As Mahesh approached the podium to receive his third consecutive literary award in the past 3 years, all eyes were on him. The entire auditorium was packed and a thunderous applause greeted him as he held the mike to speak. Holding his thoughts together, as he glanced at the audience, he couldnt help looking at that one empty seat in the front row reserved for his special guests. As much as he would have liked that seat to be occupied, Mahesh knew the reason for it.
His thoughts wandered back to 6 years ago in the mountains of Maine, NH on a cold and icy winter morning. On that fateful day,Mahesh,in his late 30s, had been hiking with his friends. As he placed his snow boots on a slippery ledge, the icy layer beneath his shoes gave away, throwing him 40 ft down below. Inspite of quick assistance from the paramedical team, his right hand couldn’t be saved due to the risk of infection. That was pretty much the end of Mahesh’s writing career ! He spent sleepless nights with suicidal thoughts. The one call that saved his life came from his brother who wanted him to visit the United States to help coach his sons with their school work.
Lufthansa Flight 143 was ready to depart to SanFrancisco, where Mahesh was heading to spend 6 months with his brother’s family. He approached his aisle seat and settled himself comfortably. He hated long flights since he couldnt do much , unlike earlier, when he could pen his thoughts on a laptop. Next to him was a young man, probably in his early thirties, reading a book. The two exchanged pleasantries before the young man continued to read his book and Mahesh dozed off.
Having slept for a couple of hours, Mahesh woke up in the midst of a slight turbulence. As he turned to get back to his slumber, Mahesh noticed the science fiction book lying in the gentleman’s backpack. ” A nicely written book, i must say ” he said looking at the gentleman. After a long time, he had started a conversation with someone on a flight.The man smiled and agreed with him, extending his hand to introduce himself. In the midst of the chat, Mahesh came to know that the man was an engineer getting back to work after a short vacation. Mahesh himself was an engineer who had veered off the traditional path by venturing into a writing career. He had developed a disdain for engineering and had a pretty dim view of India’s engineering factories. “Must be another IT engineer ” , he thought. “So, what do you do “, he asked, appearing curious in a sarcastic way. The man replied, “Iam a Biomedical engineer”.
Mahesh had heard about Biomedical engineering from a few relatives who had eventually ended up in software. “So do you work for an IT company “, he asked the man. “No, we use technology in our work” , he replied. “We build products that support humans with handicaps”. For a moment, Mahesh froze. It was as though the man had read his thoughts ! Seeing Mahesh speechless, the man asked “whats the matter, is everything ok?” .
“Wow, thats an amazing area of work. can i know more about what you do?”, Mahesh asked, this time genuinely curious. “Sure”, the man said. The man continued ” As a kid, i used to love science and maths. Infact i used to love all aspects of Biology related to the human body. But i hated animal dissection and other areas. As i completed my tenth i was very keen on continuing my specialization in science . I wanted to apply my love for engineering principles (math/physics) to the human body (biology). I think some of this was influenced by the fact that i saw my uncle suffer a lot when he lost his leg in an accident. I wanted to do something about it. I found out that Biomedical engineering is the concept of applying design principles of engineering to build products
that can imitate human organs and support humans who have lost an organ. We also apply our engineering knowledge to design and build diagnosis equipment for diseases such as cancer. This is what i do “.
A slight nudge from his colleague brought Mahesh back to where he was , the podium, holding the mike with his right hand, which he had lost 5 years back. The seat was empty because Shankar, the Biomedical engineer had called Mahesh the previous day saying he couldnt make it to the awards function as he and his team were in Africa delivering medical devices. But Mahesh knew that he owed his 2nd life to Shankar and thousands of other Biomedical engineers who give a new meaning to life using engineering to build artificial organs and diagnostic devices.