Q&A: Dr. Rakesh Bhargava, Author of 'A Life Ordinary Revisited'

Dr. Rakesh Bhargava is an Orthopedic Surgeon. He has recently come out with the book A Life Ordinary Revisited, which is an autobiography. In the book, he has detailed many anecdotes from his life. The book blurb reads – ‘The story of a non-entity can be interesting and intriguing too. Does anyone ever deign to read the story of a mediocre life?’

I chat with Dr. Rakesh about his book, the authors and books which were his early formative influences, book recommendations, and much more.

Hello, Dr. Rakesh! Tell us a bit about yourself!

I was born on 15th September 1950. I have done my schooling from St Columba’s School, New Delhi. I passed my MBBS from SMS Medical College, Jaipur and subsequently did MS (Ortho) under the renowned Magsaysay awardee Padmashri Prof P K Sethi in 1977.

I was an avid debater of Rajasthan University and contributed articles to the Campus magazines regularly. On the professional front, I have served as Orthopedic Surgeon in teaching Hospitals for 40 years. I was awarded the Johnson and Johnson fellowship of IOA in 1982 and was the First World Orthopaedic Concern Visiting Professor to Hasanuddin University, Ujung Pandang, Indonesia.

Which authors and books were your early formative influences?

I was fortunate in that my schooling was in St Columba’s School, New Delhi. The emphasis on English Language and Literature infused in me a yearning for classics like Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. We had Shakespeare’s plays as regular textbooks, and I studied The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar in depth. We also studied prose like The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan. We were also introduced to poetry like The Lotos-Eaters and The Lady of Shalott by Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson and Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth.

If you could only describe your book A Life Ordinary Revisited in five words, what would they be?

Honest, frank, facetious, retrospective ruminations.

Now tell us a little more about the book! What can readers expect?

I had conceived the book since a long time. The actual impetus and motivation came after my episode of coronary attack, during which I had a cardiac arrest. My revival forced me into a pensive state of assessing what I had achieved, and what more I wished and hoped for. The book is largely an amalgamation of my life’s small achievements in my childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and about my training to be a doctor and an Orthopedic surgeon under the mentorship of one of the country’s foremost and internationally renowned Orthopedic Surgeons. It describes some of the best moments of my more than forty years of orthopedic practice. There are no funny or poignant case stories of patients, for I did not wish to embroil any without their consent and knowledge.

'A Life Ordinary Revisted', published by Notion Press

What inspired you to write your autobiography?

Nothing really inspired me to write my autobiography. My motivation was simply this – that every life lived has a story to tell, be it exceedingly great and inspiring, or casual and nonchalant. What it is to be was never the choice of the life lived, but decided and willed by the Creator and His moving finger. Nevertheless, each life’s story has something novel, something exhilarating, something inspirational about it, and hence needs to be told. Whether people read it or not is again inconsequential.

The subtitle of the book is ‘Extraordinary Moments in an Ordinary Life’. Can you share with our readers some extraordinary anecdotes from your life that find a place in this book?

The book has nineteen chapters. Each chapter has some extraordinary moments from that phase of my life.

To name a few, the chapter on ‘My Resurrection’ tells about my brush with death. From the tweet of one of my twitter acquaintances I came to know that I was not alone in my experience, but nonetheless it was a unique experience. An extraordinary outcome of a patient I operated upon was largely instrumental in my ‘Life in the Present’. In ‘My Childhood’ and ‘My Schooling’, I have tried to recount the extraordinary moments which shaped my formative years, and moulded my personality. The chapters which deal with my medical and orthopedic training, namely ‘My Training’, ‘My Days in the Plaster Room’, ‘My Days in the Operation Theatre’, and ‘My Mentor’ would be, I imagine, of interest and use to the budding orthopods for they dwell on how to learn, what to learn and why. ‘My Tryst With My Destiny’ is the tale of how I met my wife, fell in love and got married. The last few chapters ‘My Stint in Bikaner’, ‘Second Decade in Bikaner’ and ‘Our Sojourn in Jaipur’ are a chronicle of my journey as an orthopedic surgeon and all that I gathered en route.

What has the road to becoming a published author been like for you?

This is my first book as an author, although I have previously contributed chapters in Textbook of Orthopaedics. I also post regularly on my blog rbmusings.blogspot.com. My experience has been that established Indian Publishing houses rarely, if ever entertain first time writers. It is therefore more inducing and encouraging to go to a self-publishing portal. The response to your book is largely your own earning, and one should focus on a wider reach for the book than bother about the earnings or royalty.

How have you been coping with the current pandemic and what will be the new normal for you post it?

It has largely been a period of isolation and confinement with my family, and hence devoid of any regrets. Like so many of my friends who have taken to their hobbies as their foci of indulgence, I have been engaged in my passion for reading and writing. I have been updating and revising my book chapter and formulating ideas about my next venture in authorship. I had to give up my active professional practice due to the pandemic, and post the pandemic; I have no intention of resuming it.

Lastly, are you currently reading anything, and do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

I am currently in the throes of reading books like Death: An inside Story and Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy by Sadhguru, Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness. I would recommend these for your readers as well, as I see a lot of merit in living life with the tramp as an ideal as professed by Lin Yutang, just like Tennyson’s The Lotos-Eaters.

The book ‘A Life Ordinary Revisited’ is available online and at your nearest bookstore.

From Jammu, J&K; Studied in DPS, Jammu.