Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
1629 Forest Drive, Annapolis, MD 21403 ~ 410-626-9888

Volume XVII, Issue 52 ~ December 24 - December 30, 2009

Home \\ Correspondence \\ from the Editor \\ Submit a Letter \\ Classifieds \\ Contact Us
Dining Guide \\ Home & Garden Guide \\ Archives \\ Distribution Locations \\ Advertising


Ramblings: Insights Into Human Demeanor

It’s been a good read and a good ride; you’ve probably noticed that I enjoyed it.

reviewed by Dick Wilson

Ramblings: An apt name for a book in which rambling on is redefined into high art, sort of like transmuting lead into gold. Dr. Munir Cheema is a very learned man who has taken his life’s experiences and organized them, somewhat haphazardly and with good humor, into a trove of gentle wit that touches on many subjects.

Cheema is Pakistani by birth, which gives him valuable insight into the workings of that part of the globe. In Ramblings he shares his travels, ranging far and wide, observing as he goes and holding forth on many subjects. 

He is a keen watcher of the passing parade; he reaches out, wherever he happens to be, gathers in and organizes whatever anecdotal or observational nuggets are laying around and puts them on the page for us to read. One thing leads to another, and we’re off on a series of observations, experiences (other people’s as much as his own) and essays. Which is to say, Dr. Cheema tells a story with panache.

Ramblings starts off with his appointment as physician to the president of Pakistan, and that leads to an aside about the Hippocratic oath which, in turn, leads to a story about Lord Moran, who was the personal physician to Winston Churchill. From there we venture into a discourse on recent history of the Indian subcontinent. And that takes us all the way up to page 3.

As the stories ramble on, you are caught up in the moment. Dr. Cheema keeps himself at a distance, not allowing his ego to come into play. Ramblings is not a celebration of the good doctor. When he is in the scenario, Dr. Cheema comes across as a reliable, interested, objective observer who’s trying to give an honest account of what he sees and feels.

Ramblings holds its reader’s interest no matter how far afield the subject wanders. Perhaps it’s because of the easy, coherent writing style; or maybe it’s because that’s the nature of the universe: everything is connected to everything else. On his first experience with the Western world, Dr. Cheema recalls with delight his first encounter with electronic doors at London’s Heathrow Airport.

On a deeper level he recognizes the vast chasm between his early life in Pakistan and his new life in the U.K. as he gives us the details of his emotional and intellectual journey.

Much of the book is taken up with Dr. Cheema’s experiences as a practicing physician, in and out of the military, dealing with other people’s tragedies. It’s here where he reveals himself as an individual with a large heart that sometimes seems on the verge of breaking.

One of my favorite threads in the book is Dr. Cheema’s deep analysis of Pakistani life and history. He describes in very readable style the processes now at work in that country as well as the momentous and complex effects of the British colonial legacy.

I started reading this book expecting to promptly put it down. Instead, I’ve read it through with pleasure. There is much of practical value here for Americans — especially considering our current involvement in a far off war. I, for one, have obtained more fascinating and real information about the politics, geography and people of Afghanistan and Pakistan from Dr. Cheema’s ramblings than I ever learned from the news media.

I’ve been surprised by the strength of my positive reaction to Ramblings (Rosedog Books). It’s been a good read and a good ride; you’ve probably noticed that I enjoyed it.

Ramble on, Dr. Cheema.

Editor’s note: From the many books we receive, Bay Weekly reviewers make their own choices, which accounts for the variety appearing in this space. First preference goes to books about Chesapeake Country, but sometimes an oddity, like this one by a Northern Virginian, proves irresistible.

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.