by Abha Gupta 2 April 2020
Dr. Ajmal Sobhan delivers a candid perspective on life’s experiences in this autobiographical book, The Journey to Silence. In this work, the author endeavors to ascertain the existence of life in all its colors and shades, including the various pitfalls and rewards, as experienced by him both professionally as a surgeon and personally as an individual. This work is also ambitious in seeking to explain some of the most intangible elements of human existence. From several fragments at various points during his lifespan, the author pieces together the human values of ethics, hard work, risk, success, peril, redemption, perseverance, and gratitude.
This book is an excellent inspiration to health-care practitioners, medical aspirants, mountaineering, trekking, and marathon enthusiasts, and just about anyone with an altruistic heart for the human network called society.
The author, Ajmal Sobhan, is a retired general surgeon who practiced in the USA for 28 years on the professional front while experimenting with a blend of Sufism and Buddhism as a person. Since retirement, the author has led surgical missions to Bangladesh( 10 missions in the last 15 years) to serve the sick and the deprived. He has been associated with NGOs such as Apon (Drug Rehab for Recovering Street Addicts in Bangladesh) and the Animal Aid Society in Bangladesh and the Tidewater Area of Virginia.
The Journey to Silence is divided into five sections. The simple organization allows the reader to easily follow the life journey of the author, starting with the simple and somewhat reticent childhood to becoming a surgeon, an arranged marriage, followed by the lessons learned through the trials and tribulations of the profession, as the journey progresses through the joys of nature, hiking through the Himalayas, trekking countryside, vegetarianism and finally leading to meditation and stillness, with glimpses of the interconnectedness of all sentient beings and beyond. The illustrations by Archana Hande are beautiful and enliven the narrative.
The first section deals with some of the challenging cases that shaped the author’s professional life, as well as those of his colleagues. The next section is about his experiences in Bangladesh. He writes affectionately about a young man who cared for his parents, a family member who wrestled with addiction, and the organization he established and continues to work with in order to alleviate the effects of poverty and drug addiction. His affection and appreciation for two elderly American clerics who devoted their lives to help the local people makes a compelling reading. His description of bus rides in Dacca is vivid and hair raising. The section dedicated to trekking in the Himalayas leaves the reader on edge. The final section of the book authenticates the reader’s impression of the author that here is an individual who has gradually transformed himself and touched the lives of those he has encountered.
With great humility, Dr. Sobhan reveals an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the workings of the human mind and its interplay with other beings in life. If there is a single weakness about this narrative, it is that the reader is left wanting to know more about the author’s triumphs and accomplishments, which he has discreetly evaded. However, this weakness is outweighed by the ultimate victory in humankind, namely, the right understanding (to use Buddha’s own words), displayed by the author.
Quite simply, the Journey to Silence is about the author’s journey through life’s clutter, toward that space of stillness and peace – the source from which all arises.