The Fearful Lion
by Almas Akhtar

Life is what we experience— but it’s also how we respond to it.

The Fearful Lion is the story of a young man—the buoyant and brilliant Osama Ali Khan—desperately looking to overcome his emotional insecurities. After being abandoned by his parents as a baby, and subjected to wrong assumptions and ethnic stereotypes as an adult, he has to fight to keep his soul from being crushed.

As he tries to conquer his many fears, Osama is helped by the cheerful and exuberant Sarah, who he meets at the campus of the University of Michigan. With the aroma of garam masala and the flavor of Pasta e Fagioli in the background, their life together grows “perfectalicious” . . . until the fateful events of September 11.


Chapter 1
Cinco de Mayo
(May 2017)


A Latina nurse wearing a bright-yellow sombrero put up a black-and-white copy of a medical research paper on the bulletin board. It was highlighted in pink. The heading stated, “Investigations in Heart Valve Disorder,” by Dr. O. A. Khan, and it had been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Another achievement in the glorious career of the young interventional cardiologist.

Burritos, tacos, and churros were neatly set on the large table, which had been covered in a colorful tablecloth, beneath the posters and notice boards. A drug company representative had brought the lunch and the company flyers. Maraca-shaped pens stamped with the company logo were spread in the far corner.

While the streets of the city glowed with brightly colored lanterns, and buzzed with loud salsa music, the staff lounge at the University of Denver was relatively quiet. Few doctors sat in the corner—updating patient info in the computer, or answering phone calls.

Denver’s popular Cinco de Mayo “Celebrate Cultures” Festival annually put the spotlight on the Mile High City’s vibrant Latino population. (The city of Denver is situated exactly one mile over sea level—that is why it’s popularly called the “Mile High City.”)

University of Denver’s Center for Cardiovascular Diseases was one of the most well- reputed cardiac centers in the country. A cluster of small buildings which sat on a hilly trail, the architecture was reminiscent of French Gothic period with large spiral columns and lancet windows.

Arriving at the lounge, Dr. Khan grabbed a small taco from the table. He checked his phone. He had just one hour to complete his work; then he had to head to the airport to pick up his friends Arun and Virat—twin brothers who were his childhood buddies.

Khan was among the very few interventional cardiologists in Colorado. He was a tall guy, with sharp facial features. Even though he had always lived in the United States, he had that typical Kashmiri Punjabi debonair look to him. He had completed his medical studies at the University of Michigan. Earlier, he had received his undergraduate degree from the same institute. Soon after, the doctor moved to Baltimore, Maryland to complete his residency and fellowship in cardiology at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University.

“Congratulations once again, Dr. Oz,” a physician’s assistant acknowledged him as she entered the doctors’ lounge.

“Thanks a lot,” Khan replied in a dignified manner. “I would appreciate if you call me Osama, my real name.”

Dr. Osama Ali Khan (aka Oz) was the son of Shams Khan and Rozina Sultan. Those were the two most hated names in his directory. It was only their names and their looks which he carried with him. Everything else was his own, solely and completely . . . his struggles, his agony . . . all those sleepless nights . . . his determination, his courage . . .

Reviews, Praise, and Awards

Via the Kirkus Review Magazine, 15 July 2018

The Fearful Lion by Almas Akhtar is a heartwarming story about true love—the sort of love that can conquer time, tragedy, and the challenges of everyday life.

Ms Akhtar has created a moving story that touches on so many aspects of daily life. As the child of an immigrant family, Oz must tackle the challenges of juggling two different cultures. Akhtar also discusses mental health issues and the way that they can affect relationships. She shows how Oz’s anxiety is something that he must conquer himself with the help and support of his family and friends. While it does drive him and Sarah apart initially, Oz’s path towards recovery and stability brings them together again.

– Red City Review, New York

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