that is? Do I jump for joy”
Tanya looked at Sarah pointedly. She wanted to be annoyed with her friend. But she thought that she was so cute when she tried to be funny. Emphasis on “tried”,
“It’s the Urs (death anniversary) of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. Thousands of people from Sindh come to pay respect to the Sufi saint on the occasion of his urs. Each year, the three-day ceremony begins with poetry marathons, literature conferences and other activities to celebrate the Sufi saint’s poetry. And it lasts for three days.
The main features of the festival are prayers, music, exhibitions, literary conferences, and horse races. Many renowned singers and musicians attend. It’s like an ethnic rock fest!!!”
That sounds interesting. But I doubt that I would get permission to go there. Especially if there will be a massive crowd.” Sarah looked forlorn. Tanya looked at her bowed head with an affectionate smile.
“Would you be allowed to go if you had someone take you there and ensure your safety?”
Sarah looked up with a speculative glint in her eyes. “Tanya! You are a genius! My father comes to these Urs’s every year to recruit men for the army. I am sure he would be there. He could take us if we asked him to!”
Tanya started to laugh. Not a polite gentle laugh but a deep belly laugh that ended with her wiping the tears of mirth from her eyes.
“Sarah, I am a grown up. I don’t need daddy dearest to chaperone me.” She continued to laugh. Sarah looked at her as if she had gone completely mad.
“I mentioned the Urs because I have been asked to monitor it. More and more women attend every year, so having a policewoman instead of a bevy of policemen to look after the women attendees as well as those of the female persuasion who commit petty crimes is supposedly a good idea.” Tanya continued to grin. “I just wanted to ask you if you would like to go with me this year.”
Sarah suddenly understood why Tanya found the situation hilarious. Here she was trying to invite her to the Urs festival, and on the other hand she was thinking of her father. Just like a child. She really had to grow up she thought as she shook her head. She started to laugh along with Tanya.
“But I would still have to let my father know Tanya. If he sees us at the festival he might get upset. I am after all supposed to be chained to my books in the college. Aren’t I?” Sarah gave Tanya a saucy wink.
“Anyway, I would love to go with you. I will apply for three days leave this evening and will also let my father know that we will meet him there.”
Tanya was not very happy that Sarah’s father would also be at the Urs, but she understood her logic. It was better to go with proper permission that to sneak around. Even if they were not doing anything wrong. She looked forward to the three days of color and festivity with Sarah. The lineup of superstars promised to be entertaining. Yes, she did look forward to the festival in more ways than one.
How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most ~ Stephen Covey
My life as a doctor has been interesting and varied. I am blessed with a career that I passionately love. I have come a long way from the little four-year-old that dreamt of being a doctor, actually I am extremely lucky that I am one of the few people in the world whose childhood dream had come true. When I go to work, I don’t think of the paycheck, at least not anymore. I love taking care of children, and when they get better and smile at me, it warms my heart. That in itself is thanks enough for me. There have been times when the prognosis of some patients that have caused sorrow and pain and it was heartbreaking to say the least. The death of a patient should never be taken for granted. We lose our humanity that way. Feeling the pain of the parents who lost a child, empathizing with them, and being supportive, makes one a better person… a better human.
If I was given the chance to live my life once again, would I have chosen a different profession? No! Not at all. Being a doctor has always been and will be till the end my ultimate passion. Maybe I might have changed my specialty, become the pediatric surgeon I initially wanted to be, but working with children has always been fulfilling for me.
I digressed from my path for a while by working as a Clinical Research Associate, and then later on as the Head of Public Affairs in the big bad world of pharmaceuticals. That was because they paid well, and I was economically strapped at the time. On the plus side, I did travel nearly all over the world while working with them. Getting trained in media and presentation skills was actually fun. However, there is one thing that I didn’t do…. I never let go of my red Littman stethoscope.
My private practice continued in the evenings, and many times I would be accompanied by my children who loved to play and move around the area. Especially, when there was a chance to get takeout pizza or kababs for dinner when we were about to go home.
One of the things I would like to mention, that brought me great pleasure and, in a sense, spiritual fulfillment. Whenever I went out of town into the country, our ancestral village, or the mountains up north, I would take boxes of basic as well as some vital medicines with me and set up impromptu clinics for the people living there. This happened mostly in areas where medical facilities were sometimes sparse or quite far away. My mother and my children helped me many times with the patients. Mama thought that tea with a shot of whiskey was therapeutic for a chronic cough. It was amusing to see how many patients came back and specifically asked for her medicine instead of mine. Interacting with the people while helping them was a balm to my sometimes-troubled soul. The cheerful banter would create an ambience that drew people into our circle, and at the end of the day, the patient count was usually quite high.
You know, maybe I should work on the idea of having a mobile clinic one day?
One of the most devastating times where we volunteered our medical services was the 2005 earthquake in the north of Pakistan. A relief team from San Diego included my daughter, two sisters in law and myself to help the people, especially the injured victims of that devastating natural disaster. We liaised with the army to set up proper medical camps in one of the most affected areas. If one didn’t look towards the ruined buildings and the smoldering fires, the area was beautiful. We were high in the mountains and the natural scenery could have rivaled Austria or Switzerland. It was so sad to see the devastation. I didn’t know how much it had affected me till I was hit with a wave of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when I had to make a presentation on a very serious forum, to track the relief donations. While speaking and presenting my data, to my horror, I had tears streaming down my face. Since I was one of only two female senior executives in the company, believe me, it was embarrassing to say the least. I kept hearing derogatory words like “weak” and “hormonal” throughout the evening. Mean men!
We were impressed with the way the relief agencies had pitched tents with their equipment and makeshift clinics on top of a beautiful grassy hill. There was a sort of structured chaos where multiple humanitarian agencies worked together. I was able to commandeer the massive pediatrics tent, and as I remember I had examined and treated over 3500 children with mild, moderate to severe ailments and injuries in the time that I was there. Maintaining discipline and cleanliness was difficult but paying a sweeper to come twice a day to clean the tent and educating the parents to throw their rubbish in the bins provided did make a difference. The then President visited my set up and was impressed with my “ward”. I was asked by the Presidential Team what I needed at the time. Since we had a lot of medical supplies due to the generosity of donor agencies, the only thing I could think of was blankets and a heater for the tent. Even though it was October, the nights were very chilly in the mountains. We received a lot of blankets, so much so that we were able to let the grateful patients take away the ones they were using once they were discharged.
My strongest memory of that time was sleeping in our much smaller tents while the earth rumbled and trembled with the continuous aftershocks. It was like sleeping above a subway. Though it was quite disconcerting, we were glad that the tent was pitched in a field with no structures to fall on us.
Once back in town, I felt that I had to continue my charity work. I knew that there were slum areas in the city where women and children never left their surroundings because they had migrated from villages and were still not savvy to the ways of the city. Keeping that in mind, I visited a mosque situated in a nearby slum area with my maid. She wanted to introduce me to the Mullah there. According to her, he was swamped every day by women who would come to him for prayers and holy talismans for their own and their children’s’ health. There were many conditions that stumped him, and she had incidentally heard him say one day that he wished there was a doctor that would come to help him with his “patients”.
On meeting the Mullah, I realized that he was a kindly old man. He wasn’t one of those fire and brimstone clerics. As a matter of fact, I was surprised that he was well educated and had served as a young man in the army. What endeared me to him was, that when I walked into the mosque, he was teaching a child with Down Syndrome to play Ludo, a board game. The patience that he showed that little girl was quite sweet.
I realized that I could do a lot of good here and started to set up a makeshift clinic within the mosque that I would run once a week. Of course, if anyone needed me before that, they had my phone numbers or I referred them to my colleagues at the Government Hospital nearby. It was unusual and rather funny to see people praying on one side, and on the other side, in my corner, there were women waiting in line to be treated while gossiping and catching up with their families’news. The children with them were quite well behaved and played with board games and toys while they waited their turn. Many of them became my friends, and I still am in touch with them even though I am not in the country anymore.
One strange day, while I was writing a prescription for one of the women, I looked up and saw a tall man with a white beard and sparkling white clothes standing in front of me, smiling gently. He told me that God was very happy with me and what I was doing to help the community. I don’t remember if I said anything or was tongue tied. I just shyly looked down for a second, and when I looked up again, he was gone. I asked the woman who was waiting for her medicines who that man was. Can you imagine? She said that she hadn’t seen or heard anyone! Quite strange, isn’t it?
Due to extenuating circumstances, and the sad breakdown of my marriage, with a heavy heart I decided to leave the country. My work as a pediatrician in my new home has been appreciated and I have become fairly well known. Continuing my work in Reiki, Intuitive Medical Scanning and alternate healing has added to my allopathic skills. I did dabble in Shamanism, but I concluded that it was not for me.
Another one of my passions, teaching and training has also flourished here. I am able to instruct nurses and doctors on various pertinent topics so that they get the requisite annual Continued Medical Education points mandated by the Department of Health. Being trained as a trainer for Basic Life Sciences, I train the staff at the hospital where I work which is definitely a plus point in my favor. (Free CME points without much effort).
Spinning a tale was a learning experience. I can thank my daughter Sharmeen for that. When she was small, we just had to point out someone on the road and wonder why they were happy or sad, and she would spontaneously spin a story around them, telling us in minute detail why they actually existed. I tried to do the same with the cases to make them more interesting and maybe human? I do wish my daughter writes a book one day. Her story telling and imagination is phenomenal. For now, she is a Psychologist and a Theta Healer. But I will keep reminding her that she could and should do it.
My son is also a Theta Healer, courtesy the training he and his wife received from my daughter. He is a spiritual person and has skills in Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) just like his sister and me. My children have been my anchor in hard times, and they have on many occasions calmed me down just by talking to me and applying their healing skills. All three of them are amazing. (I include my daughter in law here as well because she is. Amazing)
My journey as a physician is not over. There are still new cases to examine, new places to see and new adventures to experience. I look forward to seeing what life brings my way. Till my energy wanes, I will do what all typical doctors do. Only give up once my signature red stethoscope wears out.
Old doctors never die, they just lose their patience. (Patients)
The Irish Connection
I was excited to travel to Ireland. My admission to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Dublin was confirmed. I was finally going to specialize in Paediatrics!
Leaving my two-year-old with my husband, sister and her paternal grandmother was heartbreaking, but I knew she was well taken care of. And there was always the telephone. My bills were phenomenal, but definitely worth it.
The day I landed in Ireland, was a sunny day. From the time I looked out of the plane’s window, till I reached the bedsit where I was staying, I was visually bombarded with eye-soothing shades of green. Yes, this country was more than adequately named the “Emerald Isle”. And I was there! It was to be my home for the next few months. Fáilte romhat go hÉirinn… Welcome to Ireland!
After a quick shower and a chat with my land lady, I thought I would take advantage of the good weather and go for a walk. Coming from a hot country, the mild weather was a balm to my soul, and I definitely relished it. It was a lovely day, and I wanted to think about the days ahead. Maybe this would be the only time I would get to relax before we got busy with our ward lectures and studies at the college.
While walking down one of Dublin’s many pedestrian zones, a little body literally hurled into me. Looking down I saw that it was a little girl who must have been about eight years old. She had a cherubic face that was framed with beautiful red curls and there was a light dusting of freckles over her nose. Her green eyes twinkled at me mischievously. To my dismay, she was dressed in very shabby clothes, and her tennis shoes had holes where the toes were unsuccessfully trying to merrily stick out.
Seeing me make eye contact with her, she started to beg for some money. I looked at her carefully, and noticed that despite her shabby appearance, she looked well-fed and more or less clean. So instead of giving her money, I asked her where her parents were, and she succinctly told me, as if it was a regular occurrence, that they were both in the nearby pub. They needed money to have more drinks, so she was sent by them to beg in the street. Conversationally, so that she wasn’t scared away, I asked whether she had eaten anything that day. On hearing that she hadn’t, I did give her a few coins, but I told her that the money was to buy something to eat for herself and not to give to her parents. Little Kathy snatched the money from my hand, and grinned at me over her shoulder, while she happily made her way to a nearby well-known fast-food restaurant. Poor kid, I thought to myself. Not letting the incident mar my pleasure of the lovely day, I walked on and put all thoughts of her and her predicament out of my mind.
Kathy’s name triggered a thought in my mind… I should try to contact Sister Kathleen Mcguire. She was the one nun in my Convent School that I really liked. I had heard that she had moved back to Ireland and was still with her Order of the Presentation Convent. Okay then, once I was back home, I started to look in the phone book and noted down the numbers of the Orders that I thought were relevant…..Have you any idea how many Kathleen Mcguires there are in this land of intrepid wandering nuns? Sadly, unless I wanted to call each and every one of the two thousand and more Kathleen McGuires in the phone book, I wasn’t destined to meet her again.
True to Ireland’s weather unpredictability, I woke up the next day to a wild hurricane. Now how would I be able to go to the college? Would it even be open in these weather conditions? Just to be sure I phoned them. I didn’t want to be thought tardy on my first day.
“Och! We won’t close the college for such a little drizzle.” I was told by the office secretary.
Therefore, being ill equipped for such weather, borrowing an umbrella from my landlady, I literally ran to the shops nearby. Since we hardly needed coats and umbrellas where I lived, I had planned to go shopping that day after class. But I was not counting on Hurricane Charley. Later on, listening to the news I found out that Hurricane Charley had hit Ireland hard and brought heavy rainfall, strong winds, and widespread flooding. It was responsible for at least 11 deaths. Winds reached 65.2 mph, and rainfall peaked at 280 mm setting a record for the greatest daily rainfall in the country. Wow! Little drizzle? I really thought that I had to take up that issue with the college secretary!
Thankfully the shops were just opening, and I was able to buy a sturdy (hurricane proof) umbrella and a Burberry raincoat. I was lucky that the Irish were friendly, helpful people, and allowed me to shop before they were properly open, otherwise I would have had to slink into class looking like a drowned rat.
Studying in Ireland was different and interesting. The discussions and interactions between the postgraduate students and the professors were exhilarating and eye-opening. There was such a lot to learn. But the most prominent feature that stood out was the attitude of the professors to ante-natal diagnoses of genetic diseases, and the termination of pregnancies even if the unborn foetus had severe or life-threatening deformities. There were many cases documented where the mothers’ health was in jeopardy, with their pregnancies, but the doctors refused to terminate them because of their beliefs. One case was also touted in the newspapers where a 13-year-old was raped and became pregnant. You of course can understand by now what her fate was. She was denied termination by the state and her diocese.
Unbeknownst to me, I brought up the topic in class when we were told that the Celts were genetically more prone to have babies with Spina Bifida or with Down Syndrome. The worrying fact was that children with Spina Bifida have multiple neurological defects ranging from mild to moderate paralysis of the lower limbs to loss of bladder and rectal functions. We noticed that there were sometimes two, or even three children with that condition in the same Irish family. I was puzzled why an antenatal diagnosis wasn’t performed and the mother given the option of a therapeutic abortion rather than let a child come into the world with severe deformities. More often than not they were not able to have a good quality of life or even take basic care of themselves. In addition to that, why weren’t the families properly counseled on family planning if there were risks? To my knowledge, I didn’t say anything new. That was taught in all of the textbooks around the world, so hearing this being refuted in Ireland was puzzling. But why did I feel as if I had said the wrong thing?
The Professor with whom we were discussing these cases stopped talking for a beat, and for a fleeting moment, he might have had a frustrated look on his face. He took a deep breath and told us, a class of predominantly International Students, that Ireland was a Roman Catholic country where family planning and abortion for any reason whatsoever was a crime. Therefore, the average Irish family had six or even eight children. If there was a genetic inclination to any medical condition, it was not uncommon to see the disorders emerging in more than one child in the same family. We were shocked. But of course, no one said anything out loud because we realized it was a sore point here and we did not want to hurt the religious and political sensitivities of the Professor and other Irish citizens. We were guests in their country, and we needed to respect their beliefs and laws.
Recently however, it was all over the news. It is only now, in the 21st century that they have permitted abortions in Ireland. That too only during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. (And I agree to this wholeheartedly. I do think that abortions performed later in the pregnancy are dangerous for the mother as well as the baby.) The authorities and powers that be in Ireland added a codicil that abortions could also be performed where the pregnant woman’s life or health is at risk. That included also the cases of a fatal or severely debilitating foetal abnormality. This legislation was just implemented on the 1st of January 2019, which had become the law only on the 20th of December 2018. Can you imagine how much heartbreak the families had with their babies till then? It wasn’t unusual to see families in town with more than one sibling having either Down Syndrome or walking on crutches or in wheelchairs due to Spina Bifida.
Let me make it very clear. As a physician, I am an advocate of therapeutic abortions, where either the life of the mothers or the babies are at risk. I would not recommend random abortions, but then that is the prerogative of the person(s) involved. I have no say whatsoever in that matter. Your body, your choice.
Neonatology, a personal favorite, was taught to us at the famous Rotunda Hospital of Dublin. This ancient historical hospital was built with perfectly round “lying in rooms”. The air vents were placed near the floor for proper circulation. The idea was that if there were no corners in the room, the germs that caused post-partum sepsis or puerperal sepsis couldn’t lurk in the corners. I found that quaint and interesting, since the Rotunda Hospital has occupied its present premises since 1757. The concept of germs was very new in that period of time, so this belief was an innovative way of providing a more or less germ-free environment for the mothers. The idea was commendable.
To study the diseases and conditions of older children, we were rotated through the many hospitals in Dublin. One day, while we were heatedly discussing child-abuse, a sore topic with any pediatrician, we were to my surprise introduced to Little Kathy who I had met on my first day in Ireland.
Our teacher showed us that she had multiple bruises on her legs and her back. She looked quite miserable, the poor little girl. Definitely (at first glance) it seemed as if she had had a severe beating leading to the horrific bruising all over her body. Her mother who had consented to let us examine Kathy, was already aware of her diagnosis. To my dismay there were a few indiscreet students who once again started to talk about physical child abuse as a differential diagnosis in front of the mother. Therefore, while listening to the random discussion, she became inconsolable. She kept saying tearfully that her Kathy had fallen down while playing with her brother in the garden. She said that she would never beat her child so cruelly. Well, thankfully she hadn’t. We reassured her and told her that the reason our lecturer had brought Kathy forward as a clinical case for us to examine, was to show us that everything is not always as it seemed. Kathy had developed condition called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. Due to the lack of platelets in her blood, and most probably due to a past viral infection, just like other children with this condition, Kathy bruised easily. The acute form of this illness often follows an infection and spontaneously resolves within two months. A mistaken diagnosis of child abuse could easily be made in this case. To avoid psychological and traumatic implications on the child and the family, a careful diagnosis always had to be made. Especially in places like Ireland where Child Protective Services were quick to isolate the children from their allegedly abusive parents.
Knowing where I had met Kathy initially, I was aware that even though she might not have been physically abused, she was still being used by her parents to beg for their pub visits.
Kathy had recognized me the moment she stepped into our classroom, and she looked at me with pleading eyes. I understood that she didn’t want me to mention how and where we had met. Giving in to her silent plea, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to add to her and her mother’s stress, but I did think about it a lot, and wondered whether I should have said something?
My stay in Ireland, the intense hands on as well as the theoretical studies opened my mind, I felt on top of the world! Finally, I graduated with honors.
On the last day of my exams I was able to pick up my husband and daughter from the airport. We had planned to spend a very nice relaxing month driving through Europe. Stopping when we wanted to and meeting whoever we wanted to.
The food snobbery in France was hilarious and my husband kept telling me to bug the chef by asking for ketchup. I obviously didn’t. I wanted to eat in peace. They were already upset with me because I didn’t sample their wine. My only regret was that I had to cut my visit to the Louvre short because of a cranky toddler… or was it a recalcitrant, (or a not into art) husband?. But on the whole, it was fun and memorable. Meeting my maternal relatives in Switzerland and Austria was also quite enjoyable.
Now the time had come to go home and start serious work. After all, I was now a qualified pediatrician. I was ready to jump in feet first and start looking after the children of the world.