MY TRYST WITH DESTINY – Lt. Col. Venkataraman

Hello everyone. I am Lt Col Venkataraman, an ex-Army Officer from the Corps of Engineers. The Indian Army Corps of Engineers is one of the oldest arms of the Indian Army. It was established in the year 1780 when the two regular pioneer companies of the Madras Sappers were raised. … The Corps also provides officers to the Military Survey and Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

After 25 years of active service in the Armed Forces, I retired in 2007 and after a few stints in the Industry, including that of a DGM (HR) in a Hospitality group, I found my calling in teaching and am currently a full time faculty at St Francis Institute of Management, Mumbai. I would like to relate an incident that changed my attitude to life, made me more stoic and helped me develop positivity and a never say die outlook. I took a decision in my seventeenth  year of service after I did my M.Tech when I realized that upward mobility in my career was limited due to my Service profile as I was into Engineering services having excelled in academics, hence it would be prudent to arm myself with an MBA and then look for opportunities at career enhancement outside the Services while relatively young.

It was the autumn of the year 2000. I was doing my MBA while on a sabbatical from the Army in Chennai. All was well, the course was great, I had made a lot of friends in the College, my wife was enjoying the stay in Civvy Street in the Southern capital state with relatives and my daughter too was having a great time in KV IIT Guindy. Then disaster struck without warning. I noticed a change in the tone of my hearing in the right ear with a telephone and also had a ringing noise constantly on the right side. So I went to get it checked with an ENT doctor in the Military Hospital. After a few quick tests he advised me to go in for an MRI of the brain saying it was not just a hearing problem. His prognosis was bang on with the MRI revealing a tumour in the C.P. angle inside the brain growing around the auditory nerve. My reaction was first of shock and disbelief. This can’t happen to me is what I said to myself. Then, collecting my wits I asked the doctor something silly as the full impact had not settled in yet. I asked “Doctor, can I finish my Semester exams and then get admitted” to which he replied “You can write you exams if you are alive until then”. What next, a reservation in Tatkal to Pune, to get admitted in the Command Hospital Pune, one of the biggest Army Hospitals in India and wait for the Neuro surgeon to give me a date for the surgery.

A thousand thoughts raged in my mind during the agonizing wait to the Operation Theatre. What if I don’t survive the surgery as it was a very difficult one with only 15% success rate, what if I became paralyzed after the surgery (this was worse than death) What about my wife and kids, my parents, my MBA, my career, etc, etc. There are four stages that a person undergoes in situations like this – shock and disbelief, anger, frustration and finally acceptance. All these emotions played in my mind and led me to a highly stressed state where I reached a state from which I had to pull back. It was here that my power of positivity and fighting spirit, slowly but surely overcame the despondency and helplessness that initially engulfed me. I told myself very clearly “I’m going to fight this for everyone’s sake. I’m not going to give up or give in. It’s not my style. I told myself a hundred times every day before the surgery “This too shall pass”. Many friends and relatives came to give me strength and reassurance. I told them, don’t worry about me, give my wife a comforting shoulder as she too, the pillar of my strength, though shaken and broken inside, did not show it outside, lest I lose heart.

I still remember the moments when I was being wheeled into the O.T. A sense of calm and acceptance in the LORD, knowing fully well that I may not awake once given the anesthesia. In fact, I joked to my wife, “Better keep some coffee ready for me when I wake up”. The next thing was the searing pain in the rear of my head when I woke up after eight hours. The doctor came in a while and said “Hey Venkat, you are a fighter, you withstood the surgery very well, your vital parameters were performing really well as if you wanted to live at any cost”. Wow, it was great to be alive! The pain slowly ebbed and after six days in the ICU and an overdose of antibiotics, I was back to the ward. The journey back home happened a week later, much quicker than expected and at home, I was again nursed like a baby by my wife and sister who took turns at bringing me back to health. However, it took me six months to get back in shape and it was again my “Never say die” attitude that enabled me to complete my final Project from home with only one year on the phone as I had lost hearing of the other ear.

This episode in life taught me many things but the chief among them was “ NEVER GIVE UP HOPE” also it has made me look at people with more compassion, learn to enjoy the simple things of life and cherish relationships as that is what keeps the MAGIC OF LIFE RUNNING DESPITE ALL THE PITFALLS and agonies. You have only one life, live it well, forget and forgive and most important, give up that arrogance of being someone important, you are just a speck in the universe. We plan to conquer the universe but in the end life conquers us. At the end of the day, BEING A NICE HUMAN BEING is a much better way at living a meaningful life

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