Color Coded Medicine in North Nazimabad

Owais Mughal

On my last visit to Pakistan I got a sore throat. My family offered to take me to a doctor in Block B of North Nazimabad who was both ‘acha aur sasta’ (good and cheap). He was ‘acha’ because he had an authentic MBBS degree and ‘sasta’ because he charged a flat fee of Rs 5 per day only no matter whether you had common cold or had an acute case of Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanosconiosis (

Ok. since my family had got me on ‘acha aur sasta’, I went along and got my own medicine which came with a surprise. The doctor asked me which color of medicine would I prefer. Not completely understanding the question I mechanically uttered “g g green” and a green color syrup I got in next 5 minutes.

After we came home, I collected all the bottles from all the patients of this doctor we had in our household and took the following group photo of everybody’s medicine. See my cute little green bottle – standing second from the right.


I asked the doctor that why does he do that? He told me that the rationale behind color coded medicine is that it prevents accidental wrong use in a houshold so that Parveen doesn’t drink Nasreen’s syrup and Parvez stays away from Nasir’s. I thought about it for 5 seconds. It made some sense but there still was a chance of error because this scheme was not completely ‘poka-yoke’ (mistake proof) but I kept quiet thinking this was not a time to do Buqratiat (acting smart).

This doctor offers to color code his medicine not only according to number of patients in the household but also by how many ailments a patient has got.

So for example, one scheme can be Chunoo Mian gets yellow syrup, Surraya gets red syrup and Hidayatullah Saheb gets green syrup. The other scheme can be that daada abba’s ‘weham’ (placebo) gets yellow syrup, tonic comes in red, a condition called ‘jia karay dhak dhak dhak’ (aka palpitations) gets green syrup and another condition called ‘akhion mein akhian dal ke na tak’ (aka comatose) gets blue syrup.

I took this medicine a year ago (2009). I survived and my sore throat got cured. I waited this whole year to write these lines in case some delayed reaction happened. But nothing happened. I think this doctor and his ways and means make Pakistan a more colorful place and that is what qualified him to be on these pages.

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