Encore –till you get it right!

Last week when I entered the foyer of Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, I thought the security guard  at the entrance gave me a familiar smile. I must be hallucinating I thought. Getting recognized at the hospital as a “regular” wasn’t something one would feel happy or proud about.

Anyways, I checked in at the hospital (or the Hinduja “hotel”?) like a regular just like I used to do at the Taj Mansingh in New Delhi. It’s true that in the past 15 years, I had been to the Hinduja umpteen times keeping different doctors busy and challenged.  Each time I survived. This time I was there for functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) to be performed by one of India’s greatest ENT surgeons and an internationally known personality.

My Professor friend called me before I left for the hospital. It was a Sunday, and he had some time to talk.

“Dr Modak, don’t take stress. Relax. You should be fine as you are in best of the hands. FESS is like a procedure and not a life-threatening surgery” Professor said this in an assuring tone to cheer me up.

I listened to him. He was right. I was more concerned about the work interruption as I was amidst pressure of assignments to be delivered by end of the year. In that sense, this surgery was bad timing as I was losing a good one work week.

I said “Professor, I will go through this “procedure” happily as it is badly needed and has to be done but, I wonder how many times such episodes will keep happening in my life. Each time, I “escape” the event and keep surviving. Well, many friends tell me that I am a fighter and habituated to take life with such events. According to some astrologer friends I am kind of blessed and explain my “kundali” (horoscope) showing favorable positioning of the planets.

Professor was quiet on the other side after listening to me and my questions or concerns.

“You are making an interesting point Dr Modak, and it’s hard for me to answer. Certainly, “someone” is scraping you though each episode and giving you another opportunity to live. Perhaps, this will keep happening, until you discover the real purpose of your living, something very few have understood.  Think about what I just said while you will be at the hospital and spend 48 hours post-surgery under medication. All the best Dr Modak ”  He put the phone down. For a while I thought I heard him say meditation and not medication. I must be hallucinating.

I remembered a story of the famous Italian saxophonist who used to practice alone in the theatre every week. The only person in the audience used to be an old man taking a seat in the last row. After a complex sequence the saxophonist would perform, the old man would cheer and loudly say “encore” (In music parlance encore is a demand, as by applause, for a repetition of a song, act, etc.,). The saxophonist would honour his call of encore and reperform that complex sequence bowing down respectfully.

One day, the old man said encore too many times and the saxophonist couldn’t satisfy his request as he had pressure of time. When he politely declined, explaining that he had to go, the old man got up and said loudly “Young man, I say encore not because you are good but because you are not just getting the sequence right. I have to keep asking you to repeat because you have not still understood the meaning of the sequence in true sense. I may have to keep asking you to repeat till you get it right”.  Of course the great saxophonist was shocked.

I thought for a while that I was the saxophonist and there was that “old man” in the audience who was giving me a hint to continue till I improve. And I was not getting the message right!  Probably, each time I survived in Hinduja; someone was giving me another chance to live to understand how life should be lived.

I did a self-assessment while lying on the hospital bed. (And honestly, you don’t need to be in the hospital bed for that kind of self-realization).

Well, there were few positives that I could do in my professional career, but much work I did, didn’t change a bit the status quo. Neither was I bothered about it nor I had a regret on the failure of the intended outcomes.

Many of us today in consulting fraternity do studies, write reports, make presentations etc, and etc.  knowing fully well that you are playing to the market, with narrow personal ambitions and respond to the Governance that is asking for such an unproductive and perfunctory service!  Current buzz of ESGs, ESDDs and ESIA’s are just examples. Of course there are exceptions when I make these general observations.

The metrics of your performance is often in company turnovers, higher salaries, bonuses, expensive perks or getting listed on page 3 or bagging an award that can be manipulated. Some do this for better (?) living, some for getting into the news/limelight and some do to be one up compared to others. There is so much rat race, stress and competition, especially today’s young world is facing. There is no time to understand purpose of our living. We are constantly challenged. Take example of COVID-19. But, generally, there is a huge disconnect between what you can do or what you should do and what is needed.

I realized that I was still surviving because I hadn’t still understood the real reason for my living – so it was  like the old man in the last row of the hall who kept repeating “encore” to the Saxophone player. Certainly, I was not playing my sequence right and so I had to re-live. I said to myself.

“So, Dr Modak, what’s your plan now?” Professor asked this question while picking me up from the Hinduja hospital. “Will you continue doing the same stuff you currently do?”

This time I was not sure. I shuddered to think about writing those drab consulting reports. “Don’t be overly self-critical Dr Modak”. Professor had this uncanny power of reading minds “You are not all that bad!” he patted on my back. I didn’t know whether to agree or disagree.

I remembered meeting my surgeon post the procedure. He was all masked up and I could only see his eyes. Those eyes expressed the compassion and an assurance to me. This mattered a lot.

I then realized the power of doing good  in the true sense. God will always say encore to such souls who work so hard for their patients even at the age of 75. Here,  encore will be  the appreciation that they deserve as they must continue what they currently do as they are perhaps on the right path.

We have many such personalities in the environmental field as well who are selfless, inspirational and can influence lives. Even if I make efforts to connect todays youth to these giants (who are often hidden as do not attend conferences), that should be good enough a “performance”.

I may then satisfy the old man sitting in the last row of my life’s auditorium who would then say encore – but now in appreciation. There is always a room for improvization. I will then bow down, continue performing and play the right sequence for my audience in rest of my life.

Image source:  Jazz Legend Charlie Parker


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  1. You are a fighter- for right causes and procedures and in that area ‘encore’ and let that be the morale for many others n work life and living life! Best Wishes

  2. There is no one perfect except Him. Perfection need not be our goal, dedication is enough for us. You are an inspiration!

  3. Sir
    I am one of the participants attended the workshop on updating manuals at APO,HQ,Tokoyo in Nov 2014.I have listen your wisdom on the environment and mitigation efforts on climate change.Your really an inspiration and your services are required for our nation at this point of time when climate change is the talk of the town/world…Wishing you get-well soon and active in your endeavors.Thank you sir.

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