The Smell of Rot

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The Smell of Rot

By Zainab Jamshaid

Living within the hospital premises, it’s not that unusual that a piercing wail of ambulance sirens falls on my otherwise deaf ears going off not-so-far away from me. A few strides off the hostel gate, in fact. I then muse over the starkness of that situation: I, a student of medical sciences, lying comfortably in my bed, or engaging myself in some menial task, this one or that. And there must be a human there, flailing for dear life, a beating heart: the final trophy in the ultimate duel of life and death. Lets see who wins…

It makes me think about death. Not in the bleak and dolorous sense of the term. Just death. In all its plainness and contrast to whatever it purloins. It’s physiology and chemistry. It’s repercussions and implications. What it means and what it entails. What it brings and what it takes.

I think about death often, the way people think about their lovers: a little too much, a little too often.

Is it the finale of everything that ever exists? Or is it a beginning? Is it a state of being or merely a transition? Its ludicrous the way we live our lives: fearing that which is the inevitable. Why do we cry when someone “dies”? Is it because “we” miss their respiring selves or is it because death is a termination of “their” existential experience? It then begs the question: Is all existential experience really worth it? If so then why do we associate pain with death, yet all the pain in life lies in existence: in facing and bearing life head on with blood trickling down your knuckles and a torn, jagged heart beating against time and odds. Death merely ends it all.

Its awful: the lucidity of morbid imagination.

But then what is morbid? That which defies convention? If so then convention is the ultimate morbidity, for it leaves no room for independent reasoning and declares anything wrong, by default, that which is not it.

Also what makes death morbid? Is it the irreversibility of it? Or the decay that is concomitant? Or the swiftness with which it supplants life? But then I am reminded of that post that read, “death exists as an extant form of life.” Does it really or do we utter these things merely as consolation?

Poring over these existential questions, I am reminded of the sacrosanctity of my own profession. Medicine serves not only to make life easier, but by extension makes death easier too. And there is some comfort in that. 

Zainab Jamshaid is a 1st year medical student at KEMU, Pakistan. She is 19 years old and a photographer, poet and essayist. A bibliophile, she describes herself as “an artist who paints with words.

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August 11, 2023 4:21 am

Girl you made me do 360 different runs between google and chrome😭😭😭like damnnn them words i had to google meaning of them and make sense of what you were saying…but from whatever i could grasp i really loved it..🤓☝️

Muhammad Ali
July 8, 2023 5:24 am

Great work

Emaan Fatima
July 3, 2023 7:21 pm


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