Circular Logic

By and large, I’ve had an interesting, eventful, and rewarding life.

And am fairly content with it.

Yet, from time to time, when I get together with someone who knew me from a young age, they’ll remark that I could have achieved so much more – “if only I had wanted to“.

More money. More fame. More professional ‘success’.

After such conversations – for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a week – I’ll wonder if I really have set the bar too low, not been ambitious enough.

And then, inevitably, this argument comes to mind.

What if I had strived harder for 10x more – and got it? Would I then be content?

Or would I feel it was possible to have tried even harder – for 100x more?

And beyond that – for 1,000 times higher?

What THEN? Carry on, extending this limit… endlessly?

Each time, this argument is convincing.

But not always comforting.

Sigh!

CONTINUE READING

Contentment

Muffin on the Window

Contentment. Satisfaction. Bliss.

It’s Muffin‘s trademark position. Sitting on the windowsill, gazing out into our backyard.

Since her operation, we’ve not dared let her upon that precarious perch. Today, as a stop-gap solution, I pulled up a chair and lifted her onto the cushion. Watchful of any misstep on her part, I sipped my coffee.

The little one settled down – and then remained motionless as a statue. After a while, I set down my empty mug and glanced into her face.

And saw contentment, satisfaction, bliss.

Curious, I lowered my head to her side, trying to see the world as she did.

For a few minutes, I too lost myself in the tranquil view out of our window.

Enjoyed the silence. The lovely, soft green of leaves, dazzling brightly as they caught the sun. The occasional waft of a cool early morning breeze.

And the close companionship of my dear friend, Muffin.

It was magical.

I wished the spell wouldn’t ever break.

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Recalibrate

CHD Support Groups

“Sister, the potassium level is 6.1 in this blood sample!”

It’s a medical emergency. But the senior ICU nurse, bent over paperwork at her desk, didn’t even raise her head.

“Recalibrate the machine and repeat the test.”

The process takes 3 minutes. A chastened junior nurse returned with the second blood report.

“It’s only 3.5 now, Sister.”

Her senior just smiled.

It was a familiar problem. After a certain time, the analyzer used to measure blood levels of vital chemicals had to be reset. Several minor tweaks and drifts happen. Collectively, they can skew a measurement – sometimes badly. And that could even create a pseudo-emergency!

It happens in other areas, too. Even with people in our lives.

Lately, I’ve noticed this effect in a few of my relationships. Some of them are 20, even 30+ years old.

At first, I was surprised and upset. But then, after thinking it over deeply, I realized something.

We tend to do two things to people:

  • affix a label (e.g. “friend”)
  • assign a set of attributes to it

But over time, things change.

Suddenly, one fine day, it appears as if the attributes don’t quite match the label… and you’re shocked at how everything’s now ‘different’.

Like a blood gas analyzer, our relationships also need to be periodically recalibrated.

Both the label, and its attributes.

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In a hurry

Nature does not hurry

Alway in a hurry.

That sums up today’s typical youngster. In a hurry to enter a study program or course. Then, to acquire a degree. Afterwards, to find a lucrative job or build a busy practice. Get famous. And rich.

All in a hurry.

Yet ‘time’ is a strange concept. It moves at its own pace. You can’t speed it up.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”Lao Tzu

Looking back at how my career path unfolded might be instructive. I got into graduate training programs successively, without ‘wasting’ any years by not getting selected. Yet by the time I got my Masters degree in cardiovascular surgery (which, back then, was a 2-year program), I was 29 years old!

How did that happen? You enter medical school at age 17. It’s 5 and half years. Graduate training in general surgery takes 3 more years. And it requires another 2 years to specialize. That should add up to 27 and a half.

So… where did the extra 18 months go?

Delays. Unavoidable ones. Someone filed a case against the selection process for our All-India PG entrance test. It took 6 months to clear. The super-specialty entrance exam got postponed by 3 months.

And sometimes, timing was off. Despite our batch being rushed to complete internship before the deadline date, there were still mandatory gaps of a few months before I could take the next steps.

I was down with viral hepatitis (thankfully A, not B) for 6 weeks.

At the time, being in a hurry, all of this was frustrating. Everything seemed to move agonizingly slowly.

But in the end, those ‘compulsory’ speed-breaks were really immaterial. They didn’t set me, or my career, back in any major way.

During the wait for the court case to clear, I worked in a cardiac surgery unit – and gained priceless exposure to almost every kind of major heart surgery… even before I entered my general surgery program.

In the period between graduate and specialist training, I worked in a remote Primary Health Centre – where I learned the basics of small hospital administration… that served later in helping manage a surgical unit.

What’s my point?

Nothing is ‘wasted’.

There’s no ‘delay’ – except inside YOUR head. Every bit of time spent along the path to becoming whatever you want to be is actually useful, in one way or another.

So don’t be in a hurry all the time.

Instead, focus on HOW BEST you can use any ‘forced delays’ imposed on your career path. Whether you consciously take advantage of them or not, they’ll still end up making you a different kind of person.

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Book Review: The Lost Decade by Puja Mehra

The Lost Decade 2008 - 2018 Puja Mehra

I enjoy reading books that describe the arc of events and developments over a time frame. It may span centuries, like Peter Frankopan’s “The Silk Roads” (see my review here). Or shorter periods that are more intense and eventful… like Puja Mehra’s “The Lost Decade 2008-2018How India’s Growth Story Devolved Into Growth Without A Story“.

In a politically charged climate, and especially around election time, books like ‘The Lost Decade‘ run the risk of being called biased or partisan – and then dismissed for that reason alone.

But doing that would be a shame. This is a brilliant, balanced account of the pros and cons of fiscal policy decisions made by successive Indian governments over the last ten years which have brought us to where we are today.

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