It is common to hear that behind every successful man there is a woman. Yet I would say that it is equally true that behind every successful woman, there is also a man. ?
The foretelling at birth
In my case, wherever I am today, whatever I have become- the man behind me at each step would be my Papa. In fact, my becoming a doctor was set in motion by my dad the day I was born in a small hospital in a town in northern India.
The gods and goddesses must have listened very attentively that day. Papa stood nearby my mom while the nurse administered some routine injections. Afterwards, as he took me in his arms to comfort me, he made a prophetic announcement.
“Someday my daughter will become a doctor and give injections.”
Papa spoke with certainty and joy as he proclaimed my destiny.
That was it!
I was only a few hours old…barely had learned to breathe- and my fate was already sealed!
I don’t recall when what Papa wanted became what I wanted- or at least what I thought I wanted. But all the essays I wrote since elementary school- about what you want to be when you grow up- always reflected his wishes. And I guess when you write something again and again you begin to believe it as well. ?
The god and goddesses intervene once more
However, when senior year of high school arrived, I was not so sure. I had spent the previous summer in India and my travels had sparked an interest in the realm of the mystical. While I kept up with all that was needed to apply for an accelerated medical program, I also heard a soft, gentle voice stir within my heart, calling me to another way. I enrolled in a metaphysics class and pondered deeply over Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. I completed my senior thesis project on the Bhagvad Gita. I felt inspired to meditate, chant, pray and read about saints and mystics past and present- Mother Teresa, Gandhi, St. Francis, Krishna, Sri Aurobindo, Kabir and others.
During this time of confusion dawned another day when the god and goddesses must have listened attentively once more. Papa and I were riding the subway train together. He was headed to work and I on my way to my high school in Manhattan.
“Papa, I’ve been thinking. Maybe I could do something different instead of medicine.”
I spoke hesitantly, somewhat timidly.
Papa continued reading his newspaper, but I knew he was listening.
“I mean something like writing or journalism. And then apply to medical school later.”
The words tumbled out very fast now. I braced myself for his reply.
Papa folded his paper, in anticipation of his stop. He turned and looked at me. He spoke quietly yet firmly.
“Journalism and writing – these are not suitable professions for women. Medicine is a noble and honorable profession. It will be good for you.”
We arrived at Papa’s stop. He got up.
“Good luck on your chemistry exam.”
The doors of the train opened and soon Papa was gone, his figure indistinguishable from the hundreds of other exiting passengers.
I sighed. I knew we would not discuss this matter again. Papa was a man of few words usually set in stone. I also knew my mother would defer to Papa as per Indian tradition. Yet as I reflected on Papa’s words, I felt a force operating stronger than me or my parents. For a moment, I became the observer. I saw a stream flowing- and me flowing right with it straight to medical school with no stops in between at the ripe age of 17.
An internal struggle: To stay or leave
I did not find medical school difficult from an academic perspective. I was a good student and enjoyed studying so I did not flunk out. Yet medicine simply did not inspire me. Where was the soul of medicine? Where was its spirit? Surely it could not be found in dissecting dead cadavers and memorizing hundreds of biochemical pathways. Moreover, I was haunted by a nagging doubt that I was forgetting my true purpose and becoming a doctor due to parental obligation. But even when I saw my best friend leave the program to pursue a career in literature, I did not feel free to abandon my path.
Every year the decision to stay or leave weighed heavily on my mind. I felt burdened by my parents’ sacrifice to raise and educate me and my brother in America, thousands of miles away from all they left behind in India. I wanted to be the obedient, “good little Indian girl.” And at some level I trusted my parents knew my best interests. Eventually I surrendered to the path of medicine as my destiny.
Forgiveness offers everything we truly want
Over the years, l found myself able to create a new pathway in medicine by embracing many stepping stones along the way. Integrative pediatrics. Homeopathy and holistic medicine. Yoga and mind body medicine. What was so amazing is that even though I am sure my Papa would have preferred that I follow a more traditional medical path, he stood by me at each step. Helping set up all my different offices. Even sharing financial support and always being a trusted advisor.
Even if we did not always agree on the form of how I wanted to practice medicine, Papa and I were fortunate to always focus on the content of our relationship- which was love for each other. Yet ultimately, the healing Grace was not just our love for each other, but our devotion to a practice of forgiveness.
For Papa, forgiveness is based on the Indian spiritual teachings of Dada Bhagwan, and for me this comes from my practice of A Course in Miracles. This forgiveness is a radical forgiveness where we aspire not to change anything or anyone- but change our mind and the way we see and experience everything and everyone. We attempt every day to see beyond the ‘external packaging’ of others and instead glimpse their True Self- the Pure Soul- the place of Eternal Beauty and Innocence.
It takes patience, practice and great willingness to practice forgiveness. Yet the results are certainly sweet. ? In October 2015, Papa and I launched Coaching for Inner Peace (CFIP)- a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to support those facing chronic challenges find inner peace. (You can read more about CFIP here.)
Papa’s desire that I serve as a doctor – and my love and passion for writing, movies, music, meditation and offering a deeper way to heal – have all come together beautifully in the vehicle of Coaching for Inner Peace. Papa not only continues to support CFIP financially but he oversees all the accounting and bookkeeping. He remains to this day one of my most trusted advisors. Whenever anyone writes to thank me for a blog I have written or for a client session they found helpful, I know that my dad is to thank as well. Without him, Coaching for Inner Peace would still be an idea inside my head. ?
Thank you, Papa, for always being there for me and serving as a powerful catalyst to fuel my journey along my path in healing!
Patiala House: A Bollywood movie about father-son forgiveness
Last year, I created a YouTube video about Patiala House, a Bollywood movie that shares a beautiful story of a father-son forgiveness set against the back drop of a traditional Punjabi Sikh family residing in England. The son desires to play cricket for England’s team yet his dad refuses to grant him permission because of his grievance against the British based on previous discrimination against the family and other Punjabi immigrants. My dad and my family and I have enjoyed watching this movie. I thought it would be an appropriate movie for Father’s Day weekend for you to watch with the father or father figures in your life.
You can watch the YouTube video I created here.
You can watch a trailer of the movie with subtitles here on Amazon.
Wishing a very Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing fathers and grandfathers reading this. Thank you for all you do for us each day and every day!