A critic once told me- don’t write anything, if you don’t have anything genuine to tell.
This scares me. On occasion, I am called to write for, or speak to, young people. That is when this fear becomes acute. Because the rule is- be inspiring. Anyone can do anything, and be anything. That is the millennial manthra. Why not? Paulo Coelo has said that the universe will conspire to give you what you want, as long as you want it badly enough. Universe is Santa Claus.
I did not want to stop talking to, or writing for, the youth. Who would pass up an opportunity to be a genuine Guru, even for a day? Throwing gyan, like rice flakes before the doves? Oh- that smug feeling, that one gets, from believing, however incorrectly, that you are the heavenly gift that mankind badly needs. Who would want to waste the opportunity to corrupt- sorry, enrich, young minds?
But, I have a problem.
A lifetime of seeking truth, and trying to overcome one’s biases, has given me the ‘feeling’ that I get ‘reality’. Not really. No one can. Still, I fancy that I can do it better than many. It could be an illusion.
But clarity is a handicap.
Here- let me show you with a story. A few years ago, a young resident asked me some advice. It was regarding his future prospects. I gave him, what I believed to be, accurate information and a few suggestions. Suddenly, he said:
“Sir- you are a pessimist!”
I was taken aback. “But I am only being realistic!” I protested.
Then he said:
“Sir- to be a realist is to be a pessimist.”
Don’t you see? Dont you get it? This is my problem.
Having this grave terminal disease of realism constrains me. It prevents me from asking you to sweat for 20 hours a day for forty years, just so that you can achieve name, fame and happiness.
Because it is not that easy. Name and fame- yes. But happiness?
You see- I have written a book called “Health and Happiness without Bullshit”. For that, I researched a bit about Happiness. And I found that happiness is no easy thing.
When are you happy? When your rewards exceed expectations. When you are the biggest Cardiac surgeon in South India, you expect everyone to treat you like a big shot. You expect bigwigs, like ministers, to come to you. But because you are used to it, you are not particularly happy about it.
But if you are not looked up to like a hot shot, and if big shots don’t come to you, you are immediately unhappy. Look at the trap you have fallen into, by becoming a sought after Cardiac Surgeon.
There is another thing about Happiness- It depends on comparison. Comparing yourself with others.
If you live in an apartment building, where everyone goes about in decade old scooties, and you are the only one with a Maruthi Alto- ah! You are happy! – and prosperous. But what if you are suddenly forced to live in the same street, where the Ambanis and the Birlas reside- God!- with your miserable alto- you feel dead!
My point is – overcoming this vicious treadmill is not easy. But that is what I want to teach you.
Now you realize that I am the next big Guru.
And my grand solution is- Funambulism.
No- don’t worry. It is not a dirty word. It is not a paraphilia or anything. It just means ‘tight rope walking’. You know- people walking the rope with a big pole in their hands.
You have to think of life like this.
I was just like many of you, thinking about nothing else, but succeeding. And advancing in life. And right at the time when cell phones were the sizes of large bricks, and the mouse was a small scurrying rodent, and not an appendage connected to computers, I did my surgery residency. I was probably a troublesome resident, but only because of my limited ability. I could concentrate only on the clinical work here. I cheated on academics and thesis and passed only by the skin of my teeth- bal bal bach gaya.
I was tremendously ambitious, and joined for neurosurgery residency in Sree Chithra. Continued those 36 hour duties and stuff. And then I realized that people don’t live forever.
There was a point in time, where they generally, cease to exist. Even me.
I was, as a boy- a voracious reader, dreamer, learner and wanted to be a writer. I had many skills. I wanted to do many things in life.
One cannot do that in Neurosurgery. I switched to Plastic Surgery.
Make no mistake, I slogged for years to learn Microsurgery and other skills.
But the thing is, I wrote. Published a few books. Started a blog. Noticed that I had a wife and two daughters. Called my mother every other day. Became a part of Info Clinic , an organization of writer doctors that tried to create awareness among the general public about health and Medicine.
I had become, a funambulist.
But strangely, it has brought satisfaction. Even in my profession. Just because I was there, I became part of the team that did India’s first hand transplant.
See – let me be very clear. I am not going to buy a Farrari, or Mercedes S series. No.
I am not going to get a Nobel Prize in Medicine. Nor in Literature. But that doesn’t bother me.
Because I am not trying, you see! That is the whole point.
It may suddenly happen that I may sprout wings, and I don’t have to do my funambulist act anymore, and like nick in the movie Matrix, might suddenly be able to defy gravity and lodge bullets.
But I simply refuse to be disappointed, if I cant.
What I can do is walk the tightrope, the pole tilting this way and that. And I am reasonably calm about it.
Do I dare advice you? I don’t know. Did anybody talk to Einstein about balance? Did anybody ask Amitabh Bachan to go and look for a Clerical Job, because acting was such a difficult field to make a mark?
So, don’t listen to me. Dream colossally big. Aim for the stars. Small aim is a crime, etc, etc. Focus. Fly by flapping your arms. Jump from big buildings and soar through the air.
But if you suffer from realism, take the pole. Practice your profession. Be serious about it. But also do this and that. Look at other people. Wink at beautiful girls- and boys. But don’t lose your balance and fall. The rope stretches tight, right in front of you.
Shut up. And start walking. (Jimmy Mathew)