One thing that I’ve realized in my travels is that places don’t do a thing for me. There are few man-made
sights that blow me away (though natural beauty still stops me quite often). I don’t get excited about sight-seeing or touring. Visualizing it in my head is just as satisfying as seeing with my eyes, and its a helluva lot easier.
That being said, spending time in Madurai has been very special, and only promises to get better with each passing day. This place is ground-zero for everything Aravind, and visiting is the fulfillment of wish born three years ago.
When I first read about Dr. V back in the February 2001 issue of Fast Company, I almost fell over in my seat. Stunned doesn’t quite capture it. This man’s story was incredible, and what he stood for presented the answer to so many problems that the world faces. His life is a challenge to every person– if he could overcome so much to accomplish the impossible, what about the rest of us who have far fewer obstacles and much more reasonable dreams? More over, his life compels you to take a hard look at
your dreams and question whether they’re worthy of your precious time on earth.
As Dr. V would say, “Intelligence and ability are not enough. There must be the joy of doing something beautiful.”
At the time I read the article, I was a peon at the California Healthcare Foundation. Though my work wasn’t stimulating, I felt as though the universe had come through for me once again by placing me there. Given my all my pre-med education and subsequent rebellion against the American medical establishment, being at the foundation felt like a second chance to use that interest and background in a new way. Dr. V’s story was the spark that blazed the trail for the path I was about to tread. Developing the complimentary and alternative medicine project was inspired by Dr. V, and his attainment of the impossible was the impetus for the dive off the deep end (which now might be a recurrent quirk of my personality) that followed.
Few know that I’ve actually carried that Fast Company article with me, literally, for over three years. First, it was a continual inspiration and my form of hero worship. Second, it was a motivator par-exellence. Third, I could easily copy it and give it to anybody and everybody for whom I thought it would be relevant. Clearly, I thought it was highly relevant to a lot of different kinds of people, as I must have copied that thing several hundred times over the years.
Back then, I thought that I must do something for this man who has done so much for so many. Didn’t know what, though honestly, I think that even if my life were spent sweeping the floor of a place like Aravind, I would die with a smile on my face.
In many ways, Dr. V also brought me to Charityfocus, though it was something I had heard about years before Aravind, and similarly wish to explore more deeply. The story goes that one day I called Nipun Mehta, whom I had only met once before, and asked him to help me guide another newly-made friend in choosing a South Asian NGO to donate over a million dollars to. Ironically, Charityfocus operates on an almost zero-dollar budget, and doesn’t want or need money, so it might seem a tad surprising that Nipun dropped his plans that day to help me and some random rich stranger out. Of course, it’s not at all surprising if you know anything about Nipun, but that’s a subject for another day. The upshot of this story is that I could only think of one South Asian NGO that I wouldn’t think twice about giving $1.5M to– Aravind,
and I told this friend as much. Nipun is of course much more knowledgeable and way more well-connected than me, so the hope was that he had more suggestions. Later that day, when I mentioned Aravind again, Nipun told me that he knows Dr. V, and though I already gave Nipun and CF a lot of credit after my first encounter, knowing Dr. V impressed me more than anything else I knew about CF to that point. I knew that any organization that was linked to Aravind would be one of uncommon and extraordinary character, and would be a place where I could develop all those wonderful qualities I saw in Dr. V which I hope to possess
some day. I knew then that I had to make CF a bigger part of my life.
Anyways, here I am in Madurai. What’s interesting is that you’d think I would want to spend tons of time with Dr. V since he’s had such an incredible impact on my life, though we had not even been in the same room until he visited CF. The reality is that I actually feel like I wouldn’t want him to waste a single moment talking to the likes of me. Not only do I wish to serve his vision in some tangible way, but also
serve by not taking up any of his precious time– time that he was so willing to generously spend with me while I was in Pondicherry.
That first day in Pondy, before “Chief” was leaving the hospital, he stopped by and said to the hospital manager, “Find out his field. He may be able to help us.” I probably can’t “help”, but I know that I can serve. And I know that my service to Dr. V’s vision won’t stop with my departure from here.
(migrated from my original Livejournal post)