I can still hear the battering noise of the monsoon rain. Often I count all my bones to ensure they survived the rocking jeep ride on a rickety uphill road. I was wearing a waterproof dress, but I was drenched with sweat inside. Dark clouds, tropical jungle, heavy rain and a thick fog had reduced the visibility to only a few metres. We couldn’t stop for a breath for more than a few seconds as leeches swarmed from all over like hungry hyenas. Yet we had to take cautious steps as the plunging depths next to the ridges we hiked were hidden by the dense fog. Every trail was uncertain as paths had become streams due to incessant rainstorms. We had to resort to stationary marching even for lunch to keep the leeches at bay. Rainwater rendered our packed lunch tasteless, and Umbrellas were of little help.
Even now, a mere thought of those moments makes my body shudder with fear and excitement. Seven kilometres on a Google map was only a tiny spot, and the actual geography was bewildering. So that was the Kodachadri monsoon trek—one of the most exhilarating treks I have done till today.
The first leg of the hike was to Shankaracharya Temple, the tallest peak in Kodachadri. From there, we were to trek to Hiddlumane falls, taking one of the most treacherous routes. We were climbing down in a stream. Shoes were all wet. I put my step on what I thought was a solid boulder in one place. However, the boulder was on slippery mud, and it slipped. I felt a sudden jab in my left knee due to over-flexion.
The Covid-19 pandemic had driven me indoors for more than a year. Now my dreams of resuming my hobby of trekking in the wilderness had crash-landed. That moment I couldn’t make out whether it was a patellar fracture, hamstrings or patellar tendon tear. I was left immobile on a hilltop, middle of the jungle, with limited visibility and leeches preying on me. Now, I had to make a big decision.
I sensed a similar dilemma when I read Suri’s Whatsapp posts saying, “Unfortunately, most otologists’ surgical careers cease at the end of seven years due to complications and failures.” Dr. Srendra Prabhu is affectionately Suri for us. I prefer Suri the Oracle. But, even though I don’t entirely agree with Suri on many issues, I don’t argue with him. Most of the time, he is right. Some of his innovative surgical techniques are taking the country by storm. Now the contention is, what traits define a brave surgeon who persists with his craft despite facing adversaries?
On that fateful day, my brother and my son, who were close by, came to my rescue. So now the question was, how do I complete the remaining trek. Or how do I even return home? A darker cloud of fear doused me. That is when I remembered Kobe Bryant, one of the legendary American basket ball players who made it big with Michael Jordan and Dwight Howard. He is famous as a black mamba! A fierce and most venomous snake. He was a polymath who also won an Oscar for making an excellent animated movie! On April 12, 2013— Los Angeles Lakers’ 80th game, Kobe Bryant suffered a severe Achilles tendon tear. Despite excruciating pain, he came back, scored two free throws, thus helping his team win that game. Here is what Kobe said after that incident.
“There are far greater issues/challenges in the world than a torn Achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.
One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.
“If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear”. I’ve always loved that quote. That’s the “mamba mentality” we don’t quit, we don’t cower, we don’t run. We endure and conquer.”
Interested folks must watch “The Last Dance,” a highly motivational documentary on the life and times of Michael Jordan. Even before Kobe’s heroics, we have witnessed our own Mamba, Anil Kumble. In 2002, while playing against West Indies in Antigua, Kumble was hit on his chin while batting. But he returned from the dressing room with face bandaged, bowling 14 overs. He was the first bowler to dismiss the great Brian Lara while bowling with a broken jaw.
On the peak of Kodachadri, giving up was an option. It would have been more demotivating to my elder brother and my son. The fear had paralysed me more than the actual injury. Nevertheless, I mustered all my courage and stood up. I took a deep breath, put my hand on my chest and said, I will do it and resumed our trek. I developed that mamba mentality! After that, I didn’t care, even if I had stepped on a real mamba! That is one hell of an experience to cherish forever.
Should we give up just because of one complication or failure when we pursue success? I have faced most of the surgical complications one could meet in our speciality during my early career, and I have glared at many failures too. But, I used them as leverage or feedback to understand what I was doing wrong and overcome them. What is hostile to others, we must turn it to our advantage. We shouldn’t be morose, give up and perish. We must be relentless. We can’t be relentless unless we are willing to take chances. Comfort makes us good, and chances make us great. Failure happens when we decide we failed.
Dear all, thank you very much for your overwhelming response to our events. We had a zoom subscription only for 100 participants, and we had more than 500 registrations. Many could not take part. Please forgive us. Your enthusiasm moves us, and therefore we are enhancing our subscription. This weekend we have a faculty with a huge mamba mentality as our maestro! And the topic is “Superficial Parotidectomy.” Welcome, all. Please click the following link to register for the event in advance:
With best regards,
Prof. Dr. Prahlada N.B