Monthly Archives: Aug 2014

How To Eat An Elephant?

Eat An Elephant - One Bite At a Time!

As the answer to this childish riddle goes,

“You eat an elephant – one bite at a time”!

Turns out the lesson it teaches isn’t childish at all.

Over the years, many people have expressed amazement and awe at how many different things I’m involved with – and get done.

Any of at least my top 3 priorities could be full-time careers… heart surgery, writing and fund raising.

I juggle them all – and have managed to do it for almost 15 years. Yet I find time for other passions and interests.

Reading. Family time. Travel. And more.

How do I manage it?

One bite at a time!

Focus on one thing. Get it done. Move on to the next.

It’s simple – but not always easy!



As I walked back home after dropping my daughter off at school – an enjoyable thing I’ve done off and on for 9 years – I had an interesting internal mini-conversation.

“I’m forty-three. I’m healthy. Have a wonderful family. No financial worries. A decent career. A passion to pursue.”

I glanced up.

Leafy green boughs of twenty-year old trees arched gracefully across the now quiet avenue. A blue sky with white fluffy clouds peeped through the branches, bright and clear in the soft morning sunlight.

I felt a small thrill of excitement run through me, as the next words formed inside my mind:

“I am happy!”

It felt more intense at that moment.

Nothing had changed in my outside world.

I had just become more aware of it!


100 Years Later, Who Matters?

My Great Grandparents

No one.


This morning, I was reading a news story about Apple Inc’s succession plans. Co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs was credited with turning around the company from near bankruptcy in 1997 to one with the “highest valuation of any technology company” in just 15 years.

It got me wondering. Jobs has so much media coverage today. But will anyone care (or even remember) 100 years from now?

Now, that’s speculation. But easier to validate by looking backwards. To one hundred years ago.

Who was the tech CEO darling of 1911, do you know?

Or which business barons have lasted long enough in the public memory to be iconic after so long?

I Googled 1911, and found this on Wikipedia.

On April 8, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes discovered “Superconductivity”, the concept that powered development of MRI scanners and mass spectrometers and particle accelerators.

On December 29, Sun Yat-sen‘s revolutionaries overthrew the Qing dynasty to become the first President of the Republic of China (and he became the ‘Father of modern China’).

New Zealand-born British physicist Ernest Rutherford deduced the existence of a compact atomic nucleus from scattering experiments that year.

But even mighty Google has precious little about business leaders and entrepreneurs – though there were no doubt dozens who hogged the media limelight and were ‘today’s heroes’ even in those early years!

And that got me thinking –

Who matters… 100 years later?

Obviously not the media superstars. That flash vanishes fast. So who does?

Look at yourself in the mirror.

Go on. Do it now.


What do you see grinning back at you?

That’s the composite (and evolved) result of real people who lived one hundred years before.

Your grand-parents.

And their parents.

Your ancestors.

Their genes live on in YOU. You probably remember them as people. If not, you’ve heard things about them from your own parents or relatives.

They matter – because they live on in you.

In your memories.

In your genes.

Just as you will… in future generations to come.

So… EVERYONE matters – 100 years from now.

Yes, even you.

And me 🙂


Life is a song

They are the most enjoyable moments of my crowded day.

The pleasant, cool evening breeze caressing our faces, we stroll through the streets and bylanes of our neighborhood hand in hand – my daughter and I.

We share desultory gossip interspersed with profound wisdom. I’m amazed at how much I learn from her. I wish we’d recorded all of these discussions.

Today we explored an interesting theme.

Of life – as a song.

We all go through certain things in common.

Childhood. School. Puppy love. College. Romance. Marriage. Career. Kids. Aging and ailments. And, in the end, death.

The timing and sequence of these events varies, but most of us will experience all of them.

Together, they constitute the background music of our lives.

For some, the music becomes, in itself, the entirety of life. For others, there is the song.

Wealth, success and self-determinism (or the quest for them) set us on the path to doing unique, different or remarkable things. They become our voice, used to sing the lyrics of a melody that’s our life.

Sometimes, our words match the music. At other times, they drown it out, or are in discordant variance to it. And there are periods when they fade out, to let the background sounds dominate.

And for some of us, the song of our life is a nice, pleasant solo performance.

For others, it is a beautiful concert – full-blown, exciting, widely applauded and celebrated.

We get to decide to sing… and pick the song we want our lives to be.

Start singing!


Death – the Negotiator

CHD Child in ICU

I am intimately familiar with Death. As a heart surgeon, my professional work involves a delicate dance with this deadly partner. Heart surgery takes a patient literally within arm’s reach of dying – before snatching him back from the jaws of death.

Many medical specialists think of their work as a battle against a dreaded enemy. They see Death as a foe to be vanquished, beaten back, thwarted. This is motivating, even exciting.

But no one can beat death. It ultimately wins. Always. Do you know of anyone who has indefinitely beaten death? No, me neither.

So, I have a different perspective. I see Death as a negotiatorwith whom I make deals.

It’s a deal with two sides. I promise to do my very best, professionally – in exchange for getting an extension on the lease of Life for my little patients.

My imaginary conversation with Death goes something like this:

Death: “I want this little boy/girl now!”

Me: “Give me a chance. Let me try and raise the funds needed and perform an operation. If I do a good job, you agree to wait for 70 years. If not, then do what you must. Do we have a deal?”

In my minds’ eye, I see Death nodding in curt agreement – and my work begins in earnest.

Fund raising. Operating. Post-op care.

Recently I operated on a 6 year old boy. The operation started at 3 in the afternoon and ended at 7. Everything went well.

But by 10 p.m., he started bleeding. His blood pressure was plummeting, and I was back in the hospital. At 1 a.m., the crisis appeared to have passed.

I drove back home… only to be woken up at 3’o’clock and called back – to operate on him again!

We emerged from the operating room at 5:30 the next morning. Things were under control. Our little patient was fine.

And most of the time, I’m lucky.

Generous donors give money. An excellent team of experts helps me carry out even complex operations effectively. A committed caring assembly of vastly experienced health care professionals nurtures our tiny kids through a period of healing from major surgery.

And death waits.

Not vanquished. Not defeated. But soothed, persuaded, convinced… to wait.

For some years. Often long enough for a little child born with congenital heart defects to enjoy his or her life on Earth.

To laugh and play and sing and dance.

To study and work and travel.

To find a partner, have a family, care for loved ones.

To live.

That’s a good deal!

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