Bavaria’s Linderhof Palace – Power And Magnificence


It’s a word we use to describe wielding power recklessly.

Yet everyone craves power. We want to control events and people. To direct our actions meaningfully. To take charge of projects, activities, our lives.

On one of our evening walks, my daughter and I debated the issue – and an important point emerged.

Power must be tempered by responsibility.

When one desires power but shirks responsibility for using it, the journey towards megalomania begins.

Quite a few modern leaders would qualify under this definition. But megalomania isn’t something new. Many ancient rulers had it. And acted on it so grandly that there still remains evidence of their obsession with displaying power and strength.

We see it in their palaces and monuments.

One we toured recently was the luxurious Bavarian palace of Linderhof, built by King Ludwig II in the mid-1800s.


Sculpting Life

Sculpture, Art, Bargello, Florence, Italy

(Sculptor: an artist who makes sculptures; carver; modeller.)

A sculptor sits at his block of stone. In his mind is a vision of what he’d like to carve from it.

With every stroke of his hammer, he must decide.

What to keep? What to remove?


The chisel moves a little. The artist adjusts his instrument’s angle, the direction of his stroke.


After every few hits, a piece chips off and falls to the ground… to be swept away at the end of the day, as rubble.

What’s left behind with the block of stone becomes a part of his sculpture.

If he strikes wisely and well, if his mind’s eye can see the image locked within rock clearly, if he makes few mistakes and has skills or talent, he’ll create a masterpiece.

Last night, as I thought about the lovely creations in Florence’s Bargello museum – it’s to sculpture, what the Louvre is to painting! – I was struck by an insight.

We are like sculptorsof our own lives!


Unexpected Thrills Are The Best Ones

Red Ferrari

We were in Milan, Italy. It was the last day of our holiday trip.

Over nine days, we had travelled through three cities in two countries, walked dozens of miles, and viewed hundreds of lovely sights and scenes.

All of it had been carefully planned. We enjoyed every bit of it – but, frankly, there was little ‘surprise‘.

Until that morning in Milan, as we walked down Corso Buenos Aires on our way to the Duomo Cathedral.


Is Medicine An Art – Or A Science?

Is Medicine Art or Science

A friend recently showed me a fascinating interview. Some doctors had been asked a set of intriguing questions – and their answers were just as thought-provoking.

After going through the entire collection of interviews, I thought of answering one of the questions myself. This one:

Q: Medicine is often described as an art not a science. In what ways do you find practicing medicine artful and is there a science to the art of writing? For that matter, what is the difference between art and science?

This is my reply:

Medicine is a science.

The practice of medicine, however, is both craft and art.

Take a simple act like feeling a patient’s pulse. There’s a certain technique to doing it right. Which fingers to use, where to press or touch, for how long, with what pressure. Getting it right takes learning, practice… because it’s a craft.

But there’s so much more happening while a doctor takes a patient’s pulse.

It’s an intimate, personal, human act. One that connects two individuals, a hopeful sufferer looking for a salve, and a compassionate caregiver seeking to cure. It’s more than just a physical connection… it’s a psychological bond that engenders trust, establishes rapport, initiates healing.

In that sense, it’s performance art of a high order.

Done right, it can jumpstart the process of recovery from illness – before the first test has been ordered, the opening dose of medicine swallowed, the initial discussion about diagnoses and the prognosis has begun. Because in that magical moment of personal communication, it wordlessly tells a suffering, sick soul that someone cares… and will do whatever it takes to help them.

A healing energy begins to flow from one human being to another… in a manner that isn’t taught in medical school, but that every doctor learns over the years from touching and treating hundreds of patients.

There’s absolutely nothing scientific about that. And it isn’t at all about craft. This is sheer art. And each artist (or, rather, doctor) does it in a uniquely different way. The only common thing about it is the emotional connection it fosters.

And is there a ‘science’ to writing?


Sentence and word structure. Content and cadence. Word choice and linguistic style. All can be chosen methodically, based on hypotheses that are testable and can be proven right – or wrong – in scientific fashion.

There’s a certain predictability to some forms of writing which convincingly follows the “if-then” rule-form that governs science.

But no one would reasonably argue that writing is entirely scientific. Or even mostly so. (Except, perhaps, some forms of technical writing which can be formulaic without detriment.)

I can’t be absolutely sure of this, but maybe being a doctor while also trying to write well has made me more aware of the existence of either facet… in both disciplines.

Interesting how I haven’t thought about this before – until reading this set of questions!


Teaching Surgery

Teaching Surgery

(This is an excerpt from my new book, “Heart, Guts & Steel: The Making of an Indian Surgeon“)

I was assisting my Junior Resident with her first hernia repair. And it was moving along at a snail’s pace.

From time to time, I was tempted to urge her to hurry up. “If you stick with this, we’ll be here until dinner time!”

But I left the words unspoken.

Better surgeons than I had been patient with me while I learned to operate. Now it was my turn to return the favor. So in a quiet tone, with no trace of the irritation within, I asked her: “What are you worried about?”

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