If Only!

Hide & See(k)…

Mar 2, 2016. It was a rapid-fire round. All cylinders and spheres were blazing. Too little “cylindrical” compromised the far range. Too much “spherical” ruined the close range. The bull’s eye was elusive. Perfection was not even intended. The objective was to achieve the best ‘tradeoff’. The instructed one was the new ophthalmologist at Lawrence & Mayo. He was hassled. He was supposedly the expert. But his knowledge was theoretical. He didn’t carry battle scars. No one knows my eyes better than me…

1994. The desktop years had taken their toll. Both eyes were 4.0 myopic. Although, this information was under wraps, as I wore contacts. However, I had now relocated to India. The Ahmedabad dust made it tough. Spectacles descended. But I was on my extended honeymoon. Thick spectacles were decidedly uncool. The bride didn’t mind happy. But I did. That’s when I heard about this revolutionary surgical procedure called Radial Keratotomy (RK).

The messiah was Indore-based Dr. Hardia. He had operated on thousands. A few were my distant cousins. There was no need for reference checks. Countless surgeries can’t be wrong. My new life partner protested. But I was steadfast. I arrived in Indore.

A pre-surgical procedure was performed the night before the operation. My eyes were subjected to a series of tests. I qualified with flying colors. I ran into someone from the medical profession later that night. He admonished me ‘Wait. There is talk about the launch of an advanced Lasik technique’. But my resolve was unwavering. It was too late to back off now. The surgery fee had been paid. Even the eyelashes were slashed. This was no time for indecisiveness. I went with the flow. I had faith in Almighty and the good doctor.

The eyes were anesthetized before the surgery. They didn’t feel anything. Except the descent of the diamond cutter. Their identity being split open and squeezed around, manually. First one eye, then the other. There was no pain. Only a parched throat. It was all over in a few minutes. The years of strained vision had been sorted out in moments. The magic of science.

The eye patches were taken off in the evening. The newborn eyes needed acclimatization in dim light. I was sitting in a garden. I finally gathered the courage to raise my gaze. There was a lamppost a short distance away. It had six light points on the top. There should have been only one. Half a dozen holograms superimposed each object I tried to focus on. I wanted to throw up. I closed my eyes in panic. I didn’t tell anyone. It was a long night. The next morning was my follow up. Dr. Hardia congratulated me. He reassured me saying that it will take a few days for the vision to fully restore itself. I was relieved. I waited.

2016. I am waiting. Over two dark decades have now passed. The quest for a cure has made me a global trotter, from Seattle to London to Singapore. My eyes spark up the eyes of our planet’s leading researchers. They even bring in their doctorate fellows. I am a case study. But I can’t be re-operated. The RK has rendered the cornea precariously astigmatic and fragile. I have to make do with a great-grandpa spectacle, a complex spherical and cylindrical hybrid. I can’t wear it for long. It changes my look & feel. I look geeky & feel dizzy. And it doesn’t end there. Frequent infections, constant dryness, tiny black floaters, torturous glares, unregistering faces, slow deterioration, uncertain eventuality—all together define my ‘vision’. How I wish I could see the world again like most of you do. I am trapped. Forever.

Sense & Nonsensibility
Sense & Nonsensibility

If only I had consulted experts on the raw science behind RK. If only I had questioned the lack of the sampling size. If only I had evaluated the success rate. “If only”—perhaps the saddest words in the English language. Their absence allowed the likes of ‘Dr.’ Hardia to butcher thousands of trusting eyes. The betrayal transformed me. Not just the way I look, but my outlook itself. No, it did not turn me into a negative person, a cynic who no longer trusts anyone. And no, it did not turn me into a positive being either, an appreciator of the finer gifts we take for granted. Instead, I learnt that just because something “feels” like it’s the right thing to do, it does not necessarily mean it “is” the right thing to do. The tragedy taught me to base life’s key decisions on data, not gut-feel.

All of us perceive events, good or bad, in our day-to-day life. Then our attitude processes the perception. An optimist looks at the glass half-full. A pessimist looks at the glass half-empty. A data scientist, on the other hand, discards both points of view. To him, the status of every entity is “Innocent until proven guilty” and “Guilty until proven innocent”. Why? Because he understands that reality is opaque, not transparent! It is impossible to gauge the liquid level inside an opaque glass by merely gazing at it. The approach needs science, not art. If we know the accurate weight of the empty as well as the full glass, then the liquid level of a partially filled glass can be deduced by weight proration.

An empty glass is a “risk” metaphor. A full glass is a “reward” metaphor. When we quantify risks & rewards accurately, we are able to appreciate our present level, thus optimize our decision-making. Sure, a data-driven approach doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome. However it statistically increases the probability of success, while mitigating the risks. A word of caution though, stretching data analytics to daily life trivialities will kill our spontaneity.

But when it comes to life’s big decisions, such as the ones involving health, finance, business, career, entrepreneurship, marriage, relationships, upbringing, etc.—often, we don’t get a second chance. I didn’t. Everyday I repent my foolishness. I learnt the hard way. If my story can help a few learn the easy way, it would be my redemption. It will make my very private revelation worth it.

Hindsight, Original, Bumps, Style


  1. It is never easy to accept our faults, shortcomings or bad decisions. It surely takes a lot of courage to step up and own them. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

  2. Good one, one can understand the pointers !! Some where scientific decision are required than a decision by heart.

  3. Hi Arun,

    I’m aghast after reading about the fiasco with your eyes. I use to wonder the need of those big dark glasses you use mostly while driving. It’s indeed sad but I’m sure that the message you had to convey is going to be heard loud and clear.

    Quoting some lines from post which I felt were impacting:

    “I learnt that just because something “feels” like it’s the right thing to do, it does not necessarily mean it “is” the right thing to do. The tragedy taught me to base life’s key decisions on data, not gut-feel.”

  4. Thank you!

  5. Dear Arun,

    I never knew this painful secret. This is really sad. The story explains many things, including uneasiness of your eyes while staring at the monitor as well as your generic reaction to generic macro level unproven hypothesis kind of assertions ! Thanks for sharing this intimate story……I am sure it is not an easy one to share….

  6. Thanks alot…your comments made me insist not to go for any refractive surgery…i will pray for you…thanks alot for sharing your experience

  7. Many times in the quest for achieving perfection, we loose the balance. Some decisions are taken in a hurry without thinking about the consequences. But whatever are the consequences, it will help you take better decisions and make you a better person as experience is the best teacher.
    Also it is great to share your experiences like Arun Sir has done so that others benefit from your experience.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. You penned down your emotions very succinctly in this blog. Our health and body are the most precious assets that we possess and yet we take them for granted many times. But it is great to see the spirit in which you have taken this and how this negative incidence in your life made a very positive change in your decision making process.

    I wish the best for you and pray that you find the proper treatment for your condition.

  9. Dear Arun,
    First of all I thank you for sharing such a personal experience, as one of the comments mentioned, it takes a lot of courage to own your mistake and share it with the world. Just like the experience you had shared with your trip to Germany with your family (I hope my memory is correct). A memory shared with the world so that other can get benefit and learning out of mistake we commit. Kudos to you for being brave enough to write this.

    Wish that almighty help you to come out of this condition very soon.

  10. Like many others I was wondering why not and got the answer. Felt very sad. Deeds & decisions decide d destiny!
    Often deed or decision or both based on hear say stories, without sufficient data, not listening ability, temptation or taking point granted, leads to an accident. It takes either on the path where possible recovery is possible or just no recovery. Good part is vision though with issues exist at least.
    Japanese draw graph of age, risk value and happiness. It suggests and discourages taking risks after age 30 since value is high & recovery period could be longer or no recovery.
    Sharing experience helps many to learn & be wiser. Wish the best and the safe treatment for betterment.

  11. Quoting “base life’s key decisions on data, not gut-feel.”, I believe this is my key takeaway from your experience. I pray for your well being. Thanks alot for sharing your experience!

  12. I cursed my spectacles until today. Now no more. I have pondered over a laser surgery too often but I usually end up getting the answer from my inner voice – “Let’s not go under the knife (beams in this case)”. Thank you for sharing this article. Will always make me think if it is really worth it or can I continue with my black-orange frames a while longer.

  13. “If Only!” such an impactful title!

    It takes a lot to share something like this but will definitely help many.

    Data-driven approach is the most scientific approach that needs to be practiced.
    It also helps in making good well-balanced decisions.

    Thank you for sharing this experience and wishing that one day you will be able to see naturally.

  14. Walk briskly for some time everyday without any formal purpose in the surrounding areas of your choice.
    Splash open eyes with water twenty times in the morning and in the evening (Do consult doctor first as eyes have been through a surgery)

    There are intelligent scholars, like Pankaj Motilal Gandhi and alike, for whom, application of data analytics to daily
    life trivialities through logical reasoning, quantitative aptitude, puzzles and data sufficiency problems earns them bread and butter
    at the end of the day. They are having equally strong emotional quotient too. No offense!

    Spiritual inclination and practice will definitely abate this strain off your eyes in forth coming years.
    “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (Bible | 2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

    I did notice you removing your goggles while driving down to office near Cerebrum couple of times and now got the reason behind it. :)!

  15. Healthcare has done good in emergency treatment and disease management. However how Healthcare has evolved today as any other profit making industry and how humans are treated is appalling. There are insane things that hospitals advertise such as preventive knee replacement surgeries. And the greedy pharma industry backing all this and because still people are not healthy it has given vacuum for the false vitamin industry. Whenever I read news like cataract surgery gone wrong (which is often in news), I wonder why they don’t do it one eye at a time?

    Body’s immense ability to heal itself when given right nutrition and environment which is coded in DNA is not given enough attention. Lifesciences and naturopathy needs more attention and should be main stream and surgery should be last extreme resort during emergencies and compulsive situations. People are sharing their stories and experiences over internet and social media on these matters and it will help make things order in right direction and spread awareness. This may help in data driven approach otherwise the only data people would have is what is thrown and spammed by the healthcare & pharma. When things improve in distant future, hopefully, future generations will look this era as dark age.

  16. #Respect.

    Its not easy to share such personal experiences. I have seen close family members go through such ordeals w.r.t to vision I get your pain and frustration. Hopefully one day you will find the cure you seek.

  17. After reading this,
    My respect for you has quadrupled,
    there may be shortcomings in your sight, but i salute your vision.

  18. Life is full of dilemma
    Heart tempts me this side
    And Head on the opposite side
    Which one to opt for???
    Mind is in perpetual conflict
    However I can rest in peace
    Knowing that “Myself” is beyond the outcome
    Far Superior and greater than outcome !

    I salute your spirit of sharing private matter so that others can benefit out of it!

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If Only! - Arun Nathani Blog