Average and confused

I’m an average guy – an average surgeon, a traditional husband, a regular parent, an ordinary friend, and a standard colleague, and, least of all, a mundane writer. It’s not that I suffer from low self-esteem or that I’m searching for sympathy or looking for people to say, “What rubbish! You’re such a fine doctor, a devoted husband, a doting father, a best friend, a dream colleague, and, not to mention, such a fabulous writer.” It’s just an honest opinion I have of myself when I do some introspection, an exercise I often indulge in when life bowls one of its googlies or bouncers. The realization I have had is that you don’t always have to try hitting the ball out of the park; just standing and protecting your wicket is progress enough.

But the problem is, not only am I average, I’m also thoroughly confused: baffled at work, puzzled at home, and bewildered in society. And this dangerous combination often tends to get the better of me. Let me explain.


Neurosurgery is an extremely demanding profession. The margin of error is minuscule. Around every 100th or 200th surgery, depending on his graph, a surgeon will have one disaster that will nullify the exhilaration of previous successes. Either you end up killing someone or, even worse, maiming them for life. This could happen due to an error during surgery or an uncontrollable, unrelated event after. Even the so-called ‘most successful’ surgeons don’t escape this inevitable atrocity.


Unfortunately, what is described as ‘complications of surgery’ in medical textbooks is now being published as ‘negligence’ by the media. The practice of medicine is becoming defensive and conservative, and some doctors dare no more to perform extremely challenging procedures in order to save lives – mostly their own. Every day, I ask myself if I am doing the right thing for my patients, and the answers I get confuse me. I don’t know if this revelation will have any impact on my practice, with some people thinking, “Ay ava doctor passe kaun jay?”


I also don’t know the best way raise my children. I thought just letting them be children was good enough, but apparently not. I don’t know how much screen time is enough; I just scare them by saying, “Your eyes will become loose and then we’ll have to do an operation and fix new ones!” The elder daughter looks at me nervously and closes the iPad, while the younger one peers above it and shouts, “I want pink eyes next time!” I don’t know how much sugar is enough and where to draw the line on processed food. I myself have no control over it, so how can I expect my kids to? But as parents, it’s imperative that we inculcate the right habits, even if we don’t lead by example. It flusters me.


Recently, my daughter started her academic year in Jr. KG. The evening we got the admission letter by courier, I get a WhatsApp message to join the Jr. KG school group, where crazy parents were discussing if they were putting their Jr. KG children for ballet, kleinetics, gymnastics, swimming, urban farming, calligraphy, scrabble, and even bridge. I almost had a stroke. Here I am, just making sure that they are alive at the end of the day, and out there is this entire other universe taking their kids to the next level. It amazes me.


I’m also an extremely social guy. I love hanging out with friends, learning about things I have no idea about, ideating about issues that inspire me, and guffawing about things at random. And yet, I ponder about how many of these people would really count on me when it matters the most. Of course, when it’s a health-related issue, even an oversized pimple on the buttock, I’m the first one to get informed, but when it’s more personal (though I don’t know how much more personal it can get compared to a pimple on your buttock) I wonder where I feature and vice versa. Have I been able to establish a group of people I can call my own? At 3 AM, perhaps? The answer to that bemuses me.


I recently read The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks, a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to lead a meaningful life. Most of us are focused on climbing the first mountain, the peak of which endorses the cultural or societal definition of success, the eminent position you hold, the loads of money you make, the swanky car you drive, and the fancy apartment you live in. But after some time, the view from that mountain can be unsatisfying. There’s another bigger mountain that is actually the mountain that needs to be summited. On this mountain, life moves from self-centred to other centred; you embrace a life of interdependence and not independence, and surrender to a life of commitment (commitment to a spouse or family, to a vocation, a philosophy or faith, and to a community) and this is what makes life less confusing and above average.


“A commitment is falling in love with something or someone and then building a structure of behaviour around it for those moments when the love falters.” Brooks goes on to discuss how to excel by moving from happiness to joy, to enable us to lead fulfilling lives. Explaining the difference between the two, he says, “Happiness tends to be individual, joy tends to be self-transcending. Happiness is something you pursue, joy is something that rises up unexpectedly and sweeps you up. Happiness comes from accomplishments, joy comes from offerings. Happiness fades: we get used to the things that used to make us happy. Joy doesn’t fade. To live with joy is to live with wonder, gratitude and hope.”


This New Year, let’s talk of joy and not happiness: joy at work, home, and in society. Let’s all climb the second mountain together, not only as individuals but as a community, and let’s be committed and transformed in doing so.


Dr. Mazda K. Turel is a minimally invasive brain and spine surgeon. He is a consultant at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central, and also an Honorary at Sir JJ Hospital. He can be reached on mazdaturel@gmail.com or +91 993.017.4567. To know more about him, visit www.mazdaturel.com.

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