Luna

Friday evening, I was waiting in the security line, terminal 3. The fast track lane, was not so fast… passengers were piling up clogging up the line. I love airports…! security lines… not so much… you (and various strangers) have to mess with your bags, laptops, your clothes, empty your pockets, your belt, cufflinks, pens…no, I don’t like that… hey ho, what can you do…so was waiting there, reading news on my mobile…my day started many hours earlier… In the morning I had decided to go for a run, hadn’t run for a looong time!

The street had tall trees, a thick layer of yellow leaves were covering the pavements, was chilly but the sky blue, beautiful early winter scenery, perfect for running, so off I went…! People were going to work and university wrapped up in many layers of clothes, hats, gloves…comfort is overrated! After 10 minutes started getting tired and thinking to give up, but pushed for another 10 minutes, that’s it, enough for a first day, at least made the start.

One of the best advice I ever heard is to just start the process, any process. Doesn’t matter if you start small, just start. Something magical happens, and with time, the small becomes big. I heard this in an audiobook from Jim Rhon, a businessman, He said with his clear, melodious voice “a man drops on the floor to do push-ups, after 2 he gives up, he can’t do it. After a month he can do a 100. How did this happen? How did he go from 2 to 100? It’s a miracle!” This applies to everything. My great, great grandfather Aristotle said it perfectly “The start is half of the whole”.

Later at the hospital had a long day, rounds, taking to my patients, and surgeries. I left my registrar to close up the last case and run to the tube. Friday evening is not the time to drive to Heathrow, the tube is much quicker. Arrived just about on time, checking-in was instant but was now stuck in the security line. My turn came, both of my hand luggage were flagged up, so they had to manually search them. Behind me was a constantly moaning man, moaning about everything, the wait, the officers, the airport, his life…he was a British living in Hong Kong, traveling every 2-3 days, or so he said…he was tall, overweight, reeking of alcohol…his bag was pulled out too, so were waiting…

A pleasant officer opened my first bag…what could have been there…this is my emergency bag in case I have to go for a short trip somewhere, and normally lives at the boot of my car… first off, she found two bottles of water, the Hong Kong Man started shaking his head with disapproval, then she started pulling out small bottles of shampoo and shower gel…hair mud…couple of hand disinfectant…two tubes of toothpaste…aftershave, she was putting patiently everything on the side forming a little mountain…she then found a lighter, no idea how it got there, “do want to keep this?”, the officer asked me, “yes, why not said”, while the Hong Kong man was about to have a fit…was hilarious. She then asked me to choose a few of these items and tried to squeeze them in the clear plastic bag but could not zip it, so she gave up and gave it to me as it was. Then it was the turn of my briefcase, they retrieved my black Swiss army knife from the front pocket…the blade was less than 6 cm, they let me keep it…the Hong Kong man was delirious, keep saying “in Hong Kong they would never do this!!!…in Hong Kong they would never do that!!!” I was still chatting to him, he was OK, just shocked…!

So after breaking the Heathrow record for bringing (I swear, unintentionally!) the most liquids, flammables and knives, and getting to keep them, boarded the plane for a short flight to Lyon. I was invited by a medical technology company to give feedback to a new surgical equipment, technology help surgeons produce better and safer results, so I am always up for it…met with a few old friends, Hugues Duffau from Montpellier and Michael Sobel from Dusseldorf. Lyon has an old part, charmingly aged town, and a new part, full of hotels and shops and, as I saw on my way to the hotel, Interpol’s headquarters.

Christmas came and went, before you know it its summer and then Christmas again…! where does time go…Before the first week of the new year ended I was off to Mumbai to give a lecture, invited by my good friend Atul Goel, an innovative and extremely hard working neurosurgeon based on K.E.M., a high volume public hospital. The conference was a great success, neurosurgeons came from all parts of India, hunger to learn and help patients is the same everywhere in the world.

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A man sharpening his knives, hard working Indians are everywhere, and at the back, a bookshop! used technical and scientific books piled on the floor.

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People hungry to learn anywhere in the world

Had a couple of extra days to explore Mumbai, crazy city, people everywhere, imagine every street like Oxford street in London…people don’t have a lot, but they smile, and look happy, genuinely happy! What more do you need? A lot of contrast, many poor, few wealthy, very, very wealthy…Phoenix is the largest shopping mall in Mumbai, something like Westfield, but much more expensive compared to London, with many Indians shopping there. Next to it, St Regis hotel, super luxurious, and on the 38th floor, its restaurants and rooftop bar have stunning views of Mumbai at night. We had dinner in one of them, Luna. Service and hospitality in hotels are impeccable.

 

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The view from Luna

 

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If poverty in India brings you down, here’s a motivational quote in a Mumbai church to cheer you up!

I usually rent a car when visiting a country, but not in Mumbai, there are no lanes, no rules, and constant honking, even if there is no reason to honk, just for the sake of it…all cars have dents and scratches, and I know why…plus Atul Goel’s legendary hospitality meant that I would be usually driven everywhere. There are different types of taxis in Mumbai, hotel taxis (too expensive, avoid!), small yellow cabs (no AC, windows rolled down), cooled cabs (blue with AC) and something between a bike and a car that many locals like to use. The best way to move around is to use Uber or Ola (similar to Uber), reliable and cheap. You need an Indian phone to download the apps, but you can easily get a SIMM card from local stores, just bring your passport. I had a wonderful time and been invited to three more Indian conferences before the end of the year…

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Driving (or more accurately being driven) on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, a spectacular cable-stayed bridge connecting the western to south Mumbai. From far at night, Mumbai looks like any American city but the darkness hides a lot…

Eight hours to go, 10 hours to come back. On the way back, about 6 hours after take-off, out of the blue, the plane started shaking…really shaking…strong, strong turbulence. Imagine driving fast on a country road full of potholes. Never felt that… Things started falling off the seat tables…From the curtain opening, I glanced the stewardess trying to stand up holding from the walls…she couldn’t…after a few attempts, she gave up and sat down…It didn’t seem to settle…The plane started to tilt…Two thoughts crossed my mind.

First, the plane could crash…! and I could die…this could be the day…you hear about planes crashing in the middle of nowhere, not that often, but you do…I looked outside the window, we were above dense, fluffy clouds, no chance to see if we were above sea or land…there was still light outside, felt like the end of the day… a strong, sharp orange line was touching the clouds, giving them a levanter shade, all looked so beautiful and peaceful…the thought crossed my mind calmly…no! my life did not flash in front of my eyes :-) contrary to what I would have expected, I did not review the past or bargained for my life…I just accepted it with some unusual, unexpected, and total peace…

My second thought was who’s the pilot…Never cared before, I usually assume is someone competent, when it is all smooth, who cares? But now I started thinking, how competent and how experienced is he… has he dealt with this before…I instantly thought about complex brain surgery, its exactly the same…when things are tough, when unexpected problems occur, this is when you want your surgeon to be the most competent there is…after 15-20 minutes things started to settle, and in a few hours landed at terminal 5 without a scratch, so, I did survive to tell the tale :-)

No planned trip for a few weeks, time to plan for a brain dissection course coming up in March, in Lincoln Inn Fields, the house of the Royal College of Surgeons…a stone’s throw away from the city, London’s financial district, status, wealth, and tradition…nothing like Mumbai…but did people smile more in Mumbai?…I think so!…

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