Tag Archives: Sophia Malik

OPINION | The Wisdom of Touch

by Sophia Malik

My grandmother-in-law was like Yoda in a hijab. She was tiny, old, had leathery skin, and was apt to speak in poetry or riddles. She spent much of her time sitting quietly. This made her words more potent when she did speak. When her mood was crispy she would chide me and ask why wasn’t I wearing makeup or jewelry or when was I going to stop studying and have kids. Even though I have a tendency to take things personally, I never did with Nani. Something about the brevity of her cantankerousness combined with her adorable squishiness drew me closer to her instead of pushing me away. When I didn’t want to argue with her or my head hurt from trying to force my Urdu beyond its feeble abilities, I used to reach out for her hand and lay my head in her lap. 

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OPINION: Where Service Begins

by Sophia Malik

I spent my earliest years running barefoot through freshly cut grass. The border between my Brown skin and the brown earth was indistinguishable. My unruly dark hair billowed behind me, curling in no particular pattern, as did the branches of the oak tree holding my treehouse. My father was usually doing yard work nearby. A post-war child, born out of Partition, who was trying to nurture seeds in a new land, his eyes were often heavy with worries he struggled to communicate about. Sometimes he shared painful stories with me. Other times he chose to say nothing, bringing my attention to the present beauty around me while sharing a box of oranges or mangoes as we rested under the shade. In the evenings, he would walk with me on his shoulders, helping me touch the sky and understand the stardust we all are. He found healing in the nature around us, and encouraged me to do the same. 

My mother was an artist with a deep knowledge of ancestral traditions. She brought an element of subtle transcendence to the most mundane tasks. A true village auntie, she constantly shared unsolicited advice with others in hope of uplifting those around her. She had a recipe or remedy for any illness, emotional or physical. Neighbors recalled, with gratitude, her teas brought in the dark of night to their home to aid a sick child. She had learned love and service from her mother and, with her actions, was beginning to pass teachings down to me.

In my adolescence, I lost both my maternal grandmother and my mother to cancer. I fumbled my way through this already inherently challenging time of life. With their eternal prayers, supportive friends, and pure luck, I got into medical school. As a chronic daydreamer, the studies were really difficult for me. When I transitioned to the practical, hands-on part of my training, I was so overwhelmed by white medical culture, that I’ve considered labeling my memoirs of that time “The Angina Monologues.” The culture prized speaking loudly and with authority, having a firm handshake, hiding doubt, and assumed all things could be known, fixed, proven, and plugged into an algorithm if we obsessively intellectualized and collected enough of a specific type of data. There was no space for the unknown. I was encouraged to fake it ’til I made it, but to my own detriment, I have a distressing inability to be fake. 

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VOICES: Taking Off Our Masks to Breathe

by Sophia Malik

My stethoscope lingered on the back of my patient. I realized I was steadying my breath more than listening to hers. The fabric she wore to cover her hair had the same feel as the fabric my mother wore during my childhood. It’s not a Walmart cotton. It’s a cotton you can only buy back home: soft and cozy, typically worn by soft and cozy aunties, carrying a scent of food freshly cooked by the wearer.  

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