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Those bellwether experiences

Every moment, every decision, everyone you meet, moulds and influences us

Sometimes I wonder how things would have been without it. Would I have turned the other way at a crossroad? Been too late for a meeting, a tryst with destiny? Would I have tread a different path and met other people? Would I have missed out on friends and opportunities, or had better ones? Would I have not become me and become someone else?

Intrigued? I’ll explain. I depend on my conscience to choose between right and wrong. But to choose between right and left I have to rely on a scar on the back of my left hand. Without it I am stumped. Makes me think, what would have happened if I hadn’t cut my hand some 35 years ago. Without this guiding force, this beacon in the dark, I would have been lost... but by never getting lost, by always knowing which way to go, did I miss out on something?

Sans the scar, would I have been a different person, led a different life or would I have learnt to use an inner compass like everyone else? Did that incident change the course of my journey, or have I reached my predestined place in this world? I often wonder.

Pivotal moment

This life-defining moment occurred on a hot summer’s afternoon during Botany practical classes. I was in Class 11 and we were dissecting plants. It is in this rather mundane setting that it happened, the pivotal moment that would help me decide which path to tread. As was usual, I went about my lab work chatting animatedly with a friend. I made a brisk hand gesture while looking into the microscope and my friend gasped. I looked up inquiringly. I had hit my hand against the blade she was holding and there was a huge blood-spattering gash. My tendons were visible, but surprisingly, there was no pain. I just remember feeling numb and nauseous.

A commotion ensued and my panicking teacher took me to the Civil Hospital. A junior doctor in Casualty casually stitched me up. Even then, I thought he had done a lousy job. Now that I am a qualified doctor myself, I can say it more emphatically. A clean cut with a surgical blade should have left an imperceptible blemish. The poorly aligned and repaired wound left ascar on the back of my left hand.

One among influences

Most people will dismiss my line of thought as too whimsical. They would have readily agreed if I claimed that the sloppy resident doctor inspired me to become a doctor, a better one! But that is not how it happened. I had already picked up subtle hints nudging me in that direction, so at most I can add him to the long list of other influences. People talk about life-changing moments and role models. I read somewhere that three persons and six life experiences make a person what he is. I have often tried to choose the ones which made me, me!

My parents and teachers, being in a position of influence, are the obvious choices, but it is hard to believe that brief, chance encounters with others did not change me in some way.

The paanwala who took such pride in his work, converting the humble spice-filled betal leaf into a culinary delight, mounting it onto a toothpick and decorating it with warq. The dhobi in Bagdogra who dried and neatly ironed my laundry. I had been a little hesitant to drop off my rain-drenched clothes in his shabby hut, but with a flight to catch I didn’t know what else to do. I earnestly hope I learnt something from their quest for excellence. The waiter in Switzerland who happily waited on us, even when we were consistently late for dinner because he agreed there was so much to see in his country. Our tour operator in Canada who ensured that we make the most of our five-day revisit and take back wonderful memories. I would like to believe I learnt something from such lessons in hospitality and national pride.

Different stages

Selecting six experiences out of the countless ones vying for my attention is equally difficult. Some are obvious, like getting into medical school. It taught me persistence and perseverance pay. Marriage and a relatively asocial existence in a suburb that gave me time to read and reflect. The arrival of my children, which was a lesson in patience and prayer. And now, my shrinking universe that has helped me spread wings in the virtual world.

Life is a great teacher. Every little moment, every decision, every seemingly insignificant person moulds and influences us. The effect may be small, but it still changes the way we think and function. We are, after all the sum total of our experiences. And so, an accident leading to a scar that helps decide direction counts.

dr_manjugupta@icloud.com

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 4:55:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Those-bellwether-experiences/article14583730.ece

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