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HomeJune 15-30, 2024Random Musings of a Senile Physician-V Alaf Khan

Random Musings of a Senile Physician-V Alaf Khan

An amusing aspect of British medicine is the years of hard work as a medical student to change oneself from Mr. John Brown to Dr. John Brown, and then several more years of even harder labor to discard the Dr. flag and become plain Mr. John Brown once again.
That aspiration is fulfilled when one passes the MRCS examination and becomes a qualified surgeon. It is harking back to the olden days when surgeons and barbers were one fraternity as Master Barbers. Mr. Brown now sounds more dignified than Master Barber Brown. 

Biological Milestones 

Conscious awareness of bodily changes and the accompanying emotional storms at puberty are human prerogatives. Other mammals are immune from the feelings of prudery and shame caused by the new hormonal surge. A young dog, a maturing calf, and a pubertal heifer give unabashed expressions to the inner glow of their new hormonal tide. A young pup declares to the world its doghood by lifting one of its hind legs against any tree trunk or lamp pole that it passes by and squirting a few drops of its dogly urine. A young heifer jumps onto the tail end of another heifer or calf in a mating posture in its first few estrus cycles. The unhindered waves of libido seem to confuse her about her own gender identity. 
All these natural phenomena are well known to the rural kids who receive sex education cost-free from nature itself all the year round. The processes of puberty, cyclical sex heat (estrus) in domesticated animals, mating, pregnancy, labor, and delivery in cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, and donkeys occur in full view of the whole family. A cat makes great howling noises when it is in heat, but she is highly secretive about mating, delivery, and the suckling of her kittens. She chooses some secluded place in a building for her procreative and nursing activities. 

Alaf Khan

Village youngsters know how awkward, and how vastly different from other animals, mating is in dogs and camels. It is often a traumatic affair with bleeding in the case of a dog and a bitch. The camel’s penis, in its flaccid state, is directed backward between its hind legs. It makes you wonder how on earth the creature fulfills its conjugal duties. Still, camels do keep breeding despite their awckward anatomy. Even such backwardly creatures can’t defy nature.

Rural youngsters take these events in their stride almost as naturally as coughing and sneezing. Urbanization and poor early education have made the natural reproductive processes things to be ashamed of. Academic sex education is imparted, if imparted at all, hesitantly and obliquely.. Now, through easy access to the globally mushrooming Internet, kids can and do watch sexual indulgence in its various modes. It is from one extreme to the other. During the one-half century of my medical career, I found only one medical textbook that described the physiology of orgasm in some detail. The charismatic Inayatullah Khan Mashriqi tried to give an earthly parallel to the eternally blissful life in paradise. Life in paradise, wrote Mashriqi, could be like an endless prolongation of the few seconds of orgasm. Not a bad guess, but we can’t measure heavenly blisses by our familiar mundane experiences. The Allama does, however, deserve a clap or two for his bold imagination.

Sex is fundamental to all animal and plant life despite the different perceptions about it in different cultures. Being loaded with powerful emotions, sex shall not lose its importance despite the steadily advancing technologies like cloning, surrogacy, test-tube babies, sex robots, and a 3-parents offspring. Delete sex and life in all its forms shall vanish from this planet. Tiny termites, mosquitoes, ants, honey bees, slender grass blades, whales, elephants, and giant forest trees all owe their existence to the fertilization of the female germ cell by its male counterpart. Sunlight, gravity, oxygen, water, and many other agents are essential for nurturing, sustaining, and perpetuating life on earth; its initiation, however, is dependent entirely on sexual function. Without human sexuality, I won’t be here to write, nor you to read, this blunt discourse. Sex is just life, but life is not just sex is an old adage that still stands valid.

Despite our false denials, male homosexuality (sodomy) is common in Pakistan with a high prevalence in Hashtnagar (Charsadda District), several parts of D.I. Khan Division, and many areas of Punjab. Many a lover has smitten his rival who had a crush on the same handsome boy. Some senior students in the schools sodomize their younger schoolmates. Passive gays loiter outside cinema halls, traveler inns, and cafeterias seeking customers who are not hard to find. These male prostitutes entice their customers through their softly-voiced trademark word maalish , meaning massage, but offering service of a different kind. It is much like the pimps in gabardine raincoats pacing to and fro in the streets of Soho in London. They step close to every passerby and whisper softly: would like a nice girl, sir? Or a handsome boy, sir?

Sodomy, though common, carries a stigma nevertheless. Calling somebody a catamite is a grave insult that could cause bloodshed. Denying reality, however, won’t make it go. Hundreds of boys, working as trainee mechanics, truck conductors, bricklayers, or street beggars are sodomized by the head mechanics, truck drivers, kiln owners, and the handlers of the begging children. Young boys begging at a bus station or outside a cinema hall are often picked up by the police as loafers and taken to the police station. Most such kids lose their wallets or their bottoms — often both — inside the police station. There has been an uproar in recent years in the media and in the legislatures about the large number of young boys who are kidnapped up and down the country, sexually abused, and sold to contractors as slave laborers. According to Naeema Kishwar, a federal lawmaker of Pakistan, sexual abuse of minors is a scourge in our seminaries, schools, factories, workshops, and homes that employ children (Dawn, Karachi; 15 December 2017). Many are purchased by pimps who run child brothels. Porn videos of these abused children fetch much money in the porn video shops. The massive abuse of kidnapped children near Kasur, Pakistan, in recent years is mentioned elsewhere. It became a national scandal that made headlines for weeks. And then forgotten. Child rape and murder have become recurring headlines.

Lesbianism? Well, it does exist in Pakistan, but with perhaps much lesser frequency than in the West. Female teachers occasionally have crushes on their pretty female students or even vice versa. Perhaps more frequent but less mentioned are lesbian relations among working women living in women’s hostels.

This account of biological realities may sound offensive to some Pakistanis, but truth has a way of outliving prudish denials. No ostrich has ever succeeded in turning back a desert sandstorm.

A candidly authored new book by a nuclear physician from Upper Swat presents a mind-boggling scenario of sodomy, child abuse, adultery, and pervasive matrimonial infidelity in the affluent segments of the Pashtun society of Swat (In Pursuit of Knowledge; Sher Khan; Mereo Publishers, 2016).

If prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, sodomy can’t be much younger. The story of the nation of Prophet Lot is well documented in the Quran (Sura 11, Verses 70 – 83). Sodom and Gomorrah find space in the Biblical literature too (Genesis 19, Verses 4, 5, and 24). The word sodomy itself is of Biblical origin. It recalls the endemic and open practice of male homosexuality in the Sodom of yore. The twin cities were destroyed by a disaster that is referred to as a rainstorm of sulfur. It, presumably, was a volcanic eruption of enormous magnitude. Prophet Lot and those who believed in him escaped unharmed.

Neither God nor Prophet Lot had described sodomy as an inborn orientation or a genetic propensity. A Pakistani scholar settled in the USA recently wrote a column on sexual orientation. He argued that homosexuality is a genetic compulsion and not a choice. He more or less suggested that we are born either straight or gay with no choice on our part (A. H. — Toledo Blade, USA; 8 July 2015). Many in the world would sympathize with his sympathy for the expanding LGBTQ community. A few weeks later, however, came out the results of eight major studies on thousands of identical twins in the USA, Australia, and Scandinavia. The study was conducted under the leadership of Dr. Neil Whitehead who has worked as a research scientist for the New Zealand government and the UNO. Each pair in the study population shared the same DNA. The team’s conclusion was that no one is born gay or lesbian. Post-birth influences determine one’s sexual orientation. It is a choice, not a compulsion. A summary of this study was reported by Marissa Higgins in the Guardian (London), on 5 Sep 2016.

Channel 4 of the British TV presented in mid-2014 trailers of a documentary on sodomy in Pakistan, especially in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Titled The Hidden Shame of Pakistan, the film is produced by Jamie Doran of Channel 4 and directed by Muhammad Naqvi. The Anglo-Iranian Christiane Amanpour of CNN was in sizzling jubilation as she discussed the film with its producer. It seemed as if she had just descended from Mars and knew nothing about human behavior on planet earth. It was quite a sight to watch her stressing each word and tossing her torso up and down in her chair as if sitting on a thorny cushion. Discovering sodomy in Peshawar was treated as something a shade bigger than finding mango trees on the moon. Bias so easily blinds even the so-called intellectuals among us. Amanpour’s pretended naivete was an affectatious piece of theatrics.

Homosexuality, gay as well as lesbian, is open and widespread in Europe and the Americas. Sexual union between two adults of the same gender now carries no stigma. Nineteen states and Washington DC had legalized same-sex marriage by 2014. The US Federal Law definition of lawful marriage, as of June 2013, is ‘The union of two US citizens regardless of the state they reside in’. The Supreme Court of the USA, on 26 June 2015, removed all bans on gay and lesbian marriages throughout the country. San Francisco, the champion of gay rights, celebrated the Supreme Court’s verdict with unprecedented splendor. It makes you wonder how gays and lesbians will produce enough babies to replace the Americans who die each day. There lurks the alarming possibility that the Western nations may slowly dwindle in a few centuries through this process of self-annihilation. Homo sapiens, especially those residing in the western hemisphere, seem to be treading the path to collective suicide. Iqbal, after long exposure to Western thought and culture, sounded the alarm over a century ago:

  1. The lips can’t utter what the eye sees.
    Lost in wonder what tomorrow’s world shall be.
  2. Your civilization might commit suicide with its own dagger.
    A nest woven around a fragile twig can’t last long.

The high incidence of homosexuality and the equally widespread demand for gay rights forced the American Federal government to legalize the recruitment of open gays and lesbians into the armed forces. A total of 753,618 pairs (1,507,236 persons) lived as same-sex couples in 2007. Just under half of these were officially in a marriage bond. 
Contrast this with the British Law that made homosexuality a criminal offense. Alan Turing was a mathematical genius and a member of the British forces during WWII. His paper in 1937 is regarded as the foundation of computer technology. He successfully decoded the German Enigma machine that was used by Nazis to send coded messages.
Turing was a homosexual who had seduced a very large number of young males. He was tried in 1952 and sentenced to an option between castration or two years in prison. He chose castration. Two years later, in 1954, he committed suicide by chewing an apple laced with cyanide.

Homosexuality remained a crime in Britain until the mid-1960s. Respectable citizens were blackmailed by crooks through the accusation of homosexuality. Lord Bob Boothby was a Scottish Peer who indulged sex in all its modes. He, in 1967, steered a Bill through the Parliament that legalized ‘Homosexual Acts Between Two Consenting Adults in Private’. The floodgate, so far leaking invisibly, now burst wide open. I was a witness to these social changes during my stay in Glasgow, Scotland, from 1956 to 1970.

A campaign for a Royal Pardon of homosexuals had immense public support in the UK. In 2017, the late Queen Elizabeth II pardoned 75,000 such gay ex-convicts, including Alan Turing. The Bob Boothby and the Alan Turing Laws ultimately transformed British social norms beyond anticipation.

The dreaded American Senator, Joseph McCarthy, terrorized the American nation through his so-called witch hunt during the Cold War of the 1950s. He claimed that the US government, the CIA, and the public were infested with communists by the thousands. Decent citizens, scientists, political workers, and university professors were accused of harboring communist ideals and sympathizing with the Marxist regimes. Being labeled a commie was worse than being accused of armed robbery or rape. Spotless souls were dragged before the McCarthy Committee and humiliated relentlessly. One of his deadliest weapons was an accusation of homosexuality that disgraced many respectable Americans. A few of McCarthy’s victims shortened their ordeal by committing suicide. The Senate ultimately rose from its long slumber, disrobed McCarthy, and threw him out of the Senate.
(the fool does what the wise one does, but only after much damage) McCarthyism, alas, remains an ugly blot on American democracy. 

The British Abortion Act of 1967, steered through the House of Commons by David Steel of the Liberal Party, legalized abortion in Britain. Abortion clinics mushroomed all over the Isles. Women with unwanted pregnancies flocked from Roman Catholic European countries to the British abortion centers. A woman needed a certificate jointly signed by a Primary Care Physician and a qualified psychiatrist stating that the continuation of the pregnancy posed a threat to her physical or mental health. Such obliging medical and psychiatric practitioners were soon in abundance. This new industry brought much-welcomed foreign exchange to the Treasury in London. It was the only industry that earned huge profits through the destruction of unfinished goods.

The oral pill and the miniskirt revolutionized cultural mores in my days in the UK. Majority initially frowned upon the miniskirt on both sides of the Atlantic. A retail store in New York, Adele Ross Originals Inc, displayed two advertisements in its shop window in 1966:

  1. WE SELL DIAPERS FOR WOMEN WHO WEAR DRESSES SIX OR MORE INCHES ABOVE THE KNEES.
  2. IF THE NECKLINE GETS ANY LOWER, AND THE SKIRT GETS ANY HIGHER, YOU CAN USE THE DRESS FOR A BELT.
    Policemen carrying inch tapes roamed around beaches and swimming pools in the USA until the 1960s. Any female bather with a swimsuit more than six inches above the knees was fined, ordered to get decently dressed and go home pronto.
    The swimsuit soon gave way all over the beaches to the even more revealing bikini. Comedians were quick to seize upon the new fashion. A good speech, quipped one wit, should be like a bikini; it should cover only the points of maximum importance. 
    The name bikini did not refer to something in two pieces. The bikini, as a successor to the swimsuit, was designed by the French automobile engineer, Louis Reard, who had switched over to fashion designing. He believed that the launch of his new beachwear would cause a social bang as big as the nuclear explosions conducted by the USA in 1946 on Pikinni Island in the Marshall Islands. Pikini, meaning coconut, soon became the much-revealing bikini on 5th July 1946. A stripper in Florida, was charged by the police with indecent exposure when she wore a bikini. She appeared in court wearing the same 2-piece attire. With her bottom turned towards the judge, she bowed forward to prove that the crucial zone between her buttocks was still adequately covered. A free treat for the judge — and the audience!
    Socio-cultural revolutions came in tandem. Pregnancy out of wedlock had always been a social disaster for a woman. Not anymore. Being a Single Parent, Living Together, and Same-sex Union are now kosher lifestyles. Homosexuality is so open and so widespread in Europe and the Americas that legalized same-sex marriages are daily events. Some Christian dioceses allow gay marriages among their priests. Miss Florence Nightingale of the Crimean fame was an avowed lesbian and died a spinster. She was 41 years old when she proudly wrote in her diary about her many hot sexual orgies with women of all ranks and ages. I believe I am like a man, she confessed proudly. My experience of women is almost as large as Europe. And it is as intimate too. I have lived and slept in the same bed with English Countesses and Prussian country girls. No woman has excited passion more than I have (The Alarming History of Medicine, by Richard Gordon).

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