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Oncologist discusses uses of poetry in her profession

By News Desk
December 04, 2023

KARACHI: Oncologist, researcher and classical Urdu poetry connoisseur Dr Azra Raza engaged a captivated audience at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) on Sunday in a talk titled ‘Sweet Poetry That Medicines All Pains’.

President Arif Alvi and his wife Samina Alvi were among the audience who keenly listened to the interesting talk about the use of poetry in the field of medicine.

Dr Azra opened her talk with reciting Josh Malihabadi and then spoke of spiritual pain of love and heartbreak. As an oncologist, she said she came across such pain every day as she saw some 40 to 50 patients every week.

This picture shows a view of the NAPA on December 19, 2022. — Facebook/NAPA - National Academy of Performing Arts
This picture shows a view of the NAPA on December 19, 2022. — Facebook/NAPA - National Academy of Performing Arts

“One of the biggest challenges that I face in my line of work is to convey the bad news without bringing the anguish that is natural,” she told the audience. She said she had been using Urdu and even some English poetry on her patients to make them overcome the pain of knowing they were suffering from a dreaded disease.

Poetry, she said, could help the caregiver as well as the receiver in overcoming grief. She narrated the story of a youth who passed away at the age of 22 of cancer. He was asked to sign the documents that would allow the hospital to let him pass away. He could not sign it when his mother was around but later found the courage to do so in his father’s presence.

Dr Azra wondered how difficult it would have been for the father to know that his son was to die soon. Only poetry could help him. She later recited Ghalib’s ghazal in memory of his adopted son, Arif Zain ul-Abideen, who had died quite young. She later moved on to another ghazal from Ghalib, Ibne Maryam Hua Karay Koi, describing how the great poet had described his own grief in many styles.

She also recited poetry from Jigar Muradabadi and Nazeer Akbarabadi to press her points. Earlier, NAPA CEO Junaid Zuberi introduced her as an international celebrity and a star of oncology who in the past 25 years had been to Pakistan only three times.