I'm Dr.Mani, a pediatric heart surgeon and author. I raise funds to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. On this blog, I'll share my thoughts, travel photos, fitness tips and book reviews.
“What a contrast between us! You live a warm and glowing life, surrounded by loved ones whom you care for and who care for you; you are anchored in contentment. I drift about without rudder or compass, a wreck on the sea of life; I have… no friends for the wholesome development of my affects, or enemies for my malice.”– Alfred Bernhard Nobel, in a letter to his sister-in-law
I was recovering from an attack of viral hepatitis. Home bound. Room bound. Going slowly crazy.
All day – and most of the night – I played TV video games until my thumb got swollen from punching the ‘Fire’ button! One evening, the phone rang. It was a friend calling with some exciting news.
“Did you know that X and Y got married? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I’ve found my ‘Book of the Year‘
It may seem premature to declare it as early as July, especially given the stellar line up of titles on my ‘to read‘ list. But I think this won’t change by December (or even beyond) – because of just how brilliant Alex Michaelides‘ debut novel “The Silent Patient” is.
I picked it up to read over breakfast. All through a busy day, I was constantly tugged towards it, grabbing every chance to read a few chapters. With all my work done by 10 p.m., I sat in a quiet bedroom. The rest of my family was deep asleep.
I, however, was trapped inside a world created by a gifted writer, unable to return to my own until everything was resolved, explained, settled. That happened around one ‘o’ clock in the morning… and only then could I go to bed!
Look, I’m a prolific reader, and have devoured thousands of books. And so for me, to be a contender for ‘best read of the year‘, a book has to check several boxes. This one does.
I paused in the street for a few seconds on my return from another college drop-off.
The lady who sweeps and cleans the streets was working in front of our drive. Just as she does every day, for the last 3 years.
She glanced up. Noticed my car. Hurried up a little.
I waited until she was finished. Opened the gate. Drove in and parked.
We didn’t acknowledge each other. Not even a smile or nod.
A nebulous socio-economic divide insulates ‘classes’ of people almost completely from each other, more so in my country than others. Apart from transactional interactions, ne’er the ‘twain shall meet.
Yet natural disaster has an equalizing effect.
It rips asunder this false shell to expose – and connect – the human heart that beats under us all.
Unites us in an all-encompassing embrace.
When a terrible storm flooded our city for a fortnight some years ago, this same lady and I had a lengthy conversation about the damage in the area where she lived.
She shared horror stories of shanty towns washed away in the deluge. Of families who lost everything. And of being rescued by lifeboats.
For a few precious moments, we connected – as fellow sufferers of an act of Nature, as co-passengers on the journey of life, as human beings.
And I wonder… why is this connection so rare?
I ask myself:
P.S.: On December 8th, 2015, I had posted this after chatting with her:
“The lady who sweeps the roads had her colony submerged in Vadapalani. Relief workers provide food that is meager in quantity. Only yesterday, she got a tasty plate of biryani. All her clothes are wet and unwearable. No place to cook, even if she had rice and pulses. And the mosquito menace is intolerable. Just a conversation, lasting 5 minutes, threw up these priorities – clothing, food, mosquito repellant, cleaning up houses. Go out and TALK to people. See what they need. Then do what you can to help. #ChennaiSpirit”
A few of us grandkids walked home from Marina beach one evening with Grandpa.
We stopped by a fruit-seller’s cart. He sold bananas.
“How much are they?” Grandpa asked.
They haggled. The vendor pointed at the other end of his cart.
“For your price, you’ll get those.”
Grandpa glared for a while and said, “But those are so tiny.”
The wrinkled, elderly man in a torn, sleeveless vest held up his right hand, fingers splayed apart.
“Are all these fingers the same size, sir?” he asked.
It was a philosophy that cut through to my eight year-old mind… and has stayed with me since. I’ve used it several times over the years, in dozens of different contexts.
It always made perfect sense!