Bellwether Experiences

imageSometimes 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 between right and wrong. But for deciding 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 thirty-five 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.

And now you wonder too! So let me begin at the beginning. This life defining moment occurred on a hot summer afternoon during Botany practicals. I was in eleventh class 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 panicked 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, badly repaired wound left an ugly scar on the back of my left hand.

Most 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 all the time. I had 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 choice, but it is hard to believe that brief, chance encounters with others did not change me in someway. How can I dismiss the shopkeeper who stayed beyond closing time hoping to return the valuable package that I had carelessly left on his counter, or the couple with a bawling baby who waited outside Dilli Haat to return my mobile phone that I had dropped on my way in. I hope some of their concern and honesty rubbed on to me.

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 about to leave 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 that 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. The Italian who, knowing the language problem, abandoned his Gondola and guided us to our bus when we got lost. I would like to believe that I learnt something from these lessons in hospitality and national pride.

Selecting six experiences out of the countless vying for my attention is equally difficult. Some are obvious like getting into medical school which taught me that persistence and perseverance pays. 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.

I have had my share of tough, unpleasant lessons too. Flunking Pathology taught me that situations are not as insurmountable as they initially appear. The taxi ride to Gandhinagar airport in a rundown Sumo, with rattling doors and broken windows taught me to ask the make and model of the vehicle before hiring. These experiences are a part of my education.

Life is a great teacher and every little moment, every decision, every seemingly insignificant person moulds and influences us. The effect maybe 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.

(published in the Open Page of The Hindu on 23/8/2016)

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27 thoughts on “Bellwether Experiences

  1. Hansa Jamaal says:

    Read your article in open page of Hindu today and enjoyed it thoroughly .
    Especially the ” shrinking universe that has helped me spread wings in the virtual world” has a very special meaning to me too!
    Btw this is the first time I am writing an email to unknown person but the urge was great as I could see some of myself in your writing

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for writing in. Am curious to know about the reason of your ‘shrinking universe’.

  2. Kala Sundaram says:

    Dear Dr. Manju,

    The African proverb, “a child is a blank sheet of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark” comes to mind on reading your write-up. That’s true for each one of us I feel. We may not be blank sheets of paper now, however each person that crosses our path does leave a mark on us.

    Enjoyed reading it.

    Warm regards,


    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your input….never heard the African proverb before…at least not in English!! truly expresses the gist of life

  3. Abhishek says:

    Thank you for such a nice article. Warm regards

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for appreciating

  4. Lijo Koshy says:


    Your article was very nice and says the truth. Write more and be a role model to many.
    Write more for the new generation. May our God bless you.

    Lijo Thomas

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your wishes. I have a blog ( which I update frequently. Do visit. Looking forward to your feedback.

  5. Rohit Rajora says:

    Hello & Good morning,

    I am very much influenced by your article as I recently had a life changing experience of my own, though I had them before too. I think it is totally worthy of writing those experiences at least just for your own sake as it serves a constant reminder of those precious moments. I think I will write too. Thanks for the inspiration.


    1. Manju Gupta says:

      I am glad I could inspire you to write. I truly believe that my life is pretty ordinary and if I don’t write about it, no one else will? So I doodle and have the audacity to send my musings for publication. That the editor finds them print worthy continues to suprise me. I also write a blog It has a lot of mundane, very ordinary stuff. Read it sometime. It could inspire you further.

  6. Hemant Kumar says:

    Respected Doctor,
    It was a great feast of words to look back into my life. After reading your article I realized the same. Each & every incident in our past shapes our present and future. Everybody you meet in your life has something to add.
    Thank you. Keep on writing.
    Hemant Kumar
    New Delhi

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for connecting and agreeing to my point of view. With appreciative readers like you around I plan to continue writing.

  7. Mikhael says:

    Hi doctor,
    My name is Mikhael. I’m a fresh MBBS graduate myself. I read your article just now. Some of your thoughts or your philosophy of life seemed to share some of mine. I also wish to write someday after my race is over. I don’t know whether it would happen. I had a feeling if I could reach to you; then I thought I would write this. Congrats senior. It was nice reading.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Am glad to know that our views match. Why wait till the race is over? Mine isn’t. Am still trudging along

  8. Anbazhagan says:

    Your line of thought actually is serious topic of study titled, initially as “Relational Responsibility”.
    Those who affect us are said to be ‘internalised’ by us. They are called ‘internal others’!
    The topic probably was initiated by Sheila McNamee and Kenneth J Gergen and Associates.
    It is interesting and aligns with your thought.
    The book by them is “Relational Responsibility- Resources for Sustainable Dialogue” , Sage, 1999.

    For the pleasure of your reading, reflection and taking the subject further around!
    Reading your article, made me pick up the book again.

    With thanks and regards,
    Anbazhagan SV

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      The discerning Hindu reader continues to impress. Thank you very much for your valuable input. I plan to read the book soon. Mine was a casual musing but your feedback gave it so much more depth. Loved the term internal others

  9. Sridhar says:

    Dear your article in newspaper is nice keep it up i enjoyed it alot

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for liking it and taking the trouble to write in

  10. Indu Sharma says:

    Beautiful write up like always Didn’t know the story behind your scar ……but it gives you direction that I knew!!

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Indu. Only friends and family know how rudderless I am till I check my scar

  11. Sachin says:

    Hello, Dr Manju.

    I just went through your anecdotal inspirational narration of your life events in today’s editon of the Hindu. After going through the attached write-up, I just could not control myself from writing to you. Many thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule (being a doctor, it must be even tougher) and sending the same to the above mentioned newspaper for publishing it. I learnt a lot, to say the least.

    Through your writing, you are making our society better.

    Is there anyway by which I can keep a track of your writing (which I don’t wish to miss) in time to come? Please help me.

    Take good care of yourself!


    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for writing in Sachin. I have a blog which contains all my musings published or otherwise. I believe that You tend to find time for Hobbies, irrespective of your profession. Thanks for attaching a picture of the newspaper. It made me smile. The Hindu is not on the news stands where I live. Had seen the article in the epaper. The real thing certainly looks grander!

  12. Razy Hassan says:

    Happened to read your article in the hindu. Sure it will be one of articles that i will never forget in rest of my life. Thank you madam

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for the honour Razy

  13. Kumaresan says:

    Dear Dr Manju Gupta,

    This is with reference to your article “Those Bellwether experiences” that featured in “The Hindu” dated 23rd Aug 2016

    With due regards acknowledging this nice article and sharing few things with your permission. A nice article summarizing your beautiful experience in the world and so true your statement “Every moment, every decision, everyone you meet, moulds and influences us” and it is always is for our higher growth

    What caught my attention was your statement “And now, my shrinking universe that has helped me spread wings in the virtual world”. The universe is always expanding. We are part of the universe so every one is expanding :) So the question is how do we experience this expansion when we feel that our universe is shrinking ?

    Once up on a time, i too did feel that my universe is shrinking and that there is not much to do. But after going through the “Happiness Program” by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar the founder of Art of Living Foundation, i learnt how to expand the shrinking universe as follows
    When we do breathing technique, pranayama and meditation, it helps us to first let go of the stress/ past impressions however good/ bad they are. It helps one to be in the present moment fresh like a flower and we get in touch with the source of life within us and ready for expansion of our universe
    When we touch the source of our life in our heart that is the time one realizes that the ultimate happiness/ bliss is within every one of us
    When we realize this happiness/ bliss the nature of our life force energy/ spirit in our heart then naturally one feels connected to that principle in each and every one of us and our universe starts expanding
    Then reading about this knowledge on life force energy/ spirit/ self knowledge further enhances our ability to comprehend that the whole world is one family and this universe is our own
    When we feel this oneness which is the purpose of life then one is happy/ blissful 24/ 7
    Then we can share this happiness/ bliss with every one and share our joy/ happiness with the whole world. This is the ultimate expansion possible for a human being on our planet
    I would be happy to help for any assistance for going through this “Happiness Program”. To understand this ultimate knowledge of spirit/ life force energy/ self knowledge, you could subscirbe to –

    Wishing you the very best to realize the universal consciousness of one world one family. This would be the ultimate expansion of your universe leading to happiness of all the people around you and whosoever touched your life

    Thanks a lot for your inspiring statement “Every moment, every decision, everyone you meet, moulds and influences us”

    God Bless


  14. MV Narsimha Rao says:

    Respected Madam,

    As you said life is a great teacher, we are after all the sum total of our experiences.

    Fine article.

    Best wishes
    M.V.Narasimha Rao

  15. Manju Kamble says:

    Respected Manju gupta,

    In The Hindu 23rd august issue you have written a interesting article on Those bellwether experinces..I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I am an animator who regularly upload videos on youtube . .This video is on road safety . ,If you like it please share to your friends/FACEBOOK to make awareness on traffic rules.


    manju kamble

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