Sense, Sensational and Sensibility             

“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy;

But, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”

Generally when we talk of sense, it is nothing much to do with the five senses that all of us possess, but with the sixth one. Sense can be defined as the cognitive capacity and ability to understand, appreciate, estimate and give meaning to things, people and situations based on both past experiences and the rational processes of reasoning and thinking. It is therefore an intellectual interpretation of the significance of what is perceived through the senses.

The word sensational came into existence in 1807. It generally means arousing or tending to arouse a quick, intense, and usually superficial interest, curiosity, or emotional reaction. It could also mean exceedingly or unexpectedly excellent or great (like sensational diving catch in cricket). From time to time philosophers, politicians and economists have made sensational claims. In journalism and mass mediasensationalism is a type of editorial tactic. Events and topics in news stories are selected and worded to excite the greatest number of readers and viewers.

I joined Rotary International in 1988, not based on any plan that I should serve society someday but, on the invitation of one of my B-School classmates. Almost for ten years, I did not evince much interest though I attended Rotary club meetings outside India in countries like the US, Singapore, Sri Lanka and a few in Europe during my business trips, apart from attending the meetings of my home club, Rotary Bangalore Koramangala.

When I was nominated as the President of the club in December 1998 for taking over the mantle of the club at the turn of 21st century, I decided to do fifty service projects during the year when I would be the President because, I was turning fifty (in the year 2000). I presumed by doing so many projects I would be creating some impact not only in the club but also in the community—it would be my contribution on turning fifty. The thought itself was sensational for me!

However, to make my thought a reality, my sixth sense started functioning seriously so far as Rotary was concerned. I went about identifying my team members, numbering twelve, who would work with me on the club’s board, developing projects, raising funds and implementing the projects.

After the team was formed, a few of us put together plans to raise funds for the projects and a seventy-two-page Souvenir cum Club Directory Reaching Out 2000 was published with 2:1 editorial-advertorial contents. Through twenty-seven pages of advertisements, funds for the projects were raised. Thus, on 8th July 2000, at the installation ceremony when I was anointed as the 15th President by District Governor (late) Rtn. Dr. Prithvi Raval in the presence of Past R.I. Director (late) Rtn. T. Ramesh Pai, scion of Pais of Manipal, a few projects were formally launched.

The entire Rotary year was quite hectic as we had planned meetings and projects all through the year well in advance. One of the fifty projects was conducting Eye Screening Camp in Chembenahalli, a village that we had adopted during that year and getting cataract surgeries done for the poor patients.

Subsequently in the year 2002, then District Governor Rtn. Bansali nominated me as the District Chairman for Avoidable Blindness Committee. Having earlier done screening camp and supporting cataract surgeries, I went about developing a project to support 1,000 cataract surgeries with the support of ten Rotary clubs and two International clubs from Geneva, Switzerland and Porto, Portugal identified by my good friend and Rotary mentor (late) Rtn. Dr. Gabriel Minder. It so happened that the project was completed by February 2005 and the report could be presented to Gabriel (who happened to be present at Bangalore with his wife and good friend Rtn. Balazs Szeless and his wife) on the occasion of the centenary celebration of Rotary in the presence of the then Chief Minister of the State, Sri. Dharam Singh. It was indeed a sensational moment for me!

Sensibility is defined as the emotional responsiveness and awareness to stimuli, an intelligent but automatic response to emotions, impressions and feelings produced by the contact with an external stimulus. Like sense, sensibility is a product of comparison between present and past experiences, with the difference that it is not a product of thoughtfulness judgement but of spontaneous emotion.

Perhaps, submitting the completion report of 1,000+ cataract surgeries to Gabriel became the stimulus for me to continue my work in this domain for the next twenty years and even write a book–Eye Opener, with my good friend Dr. N. Ramesh, a Senior Professor of Management, capturing the story of two hundred years of evolution of Community Ophthalmology in India.

Having established Rotary Avoidable Blindness Foundation (RABF) in September 2020 with three fellow Rotarians and a few advisors, my focus now is to leverage technology and scale up eye-care service to community through the Rotary platform on a pan-India basis involving as many ophthalmologists as possible. Having successfully conducted the first Rotary National Conference on Community Ophthalmology on 21st and 22ndMay 2022 at the Indian Institute of Science, to bring all the stake-holder involved on one platform, RABF team is busy now to do it again at Mysore for the second time on 2nd and 3rdSeptember 2023.

My next sensational moment shall be when I can handover an established RABF to the next generation of Rotarians for continuing Rotary’s combat against blindness!


August 15th, 2023 | Ravi 61