10 things Pakistani dramas taught me about doctors

Picture this: Dhoop Kinaray. Dr Ahmar and Dr Zoya Ali Khan infinitely lost in each other’s eyes and treating patients at the same time. He smiles, takes a microsecond-long look at a howling child who has just been brought in and diagnoses a subdural hematoma, orders an immediate operation as well.

Eh?

Our actual physician friend faints.

How could he know? Where are the X-rays? No CT Scans? What symptoms were there besides the werewolf-ish grunts? He didn’t even touch the kid! He didn’t check the kid’s pulse, nor his eyes nor his head where the alleged hematoma was found. What if it was just fatigue?

Shut up, we say. That’s Dr Ahmar. He’s psychic. Shut up and swoon.

Those were the glorious ’90s, but as things stand, medical scenes in Pakistani dramas have continued much in the same vein, all the way till 2015. There must be countless moments in these plays which made you bang your head against a wall in anguish and question reality itself.

Here are 10 things that made us do just that:

1. One formula fits all

Ending up at the hospital is a recurring source of drama in our shows, but it’s never anything complicated – mostly the same formula involving the same old tropes.

Every other episode, somebody falls sick and is taken to a place with shiny floors and lots of nurses scurrying about, all ruled by one Doctor sahib who tries extremely hard to portray the grim reaper; a white coat that’s always two sizes too big for the Doctor sahib and three sizes too tight for the Doctor sahiba; the cheapest stethoscope available in the subcontinent wound around the neck like a dead snake, and an all-hope-is-lost look in the eyes.

2. Blink and your diagnosis is done

The witches from Hogwarts would not be able to diagnose ailments as quickly as our drama doctors do. One look and the patient is diagnosed with the most atrocious disease ever.

If the doctor is extra thorough, they’ll throw in a split-second grab-n-go check of the pulse. That’ll do it. Let’s call it Psychic Diagnosia.

3. Med school? Why bother

The best part is when hardcore medical facts and solutions go ignored in the best interest of the drama at hand (because how else would you churn a 300-episode serial out of something that should’ve ended 15 minutes after it started?).

In the last 800 episodes of the serial Mumkin, all everyone wanted to talk about was how Uncle was lying about his second wife being his first wife. It did not occur to absolutely anybody – despite all the characters being educated and enlightened – to suggest DNA testing.

There are countless TV moments when a completely deranged and estranged father looks at his supposed newborn baby and screams, “Yeh mera bacha nahin hai!

All hell broke loose and the mother is banished to her maika. A million hawwws are uttered, but no, not a single suggestion of DNA testing. The kid is definitely not his, because he said so.

4. Are we there yet? The 21st century?

Then there is the overwhelming number of mother-in-law characters in our shows who expect their daughters-in-law – even in the 21st century – to produce sons on demand. Excuse us while we pull our hair out.

X-Y chromosomes, anyone?

And why is the man bringing in the woman for a maternity checkup always assumed to be the father by the peon/nurse/padosan/patient in the hospital? God forbid should a brother, cousin or (hawwww) a male friend escort her.

5. Have a break, have a drip

Our drama doctors have a special penchant for Intravenous Therapy, also known as the drip … like, a frightening, unheard of inclination to use it no matter what the illness.

drip

Broke your toe? Have a drip.

Burned your hand? Have a drip.

Don’t like your saas? Have a drip.

Dehydration, Alzheimer’s, stroke or cancer – you name it, everything under the sky in the Pakistani drama is treatable with a drip.

6. When on your deathbed, be sure to wear mascara

The rest is left to cosmetics. We’re talking full bridal makeovers for a patient suffering from fatal disease.

How is it that terminally ill patients of a desi play look like a beauty pageant winner even minutes before dying the most horrible death? Even the eyebrows look like they got dressed up in a salon.

The cancer-fighting mom in Izteraab, the tumor-fighting heroine in Chupkay Se Bahaar Aa Jaye, the cancer-fighting hero in Marasim, the tumor-fighting mom in Sauteli…these are just some of the occasions where our actors were fighting disease one lipstick shade at a time.

7. Shhhhh! It’s a grave secret!

The extremely awful disease can be easily hidden from the patient’s family members, and even the patient them self. Just send them on a vacation a week before the prescribed date of death. Then inform family via BFF running barefoot from hospital to family’s home and breaking the news, ‘Aunty! Waqar hospital mein hai!

Nahiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!’ [Enter: screaming aunty from bedroom]

In case you are wondering, the above actually happened in one serial.

8. Doctor-patient privilege? Isn’t that the name of a movie?

And lastly, let’s not forget about doctor-patient privilege. Or better yet, let’s forget about it altogether, because dare mention these words to anybody in the playwright’s hospital, and the whole staff will look at you funny with a lopsided ‘HUH’ on their face.

In Pakistani dramas, if the neighbour’s grandpa’s tax attorney’s khala’s stepbrother comes to the hospital, the doctor won’t think twice before spilling over every itty-bitty detail of the patient.

Jee, ab toh bathroom jaana bhi mushkil hai.”

Followed by an even more timely conversation:

Baat sunay, Mrs Gulzar, how is Shabana, your niece, after her abortion?

9. Hurt my toe so I bandaged my head

A patient with a bruised ankle will want to be treated accordingly. So, naturally, the forehead must be bandaged and the camera must pan in to capture that healing device with a single blood spot placed strategically over one of the eyebrows.

Likewise for broken arm, stomachache or hallucinations. The bandage will always be there.

10. Have no fear, the doctor of everything is here

And lastly, our drama doctor wears many hats that wouldn’t be possible (nor permissible) in real life. A hospitalist is a surgeon is an ER specialist is a dentist is a paediatrician is an anesthesiologist is a cardiologist is an oncologist.

And despite knowing that this doctor is at the centre of a very complex love triangle octagon, and that taking the patient to them would complicate the already complex web of relationships even more, everyone has to go to that one Super Doc for everything because there just aren’t enough doctors in the world.


Desi dramas are entertainment supreme, and that covers all aspects of the term. Whether it’s lovers or landlords, businessmen or doctors, it’s all done with entertainment in mind and so, real life’s limitations have no place therein and they never will.

Well, no complaints. We got our popcorn and blankets. Please, continue…

Published in DAWN on September 4, 2015.

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