How did it go?…My Life!

Family at our 50th anniversary

     Being the beneficiary of human life, perhaps the supreme divine endowment, and having granted the utilization of time, space and resources of this planet, my narrative may be considered a note of gratitude, or a receipt of an acknowledgment, to ‘whom it may concern’. I wouldn’t dare to title my memorandum as ‘words of wisdom’, or it to be construed as a confession of sorts, nor am I willing to concede this as a farewell message. Let it be a comforting release of thoughts summarizing my experience of living. As we had to endure through scores of qualifying tests grading us for various eligibilities, it may be prudent that we subject our own performance in life to stringent scrutiny, conducted by the most demanding examiner, our own conscience. This is just that.
     I belong to the 1956 batch of hundred students from Trivandrum Medical College, the only one in the state at that time. More than a third among us have already left and many of the remaining ones linger with varying limitations. When some of us connect and savor our good old times, the present poses as caveats of reality. The long journey feels so very short. Revisiting ‘home’ nowadays reminds us of Rip Van Winkle’s confusion when he woke up. Medicine and healthcare in Kerala have no semblance of what they used to be. The mushrooming of colleges, the selection of students, the training, the multi-specialties, the varieties of hospital complexes from home-style setup to colossal establishments, the privatization of healthcare and its transition into lucrative, commercial industry, the stories of abuse and exploitation of the system are common conversational topics at our home that we left behind.
     And the ‘God’s own country’ has changed beyond our wildest imagination. The idyllic village atmosphere of my quaint hometown has succumbed to clusters of concrete, blaring noise and choking smoke. Mammoth skyscrapers and invasive shopping malls have replaced the green expanse of paddy fields, groves of coconut palms and luscious vegetable farms. Only the sky has remained the same. Last year I was there when the catastrophic flooding immersed half the state, serving a summons and a sentence – watch out! My visits often end up as nostalgic tours from the past to the present, from antiquity to modernity, from fond memories to harsh reality.
     There remains a hint of guilt within me of having left India in search of luxury after she invested in me almost free education, to look after her patients. When I get into that mode of a reverie, I introspect as to my performance as a son, a sibling, a student, a professional, a husband, a parent, a citizen and a social creature. Did I do justice in those roles, abiding the rules, honoring the ultimate dictums of a good human being? I am not sure, but for the realization, past remains strict without allowances or rectifications. Do we make periodic introspection into our performance, using our cultivated scruples? Such evaluations and consequent amendments would be desirable, even with functional limitations curtailing their corrections. A certain moral audition and rational adaptation are certainly ingrained into the potentials of the human mind, that we conveniently refuse to respect. During my waning years, I have cultivated a habit of occasionally checking the inventory of my own life, as to where and how it started, what a passage it has been and where it has finally arrived. A sort of synopsis of my story! Such an attempt even evolved into the publication of my memoirs, “My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor’s Tale of Migration”. More than an accomplishment, it was a relief offering a submission that I would appeal to others to consider. As much as we often boast to have been in total control of our triumphs in life, reaching the many milestones and earning the many accolades, we tend to conveniently disregard the several setbacks and disappointments that we had to endure. Why fret about the unpleasant, when it is convenient to focus on just the amiable?
     Our fading generation is overwhelmed by the developments in technology that impose adaptation, the evolution of culture mandates modification of mindset, relationships assume meaningless dimensions to our cultivated mores, and eventually, we are expelled from the mainstream membership, enforced to retreat into a cocoon of our kind and often banished into the closets of seclusion. There is no way out unless we are fortunate to be sucked out in a hurry.
     As I await the eventual take off with absolutely no apprehension about the end, I should admit that I have episodes of anxiety on how the scenario of egress would be formulated. How long it would take, how hard it would be and who all would be burdened if at all anyone would be willing and available to participate in the task! Most of us attempt to watch our intake, manage to exercise, engage in hobbies, partake in charitable endeavors or delve into philosophic contemplations. The eventuality is beyond our grasp, leaving the decision to an entity called destiny, whether one agrees or not.
     To summarize! It has been a long journey, a gradual progression from childhood to adulthood to old age, through education, profession, commitments, and undertakings; of aspirations and optimism, of attempts, accomplishments, conquests and failures, an amalgam of extremes of ecstasy to episodes of misery, and eventually, awaiting an inevitable conclusion. Having lived has certainly been a blessing.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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