10,000 days

Yeshwanth Pulijala
Feb 21, 2017 · 5 min read

What happens if you take your phone into the toilet? You get shitty ideas! One such idea I got was to count the number of days since I was born. Turns out that 20th February 2017 marks 27 years, 4 months and 15 days or in other words, 10,000 days.

Well, 10,000 days! That’s something. Just out of interest I asked myself what is the most amazing thing I have ever done? After a long session of empty thoughts, I realised I haven’t done much but remembered few stories along the way. Here are some of my favourite stories and the lessons they taught me:

1. Alive and breathing.

Firstly, it is really amazing that I am still alive. Most of the times we don’t realise how short our life span is. Looking back, some of the best memories I had were at my grandparent’s home, the time I spent with my friends at Manipal and the moments when I made art for days. Now my grandparents aren’t alive, Manipal doesn’t feel the same and I don’t sketch for days. Where did those days go?

When we have some skills (drawing for e.g.), some things and people in our life, we tend to take them for granted. What we don’t realise is that the things we have today, people we laugh with and the work we get to do is temporary. We change, we have different people in our lives and live in new places. It is all about appreciating what you have (including your skills and blessings) with the people around when you have them.

2. I have two eyes and they work pretty well — Oh well!

Sometime last year, a lady approached me as I was waiting outside an exam hall, and asked about the device I was holding. I told it is called an Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset. Would it make a blind person see, she asked. I wasn’t sure what to answer, so I said maybe in the future, not for now. In a friendly tone, she responded please try to do that, it will be immensely useful for people like me. I was shocked as she looked absolutely normal to me. She then told she is blind in one eye and struggles to pour some coffee into the cup every morning. I didn’t realise till then what it means to have two eyes which work absolutely fine. Or maybe I just forgot to appreciate them. Also, it is so easy to judge someone just by their looks, but hard to understand their world.

3. Dr Yesh to Yesh

After spending 5 years in the dental school, I was quite happy when I was first awarded those two golden letters, “Dr”. In fact, I added Dr as a prefix to my name informally much before. All of this changed when I met my supervisor, Prof Ashraf Ayoub.

In one of my first emails to him, I wrote
Dear Prof Ayoub, blah blah blah. Best wishes, Dr Yesh.
His reply was Dear Dr Yesh, blah blah blah…Best, Ashraf. (Where is the Dr? Prof. at least? Come on!! :D)

When I met him, he took me for a walk, opened the doors for me, made some coffee and even picked up my cup. I felt awkward as he was the most experienced maxillofacial surgeon I have ever met and here he was in his most humble self. That day I realised, people who are higher up on the ladder (mental ladder) have done it all and don’t care much about the degrees. Their work speaks much more than their designations. It is the lower ones who are more bothered about the titles.

4. Our identity need not be a noun, it can be many verbs.

On the first day at the Glasgow School of Art, I felt seriously weird and out of place as I terribly missed the comfort of a known medical school surroundings. It took me a while to get in terms with the new place, even though I wanted to change my fields. Every time I checked messages from my dentist friends about their patients, I felt bad for missing it all. It took a while for me to realise the problem was with my identity. I have identified myself as a dentist, so it wasn’t an easy transition into medical visualisation. Only when I started to think of myself in verb forms (I was treating my patients, now I make 3D art, build apps..etc), it got better. That’s when I realised our identity, need not be a noun, but an endless amount of verbs! We don’t have to call ourselves a Dentist/Banker/Architect/ Researcher and spend our lifetime trying to stick by it. Instead, we can be somebody who creates stuff, builds apps, writes scientific papers, travels, cooks..blah blah and add as many verbs as we want. When this happens, we are no longer limited by our identity but empowered by it to become anything we want.

5. Love, loss and Eureka!
For a very long time in my life, I loved a girl. As it turns out in every great man’s story (:P) it didn’t work. I was devastated for a long time and I thought I can never be normal once again. A few days later, I got back to life and started to do things that I love and made more friends whom I love a lot. I never understood how I came out of it and lived happily once again. This happened to me every time I thought I cannot live without this person/thing/place, I lived happily again :D. I didn’t know the reason till I met a friend who creates music.

One afternoon when we met in his office (oh that’s an amazing office), he played his latest creation. I was lost in trance for a while and praised him for ten minutes later. When I was speaking to him about his music, he mentioned it wasn’t his intention to make me feel that way but it was my thought which made the meaning out of all those elements. That’s when I realised it wasn’t the person whom I loved so dearly that was special! It was my love for her which made her special. The same thing applies to work or anything without which we might feel we can’t survive. It is not your work which makes you special. It is you who make the work that matters!

As I write these, some more stories popped up in my head but lets save them for later. I am not sure if I will be around for the next 10,000 days but in the meanwhile, let me tell you something very important, do not take your phone into the toilet. It’s not a great idea to sleep with E.coli :D

Yeshwanth Pulijala

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Founder of Scalpel Ltd. Builds tech to make surgery safer. Ph.D. in Mixed reality applications for Surgery. Also a Dentist.