Arfa Masihuddin is a soon-to-be doctor, a passionate writer and a go-getter. Arfa is also Founder and CEO. of Walking Thoughts, a literary house offering online English classes. She talks to Karvan revealing her life’s biggest moments and future plans.
1. Who is Arfa Masihuddin?
A lover of words, the pied piper who believes in the magic of miracles, a risk-taker aspiring to be a whirling dervish, and a soon-to-be doctor enthusiastic to better global health policies.
2. What is “Walking Thoughts” and how did you come about this idea?
Walking Thoughts is a literary and educational house offering online English Conversation and Creative Writing courses, in partnership with the Young Women Writers’ Forum – Karachi Chapter. Our aim is to make English language learning easier and accessible to everyone, especially the stay-at-home moms and women entrepreneurs, and meaningfully contribute to the literary circles. After the success of these classes, we are now also introducing online pediatric classes in partnership with Dr. Talaiha Chughtai, designed specifically for M.B.B.S. students.
The idea behind Walking Thoughts stems from a childhood ambition of empowering women. The dilemma in our society is stagnating; women and their talent goes undiscovered, unappreciated, and is sometimes even tragically ridiculed. Fair words butter no parsnips, I believe. As the blogging world introduced me to new people, I saw how many women were held back from their goals by a lack of confidence stemming from poor English speaking skills. In a society where the language barrier has become an unfortunate determinant of success, the least I felt I could do was lead a purposeful venture that would help them overcome this barrier, give them wings. That’s how Walking Thoughts was born.
A lot of love and hard work has gone into this! I have designed the syllabus myself – the podcasts and conversation scripts that I have made for the conversation classes are tailored to suit each student; be they doctors, event managers, sales managers, or just stay-at-home moms. As a future doctor and global health enthusiast, I have centered these podcasts and conversation scripts around educational topics like mental health, the importance of vaccinations, PCOs, etc.
They are meant to educate our women as they practice their English speaking skills. Similarly, my creative writing classes are meant to not only help amateur writers polish their skills, but also how to practice listening to the voice of our hearts before putting it out in a familiar lexicon.
3. You served as the Chairperson of The Ziauddin Atlas. Tell us about this initiative?
I joined the Ziauddin University Atlas – our student-run magazine – in 2015 as the English editor and continued on board as the Editor-in-Chief in 2016, before finally resigning as the Chairperson in 2018, after having successfully organized the university’s first-ever literary conference, Lit Con’18.
The brainchild of two literary minds, Dr. Wajeeha Mahmood Hassan and Dr. Shahzeb Najam, the Atlas saw its first publication in 2016 after the tireless efforts of the founding team, including Zakariya Irfanullah, the Founding Patron, Dr. Arsalan Manzoor Mughal, and the then dean, Professor Dr. Kamran Hameed. A dedicated team effort saw the Atlas grow into a sturdy WordPress blog with a strong fan following that now also includes a Humans of Ziauddin page, and other upcoming literary events under the able leadership of the present team. As its current Patron, the very talented Dr. Hafsa Mahida, will affirm this, the Atlas has been very dear to me, especially the category of Docs’ Diaries which I introduced out of love for humanistic medicine. It’s been a marvelously enriching experience! I have made some great friends here, led a dynamic team of creative brains, and have become better at doing what I love to do the most – writing! The Atlas has, and always will, remain a home for all creative minds in the Ziauddin community.
4. Describe your feeling when you topped the English subject in the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) in 2014 from your school Beaconhouse School System?
It was a sunny February afternoon when I received a call from our senior headmistress. “Me? Top across Pakistan in AS English Language?” I was incredulous! It was only when I was being pulled into a bone-crushing hug by my parents and sisters that I realized its true!
It was one of the most memorable moments of my life, a dream come true, and I’m forever grateful to both my parents for always giving us the best, for their guidance, and for encouraging me to take up a subject – along with the basic sciences – that was new back in the days.
Unlike the General Paper that the majority was appearing for, the English Language had a very different course line covering not just the different forms of creative writing, but also literature analysis, spoken and written English, language differences between the genders, and the different theories and stages of child language acquisition. It wasn’t all bread and butter!
The credit, also, of course, goes to my very amazing teacher, Ms. Samina Majid, for pushing me to do my best, for all the hard work that she put into her classes, for all her encouragement, and for being a great friend, too!
5. As a student of medicine at Ziauddin University, how difficult is it to find time to write as studying medicine is nothing short of a daunting challenge in itself?
It’s not difficult at all because writing is a way of life for me; it’s the air I breathe in, the smile I see in the mirror. I write whenever inspiration strikes. Having a smartphone is a blessing – you “feel” something, you fish out your phone, open a writing app, and you let the words out to dance on the screen! As a medical student, I come across numerous stories every day – those of grief, of celebration, of gratitude, of carelessness, of the vulnerability of human love, the fragility of human relationships, and the timelessness of mortality. The stories are there everywhere, heavy in the air around us; I just pluck them out and give it my voice, and nothing gives me more joy than that!
6. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?
There’s a very popular saying by Mawlana Rumi, “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” Magic does exist, miracles do happen. God does listen. So work hard and unfold your own myth!
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