They squashed my dreams. I kept moving.

I’d always dreamed of becoming a doctor. Not just any doctor – a neurologist. I spent my whole life desperately wanting to become one.

I couldn’t.

Not because I didn’t have good grades and not because I wasn’t eligible. The only reason I couldn’t was this – women in my family weren’t “allowed” to become doctors.

Why, you ask? Because they are “humiliated” in residency, and because they have to do night shifts.

I belong to a middle-class family, and I studied along with my other siblings in a private school of Orange Town where we lived.  Despite having a ridiculously cheap fee structure which was less than 300 rupees per month, I secured 86% marks in S.S.C.

“Don’t let her take pre-medical,” I remember my father cautioning my brother as I was about to enter Intermediate. He had an idea of what plans I was hatching.

My brother shrugged his shoulders and decided there was no harm letting me go through with pre-medical. He thought there was no way I could get high enough marks in it. I took pre-medical without (too much) fuss. I ended up getting 83% in Intermediate.

That’s where all my good luck ended.

In 2008, DUHS decided to keep their entry exam on a date that was before my intermediate exams were over with. I was planning to convince, even pressurize my father, after I was done with my exam. Fate crushed me and the deadline to apply for university was right in the middle of my intermediate exam preparations.

I still tried. I cried, I fought but I couldn’t convince my father.

My heart still aches when I recall the nights I cried and prayed for my first dream. I even considered giving the entry exam without informing my father, but I didn’t have the domicile. I needed support from my father or family to get the documents made. I do not want to go into the details but I had to let it go.

“You should have stood for your rights,” my college teachers blamed me.
“You should stop studying now. You’ve missed your opportunity,” my friends mocked me.

I alone know I had tried my best. And I was devastated.

But from the ashes of the death of one dream rose the idea of another.

I’m not sure how I got enough courage to pull myself up, brush the dust off my confidence, and start fighting again. Simmering inside me was one desire – I only wanted a professional degree. Maybe I wanted vengeance. Maybe having lost my first dream, I’d only become more determined not to let go of what I knew I could still achieve. I started looking for options.

My cousin who was doing engineering from NED told me that I could get into NED’s biomedical engineering with a pre-medical background. I went through the courses they were offering and I was impressed by the technical terms. Without any proper consultation, I decided impulsively that I will do engineering.

That was a major shift. I always hated Mathematics, though I used to get good marks in it. Still I decided to do that. The only thing I had in my mind that time was to excel in everything that I do academically. I wanted to get a gold medal. I wanted it all!

Fast forward to 2013, I ended my graduation with a gold medal. I got a job even before graduation in a private university of Karachi at a teaching position.  

By the end of 2014, I was enrolled in Masters at NED in a male dominated department, and had a paper presentation against my name in an IEEE’s conference.

I completed my masters in July 2016, and by September 2016 I had another publication against my name. I am still working in academics as a lecturer and I’m planning my research work to obtain a decent PhD.

I have made many mistakes throughout my career and have been through many ups and down. The one thing that I am proud of about myself is this: I kept moving. I couldn’t go for a Masters abroad though I always wanted to, again due to family reasons. I started it immediately from Pakistan. I regret not applying for scholarships because again I had zero family support for going abroad and ended up writing pathetic SOPs that would not let me get any decent scholarships. Still -such breakdowns haven’t broken me completely yet! I still dream about achieving a PhD from some good university. I still aspire for excellence in whatever I do. I don’t know how far I can go, but what I do know is: I will keep going!

This story is submitted by Kehkashan Kanwal

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