Monday, December 26, 2016

Charity for the soul, not for a headline........

"Hey Doc, can I ask a favor of you?" one of my patients asked me, as I finished examining him in my office, a few days ago.
"Sure," I replied, looking at him.
"I'm quite a successful businessman in the area, and I have started a good-sized local charity organisation," he said.
"That's wonderful," I said, and I meant what I said. I firmly believe that we need more of us who give back to the community.
"And I wanted to ask you to be on the Board of Directors of the organisation," he continued.
"Is your charity related to healthcare?" I asked.
"No...not really," he replied. "Its more of a social networking organisation."
"Then why do you need me on the Board?" I was confused.
"It just looks good to have a physician on the Committee. You don't have to do anything and you get your name on the letterhead. And we have a lot of communications with our sub-organisations all the time," he replied.
I paused for a moment. The day had just started and my office schedule was full. I really didn't have time for this.
"It's very kind of you to think of me. I only get involved in charity organisations if I really do something meaningful. But I'll give you names & numbers of a few people who love to see their names on any piece of stationary," I said.
"You sure, Doc? Your name will get out there." He looked a little surprised. 
"Thanks again, but I am okay with my name being where it is. Good luck with your venture," I smiled. 

Too many people use the word charity just to prop up their self-esteem and to falsely inflate their self-worth. And that is so unfortunate, because it devalues the real work done by true charitable organisations. As we grow in life, there comes a stage when our needs & wants balance out. That is when we get the urge to do something for others, to give back. Like Mohammed Ali once said, "Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth."

I often tell my friends, that if you want to do some charitable work, do it because the urge emerges from your soul. And do it because you really want to do it, and not because you need a headline or a photo-op. Do something significant that leaves a local footprint in your community, so that your next generation may visualize it and is inspired. 

"Blessed are those who give without remembering, and who take without forgetting."


Thursday, October 6, 2016

A bit "Too Fancy'" for comfort...!!

Recently, my wife and I got invited to an upscale restaurant in D.C. by some friends.
"What do you mean 'upscale'?" I asked my wife.
"I mean fancy, reeeeal fancy," she replied. "You have a seven course meal. You got to wear a jacket and a necktie, mister."
When my wife starts mistering me, its wise for my well-being to be quiet.

Anyway, we made it to the restaurant. My wife looked exquisite in her red dress and as for me, I definitely looked uncomfortable in my neck tie.
"I think I'll take my tie off just before we eat--" I started.
"They probably won't serve you then," my wife said. That was something to ponder. I did want to eat and the hunger pangs were starting.
"Why is the light so dim? We can barely see each other," I asked. My wife, being used to sophisticated places, just frowned at me.
After we were seated by a stern looking "Seating Manager", an equally somber looking "Dinner Associate" showed up at our table.
"What's a 'Dinner Associate'? Is he going to have dinner with us?" I asked my wife.
"No, honey. He's the waiter. Remember, this is a fancy place," she whispered back.
"Oh, then this guy must be getting us our drinks," I said, pointing to the Beverage Consultant, standing right next to the Dinner Associate.
The Beverage Consultant almost choked when I asked for a Vodka-Tonic instead of Chateau Pinot Noir, or Franco Cabernet Sauvignon.....!

"Which salad did you order?" my wife asked.
"The fruit & nut symphony salad" I said, looking forward to it. "And here it comes."
As soon as I looked at my plate, I tapped our Dinner Associate on the back.
"I think you got me the wrong salad. I ordered the fruit & nut symphony," I said.
He looked at my Vodka-Tonic and then at me, rather disdainfully.
"Sir, that is the symphony salad. And you have the wrong fork in your hand. The salad fork is the smaller one." He was kind enough not to be loud.
"What's the ruckus?" My wife asked, turning towards me.
"Oh nothing," I replied. "My salad is all of 2 leaves of lettuce, 5 peas, 3 peanuts and half of a strawberry. I think I'm going to need a lot more than seven courses--"
"Shh.... just smile at the people across the table."
"Now I know why they keep the light so dim," I muttered.
The rest of the evening was no better. I spent more time chasing food on my plate than eating it. The waiters...sorry 'Dinner Associates', sidled up silently and swished away plates, once even before I was done. When I uttered a mild protest, I was admonished that my knife and fork were at the 5 '0' clock position, indicating that I was finished with my food. After that I kept my cutlery in my hands at all times, even while drinking my Vodka!

The seven courses were spread over a painful 2 hours. When we finally got out of the restaurant, we all looked at each other and burst out laughing. And we laughed all the way to IHOP!

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

"Unethical Amnesia" -- is it real ?

"I feel my heart racing off and on," a patient said, a few weeks ago in my office.
"When do you feel that? Is it when you are exercising?" I asked.
"No...no. It's generally when I'm upset, Doc," she said. I observed that her eyes were moist.
"That is generally not a serious issue," I said. But I knew she wasn't done.
"It's one of my friends, Doctor. Every few years, she will repeat the same unpleasant things, and when I remind her of the past, her reply is that she does not remember."
"Well ---" I started.
"But she remembers every little favor she has done for me for the last 20 years!" she exclaimed.
I'm not a psychologist, but I had a fair idea of what was going on here. I pulled up a chair and sat down.
"Have you heard of "Unethical Amnesia" ? I asked.


A few days later, this came up again when I was sitting with some of my friends. In the last week, there was a research study out of Harvard and Kellogg School of Management, which concluded that "Unethical Amnesia" is indeed a condition which prevails in most of us. We all are social animals, and generally, we know when we do something that is morally or ethically not within the parameters of "Being a good human - being." We might hide it from the rest of the world, but it does not give us a good feeling inside. It becomes an uncomfortable memory within ourselves, and our neuronal circuitry tends to suppress these unpleasant memories. And recent studies indicate that people genuinely do tend to forget the details of their own transgressions. But this does make folks more prone to repeat these mistakes, leading to "repeat offenders."

On the other hand, when we do something to help someone, especially where nothing was expected in return, it gives us a great feeling. We genuinely feel good after a selfless act. And our neuronal circuits crystallize both the memory, and the feeling. Subsequently, it etches itself in our memory. Our personality, in the long run, becomes a sum of these memories and emotions.

Now take a moment, and think back on all the selfless deeds you have done in the last few years..... Too many, isn't it? 
Now try to think of the not-so-good things you might have done during the same time frame.... Not a single instance, right? Or is it 'Unethical Amnesia' ?!!

"The next best thing to the enjoyment of a good time, is the recollection of it." ~ James L. Basford

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life comes around in a full circle.....

Many, many moons ago, during my residency, I used to drive a small car. I would see cars whizzing by and always wondered if I would ever be able to afford a Camry. After finishing my residency, I realized I could and promptly bought one. Soon after that, as I was driving my Camry, my eyes wandered over to the Mercedes, the BMWs.... and I wondered again -- could I someday afford one? After a few years I could, and owned those cars at one time or another. Now the kids are grown and I wonder again-- should I just buy a small car? Its easier to park, more fuel efficient and that's really all I need.

Life does come around in a full circle. Over the course of our lives, our wants are many, but the needs always remain about the same. At about the time we are able to bring our wants to the level of our needs, we really start living and our life becomes purposeful and much more enjoyable.

When physicians have a busy, established practice, a lot of Corporate Honchos will come around to get the physicians involved in the business aspect of medicine. The intent is to get you to make more money, and in return they make some too.
Let me share a recent conversation I had with a gentleman  in the financial sector.

"So Doc, you have a really busy practice," he said.
"Yeah, work is busy. But only from 8 to 5 everyday. And I dont work weekends," I said.
"Just 8 to 5? What do you do after 5 PM and on weekends?" he asked.
"Well," I said. "I take life easy, come home early every day. As my weekends are free, I spend a lot of time with my kids, enjoy movies and eating out with my wife, and really delve into my hobbies."
"Doc..!" He was very animated now. "You really should work more, involve yourself in different organizations and committees, make connections with important people, get your name out there..."
"Then what?" I asked.
"Then you open more clinics, hire more physicians and expand your business," he could barely contain himself.
"And then?" I repeated myself
"You would be busy with meetings and conferences, hire even more people and then you should franchise out your clinic name and expand into neighboring counties," He was very enthusiastic.
"And after that?" I asked again.
"Then go public, have an IPO and make a lot of money," He was almost out of his chair.
"And what then?" I persisted.
"Then you got it made, Doc. You take life easy, come home from work whenever you want to, your weekends will be free, spend a lot of time with your kids, take long walks with your wife and cultivate your hobbies....."

"Know your needs, be careful with your wants and when you strike a healthy balance between the two, you'll really start living!" ~ ac

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Concerts, Connections and partying...!!

"Do you go to concerts?" a patient asked me in the office, who I knew, also is a promoter of Indian concerts in the Washington DC metro area.
"Yeah, I do. On occasion," I replied.
"Well, there's a concert coming up next weekend, and I have a couple of Super Elite tickets, if you are interested," he said.
"Oh... I am busy next weekend. And what is a 'Super Elite' ticket anyway?" I asked.
"Well, it's a long story," he replied, with rueful smile. "In the good old days, about a decade ago, we just had regular tickets and a couple of rows up front for VIPs."
"Then what happened?" I asked.
"Then the Indian population in our area exploded. Everyone here wants to reinforce and prove to their peers that they have 'arrived'!  The regular tickets were not an option anymore. So then we added the VVIP rows, in front of the VIP rows."
"And what came next?" I asked.
"More people from our part of the world came to our area, and most of them were successful. The incomes grew, and egos grew even bigger. Every group thought they were special, and everybody else was..... well... not that special. The VVIP tag did not satisfy the inflated sense of self-worth anymore, so the 'Elite" section came about."
"I think I know where this is going," I said with a smile.
"Let me finish now, Doc," he smiled back. "Since the last few years, some folks have a misguided notion that having 'connections' upgrades your social status. Nobody wants tickets through the Box office anymore. So I get calls from almost everybody and they want to know where the other people are sitting, before buying their own tickets. Some of them wanted to sit in front of the 'Elite' rows, and that's how the 'Super Elite' section was born."
"How many rows of regular tickets do you have on the floor?" I was laughing now.
"Just a couple in the back. And I really don't know what comes after 'Super Elite'," he said.
"Maybe 'Heavenly' ?" I said, in jest.
"That's not a bad idea, Doc.... The 'Heavenly' section... and it sounds expensive too!"

So don't be surprised, if there is a section for 'Heavenly' seats, on your next e-mail featuring a Bollywood superstar!

Every summer, Bollywood concerts flood the major Metro areas in the United States, including the DC area. Most of the concerts are fun, and people have a great time. But as my friend above mentioned, there are some story lines that run in parallel, which makes life interesting!  When you get to the event site, there is always somebody sitting in your seat. Seat numbers, apparently, have no relevance in most desi concerts. Eventually, you get your seat and exactly 90 seconds later, there is a collective urge to head out for a drink! And of course, who is sitting with whom, and who is sitting where, does come into play for some, where ego is bigger than the moment. And in between all this, a few minor skirmishes will break out, followed by giant 'panjabi' bear hugs to make the truce. After all is said and done, it's about 3 hours of confusion, being loud, drinking, arguing, showing off, eating... or as one would summarize - a typical "Panjabi Party".

"At every party, there are two kinds of people -- those who want to go home, and those who don't. The trouble is, they are usually married to each other!" ~ Ann Landers

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A warm blast from the past.....

"You always look great, but today you are looking even better. What's the secret?" I asked a middle aged man in my office, as I was finishing up his consult.
"You are right, Doc. There is a reason. This past weekend I went to my high school reunion. I feel rejuvenated. It was so good to meet up and connect with folks from such a long time ago," he replied.
"High - School reunion? When did you graduate high school?" I asked.
"I was afraid you were going to ask that," he replied. "A long time ago, Doc. I graduated in 1972. I met some of my batch mates after 35 years. But it didn't feel like that. It was just one quick "Hello", and that crossed the bridge from 1972 to 2016 in an instant."

And as I write this, my High School reunion is going on in Ludhiana, my home town. I graduated High school in 1977, and a lot of my batch mates are celebrating together. I was in Ludhiana a couple of months ago and was fortunate to meet a few of them at that time. And some after 39 years! And what the patient in my office had stated was so true. 

A simple 'Hello" had bridged the chasm of almost 4 decades between me and my school mates. After that, the flow of conversation was free and easy. The connection was instant. There was no awkwardness of the vast time span that was between us. Anecdotes from our high school sent us into fits of laughter. It was amazing how each one of us could remember, in meticulous detail, some incidents that are permanently etched in our gray matter. There was an instant camaraderie all around.

I am sure all of us feel that way, whenever we meet old friends. We all have memory banks that are locked up in the depths of our brain cells.. Its people from our past who have the keys to open up those banks. Then there is a flood of fond memories that envelop us in a warmth that cannot be described, it can only be felt.

A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and more important, one of the best things you can be. Friends will rekindle an inner spirit, that no one else can. If we had to sum up friendship in one word, it would be 'comfort'.

So hats off to my High School Class of 1977 from SHCS (77 de dasvi pass!), for their undying enthusiasm, sincerity and energy that keeps my 'Whatsapp' buzzing all the time!

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart." ~ Elisabeth Foley

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Diving out of my comfort zone....

A few days ago, we were at a wedding in New Jersey. As the Reception event, held at a fancy Golf Club, was winding down, a murmur for an "after- party" started. An enterprising friend of ours got busy on his i-phone and started looking for restaurants that would be open at 1 am.
"There's just one place open, a few miles from here," he said.
There was a chorus of assent all around.
"So what kind of restaurant is it?" somebody asked.
"It's a Dive Bar," our enterprising friend answered casually.
Most people around were just thrilled to hear the word "Bar". But I got a little nervous, because I knew what a Dive Bar is. I had never been to one, but I knew it would be a far cry from the Golf Club that we were sitting in.
My token dissent was firmly over ruled by all. And so 5 couples headed out in 3 vehicles. As we pulled further away from the manicured landscape of the Golf Club, and closer to our destination, the road became rough, and the sidewalks were unkempt.
"Here it is," my friend said, who was riding shotgun with me, pointing to a very unimpressive, shack like structure on the side of the road.
He barged straight on inside, and the rest of us, men in suits and ladies decked up in brilliant colored Indian outfits, followed hesitantly. The Dive Bar was approximately 50 square feet in size. There were about twenty five people already inside, spread around a bar that looked like something out of an an old western movie. The patrons gave us curious looks, as we ordered our drinks. We eyed them back nervously, taking in the numerous tattoos and sleeveless leather vests. The only comfortable person among us was our friend who had led the way. He seemed to be having a great time.
"The problem is not them, Arvin," he said to me, sensing my nervousness. "It's us and our preconceived perceptions. Relax and have a drink."

And he was so right. We are so used to being in a cocoon, that we rarely step out of our comfort zone. At most social events, the tone, tenor and more often than not, even the content of the conversation is repetitive and predictable. Everybody's role is well defined and the attention seeking egos are fed a healthy dose of  "You are soo special!" Generally, I am a part of that social scene. So it was refreshing to step out of that cocoon and  experience something different. And as we became comfortable in that Dive Bar, we relaxed and actually had a good time.

I am not advocating that everyone should head out to a Dive Bar. But I think it is good, once in a while,  to step out of a familiar, protective environment and experience a different face of life. Not everyone who does not look like you is bad, and not everyone who looks like you is good. Preconceived perceptions and ideas are dangerous in an open society.

"Everybody has their own story to tell. Your life is like a book that you don't ever get to put down. So make it interesting." ~ Author unknown

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

To Experience, or to possess...? That is the question

"How is everything else?" I asked the 64-year old patient in my office, after his physical exam.
"Never better, Doc. I am retired now," he replied.
"Retired? Planning to take it easy now?" I asked.
"Well, not really," he replied, with a big smile. "I sold my company for a couple of million."
"Oh good... so what's in the near future? A new car... a bigger house... travel?"
"Just the last one, Doc. Travel. I'm over my materialistic streak. Did that in my forties and early fifties. I plan to travel and visit places & people. I want to experience things, make pleasant memories for the rest of my years."
His last line stuck with me. Experience things and make pleasant memories. 

Should we spend our time and money on an experience, or get a material object? Of course, if you can afford both, nothing like it. But if we have to make a choice, which will give us more happiness? The answers can be varied, depending on personalities and individual priorities. Psychological research suggests that, in the long run, experiences make people happier than possessions.
That's in part, because the initial joy of acquiring a new object, such as a new car, fades over time as people become accustomed to seeing it every day. Experiences, on the other hand, continue to provide happiness through memories long after the event occurred.
Recent research at the San Francisco State University found that the reason for increased happiness in experiences was that people felt a greater sense of vitality or "being alive" during the experience, and in reflection. As nice as your new car is, it's not going to make you feel alive for more than a few weeks or months.
And the surprising part? As per this research, the moments in life that people remember most fondly were the impromptu gatherings of close friends or family, where the setting was informal, without any pre-planning and there was no particular occasion. And what do people reflect on most about these casual get-togethers? Its the conversation, the camaraderie, the feeling that you connected to people around you....and as a result trust, which is the backbone of any relationship, grows.
The same research revealed that the material possessions people cherished high up on the list were gifts with a personal touch. Such gifts often become keepsakes and have sentimental value that increases with time, instead of diminishing.

People are different and personalities vary. Some of us might not agree with findings of this research. I happen to agree with most of it. If some people are not on the same road of life that you chose, it doesn't mean they are lost. They've just chosen a different path.
I believe life is just not about what you own. Its about people who are a part of your life and your immediate world. We can't control the thought process and attitude of people around us, but we surely can control our own. Create beautiful moments everyday, so that you have wonderful memories to look back on.

"I can explain as much of life as I can to you, but you must remember that there is a part of life for which you are the explanation." ~ Robert Brault


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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Of Trump and his 'Trumpisms'......

Donald Trump walked up to the podium, with that familiar smug smile, for his Inaugural address to the American people, on the steps of the Capitol. It was a cold, wet January morning. And for some strange reason, I was there, among throngs of people. And they were all silent, there was no cheering. My hand went to my forehead, to wipe off the rain drops. And then I woke up....
In one long, groggy second, I realized it was a dream. Let me correct myself - a nightmare, not a dream.  My forehead was wet, not from the rain, but from the cold sweat at the possibility of a Trump Presidency.

These days Donald Trump dominates the news cycle. There is wall to wall coverage on TV of this larger than life figure. And to be honest, the mainstream media has a lot to do with his meteoric rise. Yesterday, CNN had an uninterrupted coverage of Trump's vehicle convoy, headed to a campaign event in Arizona, for 5 minutes! The news outlet was apparently fascinated even by the vehicle the 'Donald' was traveling in.

I'll be the first one to admit that I never imagined things would be where they are. I believed Donald Trump and his bombastic campaign would implode long before now. And there is more than just the extensive media coverage fueling his ascent in the polls. Although to be fair, his poll numbers are within the GOP. But still, his poll numbers and Primary wins have left most of the so called "Experts" & "Pundits" looking clueless and scratching their heads. 

We all have a darker side within ourselves. It can be varying degrees of our total personality. We all know it, and of course, we don't admit to that side existing within us. Our dark side is kept under wraps by our overwhelming good side. And here is another fact of life -- even if we wanted to, we can't afford to start spewing out what we really thought of some people and our immediate world, because we are civilized. And moreover, we want to keep our social fabric intact. We overlook shortcomings in ourselves and of some folks around us for a greater good. So among us, there might be many "mini- Trumps", itching to come out!  

Mr. Trump has let loose that darker side. He has let go of the inhibitions.  Apparently he does not care, because unlike most of us, he can afford not to care. Nobody is going to "Fire" him! He is worth billions and as a result, he does not have to worry about consequences of his often inflammatory remarks. He goes way beyond being "Politically Incorrect." I know he is 'business smart' and 'rich', as he reminds us so eloquently every time he opens his mouth. But these two qualities do not automatically qualify a person to be the President of the United States of America. The President is for 'all' citizens of our country, not just a faction that he panders to. But after all is said and done, everybody needs to give him due credit for the following he has created for himself. 

To his supporters -- here's some food for thought....

"Talent is God-given, be humble. Fame is man-given, be grateful. Conceit is self-given, be careful." ~ John Wooden

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Monday, January 25, 2016

So how are the 2016 resolutions doing ?!

A couple of weeks ago, I met a friend of mine at the gym.
"So you are still sticking to your resolution? Working out and all," he said.
I raised my hands, as my eyebrows arched. "Hey, it's just the 5th of January today...I'm going to stick to my resolutions this year."

Well, that was about 3 weeks ago. That's 21 long days. Now we are almost at the end of January. I had a long list this year. And a lot of the words on that list are hazy already. What are resolutions after all? A promise to make ourselves or some aspect of our lives better. And we do this every New Year's eve. We don't really have to, but it's a tradition now.

According to a research study, 30 percent of New Year resolutions are broken in the first week and 85 percent before the end of January. Ninety three percent of New Year resolutions involve losing weight.

So why not make easy resolutions for a year and then go on to the more tricky ones. Here are a few suggestions (for 2017) of the easy ones....!

*Want to look thin and fit? -- Find new, heavier (read-'plump') friends. Or fatten up current friends. As one of my friends once said, it's all relative...!

*Want to drink less alcohol? -- Hang out with people who drink more than you do.

*Don't want to think too much of the past? -- Just worry about the future.

*Want to save Mother Earth and conserve water? -- Shower once, twice or thrice.... a week, depending on how much you love Mother Earth.

*Want to be socially popular? -- Stop telling the same jokes over and over and over......

On a serious note, we all wish to improve ourselves and our lives, hence the resolutions. But to stick to a resolution, or any objective we want to accomplish, we have to be disciplined. Discipline to stay on course, to stick to your plan, and that eventually becomes the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

"Every worthwhile accomplishment has a price tag attached to it. The question is always whether you are willing to pay the price to attain it -- in hard work, sacrifice, patience, faith and endurance." ~ John C Maxwell
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