I WAS in New York on May 15 to attend the graduation ceremony of Public Health School of Columbia of my niece, Nida Ali, born 24 years ago in Karachi to poor parents.
At birth she was diagnosed with grade IV tracheo-esophageal fistula, meaning she had no food pipe to swallow and send down to her stomach. She was fed through a gastrostomy tube. Corrective surgery then was unavailable at Aga Khan University. At the time I was a faculty at North Shore University Hospital in Long Island, New York, where the hospital as well as surgeon agreed on surgery on humanitarian grounds. I arranged accommodation and transportation.
Nida had successful surgery. Her parents settled in Chicago, where her father drove a cab to provide for the family. After 23 years Nida has graduated from Columbia and even the operating surgeon Dr Charles Coren attended her graduation.
The graduation ceremony was held in a ground where 2,500 graduates were awarded degrees. About 1,000 people, including parents, attended amid a light drizzle. The most overwhelming moment were the chaplain’s opening sentences: “Happy Ramadan Mubarak to Muslims of America and the world.” I could not control my emotions on hearing this from the pulpit of a 150-year-old Ivy League university. I pray Muslims also wish People of the Book Merry Christmas in our universities and our mosques.
Dr Mumtaz Lakhani
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2018