EYE THINK, THEREFORE ‘EYE’ AM
Co-Blogging Series- Anand Chandrasekharan and Lazy Geek
Dr. Alan Grant: There are two kinds of boys the ones who want to be astronomers and the ones who want to be astronauts. The astronomer, the paleontologist, gets to study these amazing things from a place of complete safety.
Young Eric: But you never go into space.
Dr. Alan Grant: Its the difference between imagining and seeing.
Notwithstanding this thought-provoking conversation from Jurassic Park III, probably the only situation where seeing is more valuable than imagining is when you are blind.
The first post in this series focussed on biopics and the life of Ramanujam. This one carries that thread further, focussing on a life that has vision literally! Affectionately called Dr.V on more than one occasion, its the story of Dr.G Venkataswamy.
Arvind Eye Hospital, the institution he founded, is to many just another eye hospital (for instance, I used to see it everytime I have travelled to and from Coimbatore airport). But the way it has solved problems that would have stumped others is worth portraying. Quoting from
Inspiration on Atanu Deys blog:
This article breaks the life of Dr.V into a few wonderful chapters, and is filled with legendary stories. Try these on for size:
The Journey to Sight Begins with a Cyclone
As a young man, a brand-new obstetrician, he contracted rheumatoid arthritis and watched helplessly as his fingers slowly twisted, fused, and grew useless for delivering babies. So he started over, this time studying ophthalmology. He managed to design his own instruments to suit his hands, and these tools enabled him to do as many as 100 surgeries a day. He became the most admired cataract surgeon in India.
Twenty-five years later, he confronted another potentially crippling obstacle: retirement. In 1976, facing the prospect of social shelving at age 57, he opened a 12-bed eye hospital in his brother’s home in Madurai, India. Today, he runs five hospitals that perform more than 180,000 operations each year. Seventy percent of his patients are charity cases; the remaining 30% seek him out and pay for his services because the quality of his work is world-class. He is a doctor to the eyes and a leader to the soul.
“If Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas and McDonald’s can sell billions of burgers,” asks Dr. V., “why can’t Aravind sell millions of sight-restoring operations, and, eventually, the belief in human perfection? With sight, people could be freed from hunger, fear, and poverty. You could perfect the body, then perfect the mind and the soul, and raise people’s level of thinking and acting.”
an hour into the storm, the sky clears. The driver delivers us to Aravind Eye Hospital, on a wide, dusty street in Madurai. Vara, Dr. V.’s niece, is waiting to greet us. “How I envy you,” says Vara, 45, to me, “seeing the hospital for the first time. The thrill you’ll get.” She’s right, I’ll soon find. The cyclone is nothing compared to this.
In India, the big word in health care is ‘OM’, not ‘HMO’
It frustrates the folks at Aravind that Tuesdays are always slow. It means that they can’t do all that they could do.
Scissors and Thread and an Old-Master Painting in 10 Minutes Flat
“The surgery is an art,” Dr. Natchiar says. “You work in such a tiny space, and if you create a beautiful job, the painting is worth so much money. You put pictures in people’s eyes. You paint them stunning flowers, their children’s faces, or lines that are clear and sharp.”
But spiritual teachings, inspirational and useful as they may be, still are not enough. “I am not an idea man,” says Dr. V. “The task is not to aspire to some heaven but to make everyday life divine.” When he switched to ophthalmology, he had to train himself to hold a knife and to perform cataract surgery despite his physical pain.
Marketing That Reaches the Deepest Part of the Market: Your Soul
They put a pair of glasses on people for whom the purchase represents a day and a half’s pay. “People can’t believe it,” says Dr. V. “Often they can see clearly for the first time in their lives. They usually say, ‘Thank you,’ and go away — with the glasses on. The next day, they come back ready to make the purchase. This is how we sell 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses per day.”
The New Age Group Is Alive and Well, and Meeting in India
[Dr.] Usha, who holds the record for most surgeries in a day (155), admits to conspiring with the nurses to send her more than her allotment of patients, a practice that Aravind doctors routinely engage in. On returning from a village camp running a fever of 102, she checks herself into the hospital. Dr. V. happens to arrive in the morning. “What are you doing here?” he asks. “I’m sick,” she says. “My fever is 104,” he tells her. “How high is yours?” She can’t bring herself to say, so she climbs out of bed and goes back to work.
The Future of Perfection
Why do adventure-travel companies escort people to the heights of the world but not to its depths? Perhaps because it’s easy up at the top of a mountain in Tibet or Chile to think that you’re getting enlightenment. A visit to southern India, a true topological depth, takes spiritual endurance. It forces you to examine your comfortable notions about yourself and about leadership: Your soul is tested more in the depths than it is at the heights.
Padmashree Dr.Vs To-do list is a story of courage, quiet self-confidence and a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of fellow countrymen.