It seems like only a few months ago, but in reality it has been 15 years since I first met with Dr. Guha professionally. I was a younger -I thought smarter- know-it-all who was having a tough time deciding what to do with my summer and whether or not to proceed with physical sciences or do what 90% of us South Asians were bred to do, medicine.
After a rough week of door-to-door canvassing of doctors, surgeons, clinics, even a few mystics, I came across a very unassuming Dr. Guha. I had no idea how well known he was, and he gave me no cause to think on it. Then, as now, he was humble. He opened his office and lab to me for no other reason than to give me a chance. Well that began 5 years of continuous work in his lab, surrounded by his loyal colleagues who spoke of him with only admiration. Never any gossip, no controversy, just describing a man who gives and does hard, hard work, in public service.
Why he gave me that break, I don’t know. Looking back I certainly would not have! But he is that kind of guy. He helps others -be they community member or stranger.
Since then I had largely fallen out of touch with him and his lab. But there were things I never forgot. I dreaded those awful 6am meetings he was insane enough to schedule, but I thought, if this old man can get up, speak with us for an hour, stay on his feet during surgery for 8 hours, then run a clinic, then crawl home and spend sometime with his family, who am I to complain of a ridiculous commute? We all grumbled, but the donuts he unknowingly paid for, helped 😀
Ab allowed me to fail. He must feel that there is something to be learned, and that it is worth paying for. Indeed, all those hours pouring through papers well beyond my years, performing experiments, honing some minor surgical skills (if you ever need a stitch-me-up, I’m your man), have stood me in great stead. I managed to go through grad school having already acquired many of the skills others were just starting to become acquainted with. I was dragged to conferences where I was the youngest presenter, forced to stand starkly in a crowd of scientists where clearly out-of-my-depth. But he did not strand me. Dr. Guha stood by silently, always ready to answer the questions I could not. This all translated into an amazingly confident young man presenting to even larger audiences and congresses just a few years later! Abhijit has taught me to be tough, somewhat diplomatic, and never give up.
Foremost, Dr. Guha taught me one thing: MEDICINE IS NOT FOR ME! A very valuable, but costly experiment he didn’t mind footing the bill for.
So why exactly am I here? Is it because I owe him? Is it because he is a friend who needs help? Maybe because he is needed by those patients whose lives he has yet still to touch? No. Really it is because he has shown me what it is to give of one self, without any expectation of personal return. I hope to become a little bit more like him to become a better person -as selfish as that is!
It doesn’t end after finding his match. I have had the good fortune to be working with some stellar folks who give their time and energy for no obvious reason. I have met Ash (a great leader) and Piali (who doesn’t even know Khoka Dada), reacquainted with Prateek (who taught me a lot back then working with Ab and continues to impress), talked to Tamu Townsend whose brother Emru just had a transplant and had a lot of selfless advice, as well as both Anuradhas who are taking the initiative. I welcome the opportunity to continue to work with them, and with YOU!
So if you haven’t already, REGISTER!!!! Instructions are here, everywhere. Get OTHERS to register. If you are in the GTA, come to our event this Sunday, otherwise go online. That’s all. Really, this is what is important at this point and all else should take a back seat, so unless our conversation will have the words stem cell in there somewhere, they can wait.