The Little Girl from Beira

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Beira. A city that is located in central Mozambique. We (Dr. Agarwal’s’ eye hospitals) have a state of the art eye hospital there with an operation theatre that can be used to perform high end eye surgeries. During my market visit of the city, my team and I went to many government offices and private institutions, spoke to the people in charge and communicated the importance of eye care and the need for awareness about it.

This is what I do for a living. I spread awareness about eye care and find innovative ways to communicate these messages.

During once such visit, I met a young mother at the TMP (telecom department of Mozambique) office. TPM sells services and equipment to other businesses that work in the booming telecom industry in Mozambique. After listening to a 20 minute presentation that we made to her communicating the various forms of eye problems that are prevalent in the region, she told us about her daughter who had trouble seeing.

Her daughter was 6 years old, and goes to private school nearby. During one of her classes, she had accidentally fallen on her table and the edge of the table had injured her eye. A small cut was dealt with to her cornea (the outermost layer of the eye) and the girl had lost sight in her left eye.

She told us that she had taken her daughter to the government hospital in Beira where ophthalmologists looked into the child’s eye and told her that the lens in the eye was damaged and will have to be replaced. In a surgery that is very similar to a cataract surgery, they had removed her natural lens (now damaged) and replaced it with an artificial Intra ocular lens (IOL). This surgery vastly improved the child’s vision but the vision as nothing compared to what it was before the accident.

We told to mother to bring the child to us at the hospital in the evening to help us look further into the issue, suspecting a corneal tear. The lady brought her little kid to us in the evening and as suspected the child had a corneal tear which had scarred part of her cornea inhibiting her from seeing clearly. This requires what is called a corneal transplant, a process by which a foreign cornea is substituted for the child’s natural one. Post the surgery, the child would be able to see clearly and get back to her fun loving life.

She was just 6 years old and she was already going through psychological setbacks due to her inability to see clearly. Her performance in school had deteriorated and she mingled less and less with her friends by isolating herself into confinement. Very soon, the child would be able to see and have a normal life thanks to the services that we as an organization where extending to this city and the regions surrounding it.

She was running around for some time, and then stuck to a seat next to her mother. She was shy and reserved. She did smile at me for a while when I decided to take her around for a tour of the facility that we had. She looked at the high end eye care equipment with awe, asking plenty of questions which we promptly answered. After 15 minutes of sight-seeing in the hospital we sat together and played angry birds while the counselling staff explained to her mother about the condition of the child’s eye and the means to have it rectified.

A month later, the girl was operated and she has had an excellent recovery. People with corneal tears in Mozambique had no access to treatment thus far that can let them see again. At heart, I felt happy that we were making a difference in the lives of thousands.

 

Below is a picture of the girl holding my business card and a silver rose that we gave her.

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My letter of purpose

Do you keep a pen and notebook next to your bed? Have you ever woken
up in the middle of the night to write something on that book? Have
you ever sat down looking at things and smiled at the beauty of how
they work? Have you been unhappy when you were not able to perform a
particular experiment or find the answer to a really pressing
question? Well, I have. And I hope to find out from you some day if
you too have felt this way too.

Ever since I was a kid, I loved to experiment and enjoyed going the
extra mile to learn more about whatever it was that was learning. I
vividly remember with great detail the day I told my math teacher,
Mrs. Rajani that I found a way to Trisect an angle, I was 12 that
time. (Trisecting and angle with regular equipment is a mathematical
impossibility) Everyone was against me, and I was teased and made fun
of quite a lot those days because of my effort. I could not do it. It
was not possible. I found that out myself, and I am happy that I did
so and not take the words of my teacher or friends for God’s own word.
It brings me to joy when I think about the effort I put into my dream
that year, and how I pushed myself so very hard to achieve that.
Sometimes, you just have to find out for yourself what the truth is. I
have and will always be a detective/scientist/entrepreneur in spirit.

After that incident, after having been made fun of to such an extent,
I never fit into the crowd. People never seemed to be the objects of
my interest. The new interests were Causes.

Most men tie themselves to an object, or a person. Very few are
exceptions to the rule. I’m not sure if people are just downright
exceptions, they may feel compelled to be a part of the group and live
a normal life for some time. But every moment that you stay away from
that group, and put your heart and soul and breathe into a cause worth
fighting for, a cause worth dying for, we get addicted. The worst sort
of addicted. Addiction to a concept. A cause. The kind of addiction
where you see things, like when in the Matrix. For opportunities to
create jobs, to make money, to seek glory, and to help a lot of
people. I am addicted like that. I’m sure any number of pages you give
me are going to be insufficient for me to write the tales from my
past. But there is this one story that I really want to leave with you
today.

It was March, 6th. 2012. I had to travel to Mumbai with my sister, so
that she could attend an interview at TISS. We reached Mumbai at 3 am,
and both of us knew no Hindi, did not have anyone there in Mumbai to
help us, and not a clue in the world as to how we were going to go
back home. We were there to get the interview through and we did just
that. At around 3.30 we took turns to safe guard the bags and had
alternatively taken baths at the railway restrooms. Then went out and
walked to the nearest taxi stand and had breakfast. After that, we
found a taxi and left for TISS. I told him clearly that I was going to
give him what the meter read, and I had taken a picture of what the
meter read while settling down. The problem with the thing was, it was
in the Marathi Script, not the Arabic script. I could not read Marathi
numbers, and I had snapped a picture on my phone so that I can learn
the script.

In about 15 minutes, he stopped opposite the magnificent TISS
building; I got down, and then came the not so surprising surprise. He
asked me for 400 rupees. I knew this was going to happen, I told him
that’s not possible. He gave me a sheet of paper that had something in
Marathi written on it, and he said it was 400 rupees and nothing less.
I asked him to wait, and went into the building and brought out the
security guard and asked him to ask the driver where we had boarded,
The driver told him that we had boarded at the station. I then took
out my phone and showed him the picture I took at the station and
asked him what it read; the driver was stunned at this instance. He
must have felt like the worst rate of cheat at that moment, he
immediately said “No charge” and began to leave with his head held
low.
I asked him to wait, sought the help of the watchman and found out
that we owed him 160 Rupees, and gave him exactly that, and told him
that we were thankful. He smiled, and left. Then I told him, “Mujhe
idhar laanay keyleye.. dhanyavaadh”, The words that I learned only the
previous week when I had to be in Delhi for my interview at the DSE.
The man smiled, and asked, “Madarasi?”, and I replied, “Nahi, Indian”.
He left with a smile that morning.

After that, I met a girl who wanted to start a school in the village
where her grandparents lived so that she could create a new life for
many many kids. I met a guy who wanted to sell mud pots on the
internet because he met with a potter in a village in rural
Maharashtra, and another girl who wanted to take up environmental
sciences and help save the environment. The day only kept getting
better, and my sister sure did have an awesome story to tell the
people who interviewed her. I’m still in touch with the people I met
there, some of them have become my dearest friends and most trusted
confidants. Well, that is how life is, we make differences in many
lives every day that we live, we just have to make sure there is a
hint of positivity in our actions.

Thank you for reading my letter,

Yours sincerely,

Karthikeyan Balakumar

A letter to my beloved sister

Dear Sis,
Writing is what keeps the ball rolling, you see, people do not really get to talk as much as we would in the management industry as a whole. There are a lot of things that are completely uncertain, and we need to correspond a lot to get things sorted out in the long run. This piece of work is actually a statement of purpose. Something that we write to let the reader know why I am doing what I am doing, or what I want to be doing. It’s something that helps you get into jobs and placed for contracts. People in the management industry do not read a lot. They often glance through and try to understand things by assuming most of it. There have been many a CEO who have gone to the podium and read a speech prepared to them by their juniors and found pages missing, that’s something that makes people laugh all the time.
About the memories part. I’m sorry sister. I should have know that she was an evil person, even that day, she texted one of her other boy friends in the morning asking for him to be there to wish her. She was, to say the least, the worst kind of woman. I was being childish, and immature, It was a mistake to have been associated with a girl like her and a family like that. My fondest memory that day was to be there for you, the feeling that made me run up the stairs against the security personnel, I just wanted to wish you luck. I’m sorry I was not much of a brother to you, I don’t know if I will ever be, but, with all my heart. I will always love you sis.
Good night,
Love,
Your idiot brother.

Successful leaders have a great sense of purpose, what’s yours?

God has been merciful on me, he has given me all the comforts a decent human being would need to lead a worthwhile existence, but then, There are millions in this world who can’t afford a square meal for themselves. There are thousands of kids in this country who can’t go to school, but have to work to feed themselves and their families. I watched all this as I grew up, and I believe that it is my responsibility to make the difference in the lives of these people. Maybe not now, but certainly, I will keep preparing until I am ready, and when the moment presents itself, I will be the change I wish to see in this world.

I believe that by leading people, being compassionate and by being the best I can possibly be, I can make the most difference. And making smiles in the faces of those less fortunate than I has always been my purpose. It always will be.

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yours truly,

Karthikeyan Balakumar

The messengers of happiness

The world is so full of joy. It’s just that we fail to see it. During the course of the last two weeks, I was deeply depressed and knowing that I could be betrayed by the one I thought of as something nothing short of pure divinity. Apparently, I was wrong.

Nelson Anna, The man who calls me “sir”.
I did not know his name until last night, you might not know his name too, he happens to be a security personnel at IIM Trichy. Ever since the day I saw him here, he has been sad, and he never smiled. I did not know why, but then, I knew that this man needed help. In him, I saw my father, would I have left my dad feel sad and do nothing about it? No.

Everyday for the past 2 months, whenever I saw him, I used to go to him, bump my fist into his, and ask him to smile. He used to be so happy to see me after I did that a couple of times, we had snacks together, we used to smile at each other when we cross glances, and we used to do this thing that was symbiotic. We were messengers of each others joy.

Yesterday, he spoke to me, and asked me why I was sad and not smiling anymore. And I told him what had happened,
and he just said, “Thank God this happened now, and not in the future”.
“Why”, I asked him.
“Karthik” he said, Looking into my eyes, “Some bad things happen to us for a reason, In the Bible, it says, Bad things happen because good things are to follow”
“really?” I questioned, “What makes you think I am a good man?, afterall, I was blamed for not being there for her when she needed me” I said, with sadness glooming in my heart once again.
“You know something Karthik, for the past 2 months I was sad, because My kid has kidney failure. I was in a lot of pain, it costed me 2 lakh to cure him, and I did not have the money. Everyday, you used to smile at me, and make me smile back, that’s what kept me going. I realised that there were good people in my life I could go to for help only after seeing you”
I was patiently listening, I did not know how to respond.
He then continued, “They came through for me Karthik, my child is now safe, and I am happy, he is taking rest at home, and I will be with him in the morning when he wakes up”
I smiled. I was happy I made a difference in his life.
he went on. ” There are two hundred students in this college, and not one cared about me, not the teachers, not the students, not the staff, but you did.You’re a good person, and If someone could betray your trust, then that someone was not worth it in the first place”
I smiled, I smiled, and I smiled some more.
“Life has to go on, there are people who need jobs, children who need education, and families that need food and money, I can’t be like this, I came here to study, and that’s what I will do”
“Be happy Karthik, A very beautiful and loving girl will find you some day”

Perhaps she will, Perhaps she won’t. That does not really matter to me.
What matters is, I made a man smile, and he came back through to make me smile.
It’s not someone else who is the messenger of our happiness, it’s us. We just forget it sometimes.

Compassion is everything in a man’s life. If you can make someone smile, do try. you will succeed.

Love,
Karthikeyan Balakumar

Lessons

 

I heard Hemanand shout out loud,” Karthik, the clocks are not working anymore”
I was just waking up, there was no power as usual, and the sweating had woken me up just a second before he ended up finding out how loud he could shout.
“What happened Hema?” I asked.
“like I said, the time pieces has stopped working. come have a look”
He dragged me into his room and made me look the lower right corner of his cluttered desktop. Where it used to say “7.30 am” ( The time there was never any power) it now said, ” 00.103 prs”.

“prs, whats that supposed to mean” I asked quizzed. Thinking profusely about why he was trying to make today look like April 1. I went back to my room in a jolt, and had a look at my own watch. And to my surprise, I found that the hours hand was repeatedly overtaking the seconds hand. my computer too had the prs scale, realing 01.106 prs now.

The only conclusion, time has passed. But what is happenening?

Just at that moment, when we were desperate for answers, we heard an almost heavenly voice speak.
“Your MO classes will start in 15 prs”
We had no idea what that mean, we rushed to finish our brushing and bathing and eating and running, and were were in class in what seemed to us like 5 in the past minutes.
Mr. Kannan was in his place. Like usual. With a warm smile and a lot of confidence. He was there, standing, and I looked at him and smiled, he smiled back. Soon, all of our confused classmate souls came in, and the class commenced.

Mr. Kannan started,
“Organisational change is a slow phenomenon, people will be people and they will not be able to adapt to things over night”
there was then a little more silence, and he continued,
“Just like you boys and girls today, when the time scale was shifted from the 24 hour clock cycle to a hypothetical prs cycle, you were clueless”

what went on in my mind after he said that is only for me to know. But then, all the confusion that was created was cleared, and we went back to our hostels in peace after then classes were over. Once again, snuggling into bed and going back to sleep.

The next day, i heard another voice wake me up.. No idea who..

“WHAT THE ****, where did all the buckets go?? and for God’s sake, How did the taps and pipes disappear??”

Another wonderfully educative class was just about to begin.. Voice from high heavens, speak up..