Everything and Anything is Possible

Ball hovering between magician's hands

It was monsoon time in India, and the torrential rains were steadily coming down. I was 16 years old, a school boy who didn’t like school.

One rainy day in July of 1973, I looked out the classroom window to see my dad’s light green Vespa sitting outside the school principal’s office. I panicked.

“Where have you been?” my classmate Sunil asked me. “Everyone has been looking for you, but you were nowhere to be found.”

The fact was, I hadn’t been in school at all. I’d spent the morning watching back-to-back movies at the cinema and had just returned. My plan was to catch the school bus home as I’d done in the past so many times, fooling my parents into thinking I had spent the day in school.

But this time, I wouldn’t get away with it. Unbeknownst to me, my principal, Mr. Sinha, had called my parents to school. My absence that day was one too many. I was summoned into the principal’s office and scolded by both Mr. Sinha and my father. Even worse, I was suspended from school for one full month.

That day I was very afraid to go home. I knew what was in store for me, and I was right. My father gave me a beating with a wooden cricket bat. He locked my mother out of the house, so she could not intervene and try to protect me.

My behavior deserved his punishment. I had gotten into bad company. I was smoking, drinking, and not attending school. I had been signing my mother’s signature on my report cards or I’d changed the grades that were shown to them. As a result, I failed 10th grade and was held back. (Now, when my own children play tricks on me, I catch them right way. I tell them, “Don’t forget your dad was your age once, so I know all the tricks.”)

The four weeks of suspension from school gave me lot of time for introspection. I had to face how I’d been lying and cheating, and the time alone with my thoughts had me hit rock bottom. I resolved from then on things would be different. A major shift took place in me, one that shook me at the level of my very soul.

I realized that I wanted to make something of myself, other than to become a school drop out. I decided to add biology to my subjects and become a doctor. When my mother came with me to school to request the subject change, Mr. Sinha was extremely rude to her. His tone was sarcastic and belittling. “What do you think, that one day your son will be doctor?” he scoffed.

Forty years later, I still remember that scene and the principal’s scolding of my mother. As she sat there and politely listened, his harsh words brought tears to her eyes. She sobbed all the way home. This unfair and humiliating treatment of my mother doubled my resolve to become a doctor and prove Mr. Sinha wrong, and also to wipe away my mother’s tears.

Fortunately, my biology teacher, Mrs. Datta, believed me to be sincere, and even without the principal’s permission, took me on as a student. I am so glad she took the risk.

During the year, 1974-1975, because of my new resolve, I excelled in my studies and became one of the top students. After high school, I sat for my medical school entrance exam. The competition to get into medical school in India is very tough—only one in 100,000 of those who file to take the exam are accepted.

I was accepted into three medical schools, and I did become a doctor. After finishing studies in India, I immigrated to the U.S. where I eventually became Chief of Anesthesia at the Bakersfield Heart Hospital in California.

I did go to back to India and visited my old school. Mr. Sinha was no longer there, but after I left, they talked about me for years, using me as an example to the other students, especially those not doing so well.

For them, as well as for me, the lesson is: Anything and everything is possible if you put your heart, soul, and sweat into it.

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