This is the photo many have talked about, I was drained of strength

I  recently shared the painful news of the passing of my beloved brother-in-law, Dr. Hasan Khan. It’s still so hard to grasp that he is no longer here.


Hasan died just two months shy of his 57th birthday

My beautiful sister and Hasan’s wife, Shala, is in so much pain, but she always puts others first. She is encouraging me to continue writing “Indian Trailblazer.” I stopped in March because cancer was not only taking a stronger hold of my brother-in-law, but it was also draining the life out of my beautiful sister. I called Shala everyday from Tampa. I still hear her gravely voice, grasping onto hope and clinging to faith, that her husband of more than 25 years would come out of this. I remained strong while I spoke to her on the phone, forcing back tears and desperately trying to keep my voice steady. But as soon as I hung up, the tears, like water in a faucet, flowed out of my eyes. The fear of what would happen seemed to suck the oxygen out of the air I was breathing. Even though I am blessed with wonderful friends,  I told no one the extent of the struggles. I thought maybe if I did not voice it, Hasan would somehow be spared. I begged God for mercy. How could this happen to sweet Shala?

This is one of my most favorite pictures of Shala
What I wouldn’t do to see her smile just like this again

After Hasan passed, I did finally write two passages. I needed to honor and remember him. Shala still has not read them. She said it’s simply too painful right now, but she did see the titles, including the heading of my second blog entitled
“Promises: The hours before my brother-in-law passed away”.
Then, only as my sister can, she held my hand and looked into my eyes and asked me to make her a promise to continue writing.

Me and Shala the summer of 2018

I will do anything to ease her pain and it is helping me too. Shala realizes this. She is almost like a twin. She can read me and knows writing is my therapy. So, here I am in Chicago, on the one month anniversary of Hasan’s death, honoring that wish with the resurgence of “Trailblazer.” Instead of going right back into the journey, I will first answer a question.

I am humbled that so many have been interested and asked for more information about my illness that forced my family to leave India.

I asked my mom and dad to explain further and I also asked for pictures. I not only wanted to touch and hold the photos. In some way, I was hoping to go back and grasp some of the memories buried deep in my mind. I need my families help to remember the details. Not only the sights and sounds, but the emotions. You will learn why I struggle so much with memory loss as I continue my journey. I can tell you it’s a direct result of the painfully searing decision I made to leave my family at 18.

But, but back to my illness. I had no official diagnosis except that I had a very weak immune system. I also lacked much needed oxygen. My parents do not know if I was born with it or if it was a result of being subjected to the harsh conditions of an impoverished country.

This picture only gives a small glimpse of the population in Hyderabad

I do not mean to talk ill of my birthplace, but it’s a country in dire need of help. In the city of Hyderabad where I was living, nearly seven million people occupy a 250 square mile radius. So many people, so little food. Dirty at every corner, you wonder if there is any type of oasis hidden in the depths of the city. Not likely. Water is so discolored it looks like tea. Food is so scarce, babies walk around hungry with distended bellies and some adults lack limbs because of the lack of nutrients.

My parents lived in this environment. They learned to cope. They hoped liked many young married couples with a baby they could find a place to live. It was my condition that made that impossible.

My mom just graduated from college. My dad was working but barely made enough money to make ends meet and with a sick daughter, there was no way his salary would even cover the basics.

My mother and father in their college photos

But my mom’s parents had money to sustain a modest lifestyle. My mother told it me it was a humbling decision. My dad’s father had died when he was only 14. His mother forced to take refuge in Pakistan because of a raging civil war. My dad had no where to turn. So to save me, they swallowed their pride and moved in with her parents.

My grandparents

Now that they didn’t have the burden of paying living expenses they could solely concentrate on my health.

A mother myself, I can feel my own mothers anguish. The paralyzing fear of losing a child. How it must have not only consumed her every waking moment, the despair also not allowing her to sleep.

Me and my daughter Sammie
She’s not even one year, she’s 12 now

My parents used every penny they had to try and nurse me back to health. The money not just for doctor visits, but also trying to sustain a healthy diet. My mom told me she would go to the market everyday and get me apples. My father scoured the best parts of the city looking for fresh chicken. They used to make a soup mixed with white rice. My parents said it was my best chance for proteins and carbohydrates.

My mom then would massage my body, especially my legs and arms with oils. She could see the limbs were weak. She knew I needed calcium, but my stomach could not handle dairy.

Despite all of these efforts, I was withering away. I was three now and the doctors said my best hope was America.


  1. Please continue your writing, it is intriguing, as well as comforting. You can feel the love in your words.

  2. Sarina, My deepest condolences to you and your family. Thank you for writing Trailblazer.. It is good for us that were fortunate enough to be born in America and have a good middle class life. But that middle class is disappearing into poverty level every day.. I pray for your sister and your family everyday to help help heal your family’s pain. Please keep writing.
    Brenda Pritchard

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