“What is patience but an equanimity which enables you to rise superior to the trials of life?”. It has been more than 70 years since Dr. Osler opened his famous address at the University of Pennsylvania with these lines. Every now and then we come across tales of endurance, which glorify and celebrate the human spirit. Sometimes, time itself, unknowingly revers one of these tales, which make it even more imperative to narrate them, so that the light reaches everyone. Paramahamsa Yogananda wrote “It doesn’t matter if the cave is dark for a day or for thousand years. When one lights a match stick, the whole cave lights up”.
The conversation started by a mere “hello”. The world judges by outward appearances. We were only four miles away from our destination. But the traffic on the highway meant that the conversation went a little further than that. He seemed to have a great knowledge of the highways of Houston and how they have evolved over the years, which was of little interest to us. Sometimes one feels privileged to witness a particular event, like to be a part of a great game or a life altering conversation. We were to witness one such.
“I did my PhD and Post Doctoral research in Geological Sciences”. For a moment, I was certain that the guy driving us home tonight is a retired Professor of some research University, who is very fond of meeting new people and driving. What are the odds of that? “I have had issues with my advisor. After my post doc, I held various temporary positions here and there. But nothing worked out. I would be thrown out eventually. Meanwhile, I learnt computer applications and joined an IT company. I got laid off after the 9/11 attack”. I can only imagine what led him to learn computer applications after the credentials he had.
“God gives us certain ideas and it is upon us to use them. I had few when I was doing my post doctoral research. I didn’t have enough fire then. I felt burnt out. I had a lot of opportunities and I missed them”. We all reach this point, the dark tunnel and end up giving up. Far often than not, we blame the circumstances around us for the failure. And here is a guy blaming himself, for everything he went through. Many of us have had issues with advisor and without a bit of hesitation, we have blamed “luck” for that. Somewhere in the 2000’s he joined the NSM department of a public University in Houston. ” All this while I was working upon the idea I had. It took me six years and thirteen journals to get my paper accepted”. It is a remarkable feat considering the fact that his last publication came in 1987.
“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke”
There is a reason why we meet the ones, who we meet in our lives. We must sow the seeds of “not giving up” deep within ourselves. The trees will bear fruit in time. We had reached our apartment by then. He is in his mid-sixties now, writing another paper and planning on to write a book. We must be the fire.” I don’t have enough time to regret the chances I couldn’t take. I have cancer”. He didn’t give up then. He is not giving up now. We wished him a long life and the strength to see him through to the end. Someday, if I see him again, I will ask about the book.