I’d like to relate an incident that reiterated the value of human relationships and genuine outreach.
Prof. Guruswamy Sathyanarayanan was a Fulbright scholar at the Indian Institute of Science, where I worked as a research assistant in the year 1999. “Sathya,” as he was fondly known, was a visiting professor from Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA.
Upon our acquaintance, I had observed that Sathya seemed stressed out from his work and had struggled to get his computer programs to run. I had offered to help him with computer programming and research on manufacturing processes. Our interaction had quickly evolved into a bond of mentorship. He was not particularly joyful, but was always genial and inquisitive. Over coffee breaks, we had many an interesting conversation about the relevance of Eastern Philosophy in the modern world.
At that time, I was applying for graduate school in the United States. Sathya had advised me on the schools to which I should apply based on my specific interests, the nuances of the application process, and the many components of the applications. On a particular day when my applications were due to be dispatched, he had me revise my personal essay repeatedly until he felt it was succinct enough to reflect my academic ideas and interests. When I thanked Sathya, he asked me to thank him only after receiving an admission and to keep him updated on my applications.
Three months later in March 2000, one late night, I received a call from a prestigious school. The school had admitted me to its graduate program with a 100% tuition waiver and a generous stipend for research in my area of choice, a precursor to 3D Printing. I was extremely delighted, but did not call Sathya because it was late at night.
The next morning, I learnt that Sathya had died the previous night of sudden heart attack. When I visited his home that afternoon, Sathya’s wife informed me that he had complained of uneasiness after a heated debate with a fellow-researcher on the progress of their research work. Sathya’s death came as a shock to me since he was only 47 years old and had a six-year old son.
I profusely regret not having called Sathya on that fateful night to express my gratitude for his mentorship of my application process. I am given to wonder if my success could have cheered him after his tense conversation with the research colleague—I’ll never know.
I never thanked Sathya in person, but I dedicated my master’s thesis to his memory.
Call to Action: Practice Gratitude
There’s plenty of anecdotal and empirical evidence that practicing gratitude can considerably increase our sense of social well-being and happiness, yet we fail to acknowledge our blessings and thank people who’ve made a difference in our lives.
“The learned have prescribed penance for the murderer of a pious man, a drunkard, a thief or for one who has violated a solemn vow. But there is no pardon for the ungrateful,” asserts the Panchatantra, a collection of animal fables from ancient India.
Dear readers, there is no excuse for not conveying your feelings to your loved ones today. There is no excuse for not expressing your gratitude and appreciation today. There is no excuse for not taking a few minutes of your time to check-in on somebody who has influenced your life with his or her gift of kindness.
NOW is the time to appreciate the people who have helped you. This is your opportunity to do it—RIGHT NOW, while there is time.