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Friday, February 22, 2008

The Topic of Cancer

I felt an odd sense of emptiness when my parents broke the news. It was December 2001 and my father had been diagnosed with colon cancer. We lived in London at the time and I was all of 11 years old. Naturally, I was rather naive; my perception of western-medicine was that it could cure anything, anywhere, anytime. Perhaps my parents were counting on this, so my sister and I would remain calm in the face of grave events. At an age so tender, my father’s condition was just another illness that white-winged doctors could cure with the divine swoosh of a scalpel.

Only when I look back, do I realise the sheer naiveté of my judgement, as many “what if” questions start bouncing inside my head. What if the cancer had been widespread? What if the surgery had only a 50% chance of success? Alas, what if there wasn’t anything that could be done? What if even those angelic surgeons had no solutions but to pray? Though my perception was cloudy, I am surprised at my own demeanour. I did not panic, I did not cry, I did not fear. I simply prayed and knew that the best would happen. My lack of emotion at the time was something Shakespeare’s Hamlet would be proud of, yet now I see why I did not shout or scream with futile agony. Somehow, I had faith that the Universe would right itself. And it did. The surgery, which took place on my birthday (the best present I ever received!), went off without a hitch and since then, my father made a full recovery with the help of Chinese medicine and western wisdom. However, it wasn’t the end of his health trials.

While he cut back on his high-travel, stress-filled job, he still had many challenges to face. We moved from London to Hong Kong. Here, work continued to occupy a big chunk of his time and patience. Something had to give. In a rather bizarre series of events, my father swallowed a fish-bone that apparently tore a hole in his small intestine. He was rushed to another hospital, where another Gabriel performed another perfect surgery. After this episode though, my parents decided to make some fundamental changes, because it was now clear that my father’s corporate responsibilities and the accompanying life-style were taking a heavy toll on his health.

I’m not a firm believer in destiny, only in the balance of things. In the summer of 2004, this balance was corrected and we moved back to India after 9 years living in different parts of the world. I didn’t know what to expect; some balance at last? Indeed, it was balance that my parents found. My father gave up his full-time job and set up Roots and Wings, a small consultancy firm. Instead of making expensive advertisements for high-profile clients, my father now helps people overcome multi-faceted life problems like divorce and illness, as well as working part-time in the corporate arena.

My own life has also been dramatically altered since we moved back to India. My initial year felt as if I was a foreigner in my own country. However, this has changed significantly over the past three years as I have recognized India as home. While I feel comfortable in any country, I feel a calling to return to India after my higher education. It is a time of incredible opportunity and I know that India will require global citizens that have firm roots here. I feel that our country will need strong leaders that understand a multicultural environment, but are also uniquely Indian. My father’s own path back home has really made me realize the strength of one’s past in determining and cultivating one’s future.

I think he has grown as a person and a father, after his cancer experience. Moreover, I think my own perception and emotional response have also grown. Cancer was a catalyst of positive change for the whole family. I have learnt that if something looks impossible, it calls for another perspective, which may open up totally new possibilities. I have opened myself to change and I have learnt to go with the flow. To me, openness also means questioning my assumptions while making the necessary choices. Inevitably, this will bring about positive change.

My father’s cancer changed my outlook on life as a whole. I hope to grow from my transitions, the way he has.


Princess Stefania said...

A versatile writer if there ever was one.
You've done a good job. It's touching, and manages to avoid the slushiness most tearjerkers clumsily offer. A fine line to walk. Bravo.

Shiny Butter Knife said...

Hard to leave a comment that doesn't sound like an echo of the above. But seriously, bravo.

me said...

"It is a time of incredible opportunity and I know that India will require global citizens that have firm roots here."

that is the most intelligent thing i have heard any 17 (?) year old say ever. brava!


p.s- how come you have two blogs?

Serendipity said...

Im surprised. so much maturity in a boy so young.... Keep it up.

A calm mind and steadfast belief in god (among other things) is the key to overcoming most things life throws at you.

Your parents will be proud. Have they read this column/know about your blog by any chance?

Farcenal said...

Thank you everyone. This was actually an essay I sent off to American colleges so let's hope I get a similar sort of reaction.

And Serendipity,

My parents do know about this blog and they seem proud enough. may not make them so proud. But it makes me proud so meh.

Where did I say I believed in God? I believe in balance. Whether this is an old bearded man who throws bolts of lightning around, or a piece of cheese, I neither know nor care. I am envious of people who have faith in religion, because I simply lack the motivation.

Serendipity said...

you my dear, just got blogrolled :)

Scarlett said...

The maturity with which you write, I was surprised to learn you're only 18 yrs old!