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Contest entry : The meaning of respect

This incident took place a couple of years ago.

A bunch of us post-graduate doctors had gone to attend a medical conference in Coimbatore. As it usually is during such conferences, various topics from diabetes to cancer were discussed in detail by senior professors and faculty members, highlighting their personal observations and newer treatment regimens. At the end of a lengthy afternoon session of lectures, all of us took a break for high tea wherein the speakers and the students could interact on a more personal level. As is the case usually, medical queries soon gave way to friendly banter. Senior professors spoke of their children and how they were studying or settled abroad in various continents of the globe. Of the senior staff, there was just one professor who sat quietly and watched with a serene smile as his compatriots spoke of their children and their successful careers. As the other staff got up to leave, one of the students asked this old man about his children and whether he was a doctor too.

The other senior doctors looked at him with what we students perceived at the time to be an embarrassed grin and we instantly regretted the personal nature of the question to this distinguished staff member. The smile on his own face though never dampened as he looked down at his cup of tea. He finally replied "My son is more into games than medicine. He plays cricket."
Residents who were there later confirmed the thought that crossed all their minds simultaneously : That the kid was some brash guy who was living off his dad's name and earnings, playing in local leagues and squandering the family wealth. We had all seen such children during our lives, we knew.
One of the residents persevered. "Does he play for Ranji league?", referring to the cricket tournament of the country based on state selections.
Again a sheepish grin. "Well, he used to a while back, but not so much these days."
Seeing the man trying to cover the embarrassment of his obviously spoilt brat, some of the doctors felt sad for the distinguished doctor. It was then that a resident picked up on the clues in front of him and asked this mild mannered doctor who had travelled all the way from Hyderabad to teach his junior colleagues "Sir. What is your son's name ?"
The man looked up at him and said in that familiar unassuming soft voice that he had passed on to his son "Venkata Sai."

Better known to you and me as VVS Laxman. This incident occurred less than a month after VVS Laxman, with a bad back and incapable of running, did the impossible and singlehandedly won the 2010 Mohali test against his 'favourite' opponents, the mighty Australians. That victory had been the one bright spot during those months for the people of a nation disillusioned after a series of scams had been unearthed. It was a moment of immense pride for the family and yet here he was - a senior professor coming all the way across the state just to impart his medical wisdom to fellow doctors who he had never met. There had neither been any air of being the father of a star nor any demands for any special privileges. He just wanted to teach young doctors like us and share his observations so that we could all heal our patients better.

Nowadays, whenever I read the word 'Indian culture' in a newspaper, I actually cringe inwardly because invariably it is being mouthed off by a bunch of fanatics or hypocrites who use the term as an excuse to either hide their own sins and scandals or to hurt and blackmail someone else into submission. And the attitude seeps down across generations naturally, with sons of politicians and superstars demanding VIP treatment to showcase their superiority. They demand you salute and genuflect before them and sadly, fame and fear does make many bow down. On the other hand, you have this soft spoken old gentleman, who rather than resting on his son's laurels, still came to give talks on health issues to junior residents and preferred not to go around showing off, even though his son was the toast of the nation's other religion - cricket.  It reflected too, in his son's behaviour, because even the Aussies who he had tormented for over a decade, admitted that they have never met a nicer, more soft spoken gentleman than V.V.S.Laxman.

That evening, as we returned back to our rooms, we may have learned a lot about atherosclerosis and newer diabetic drugs but we also learned a valuable lesson. We were so used to seeing actors and politicians being hyped by the media and getting their entourages to build up a crowd to make them look more famous and loved than they really are. But it takes more than a media crew and paid sidekicks to be able to earn the respect of every young doctor from over half a dozen states just by being yourself. That day, we learned the true meaning of the phrase : 'People can demand your fear. But they cannot demand your respect. That can only be earned.'

There may be a thousand articles, celebrating VVS Laxman and his silken batting skills. But this is not one of them. This was written for an unspoken hero in that family : a father who taught his son well. We have enough superstars in India, be it in politics, cricket or movies but there are very few good men whose character we would truly wish to emulate.
Lost in a medical conference, devoid of any hype or media, we were all lucky that day that we found one such man. 

I wish to get my story published in Chicken Soup for the Indian Entrepreneurs Soul in association with BlogAdda.com


  1. wow ! the whole build was just too good :)


  2. Nice post..brought back some memories when I was in school and Lakshman was the chief guest for our sports day...so humble and down-to-earth..like dad; like son

    1. wow.. lucky you :D They seriously were a class apart.. compare to the modern generation of superstars :D


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