Interview with Parimal Gandhi

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Parimal Gandhi has beaten cancer four times and has written his story Can Surmount as an ode to his inspirational journey.

‘Life is not just what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you’. Reading this in Parimal Gandhi’s book  ‘Can Surmount’ captures what can easily be termed as resilience of the body and more of the mind. After four episodes of cancer this book is an inspirational account of his journey from being a survivor to a thriver.

Past Perfect

Studying at St. Xavier’s School and College, Ahmedabad helped him develop his personality and prepared him for life, rather than just exams. Vacations in Mumbai with his extended family meant traveling alone that also helped hm become independent. “I wanted to take up so many professions. Join the air force, become an aeronautical engineer and so on. I was a nationally ranked Science Talent Search Scholar and almost became a Research Chemist! I finally ended up studying Chemical Engineering, giving that up to graduate with a Gold medal in Literature and Linguistics at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda,” he recollects. At M.S. University, he got interested in Public Speaking and Debating. His profession career took off in 1976 and he worked full time as a clerk in a bank at LIC, as a medical representative with Novartis, a sales engineer, a sales manager and more. However his heart was always in training that he continued to hone albeit part time. “Rajiv Gandhi’s bringing HRD into sharper focus in 1985, combined with other circumstances, became the reasons for my entering the training profession full time.” Today, he teaches Leadership, Teamwork, Customer Service, Planning, Time and Life Management, Motivation and many other subjects to employees of large and small companies, students, families and teachers.   

Can Surmount_Parimal Gandhi
Can Surmount_Parimal Gandhi

Battling Odds

His battle with medical issues started in 1974 when he was 21 when he was diagnosed with bilateral corneal dystrophy. After a failed corneal transplant in the first attempt, Parimal was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1984. In a year he went through another corneal transplant, intense chemotherapy and radiation with 6 biopsies and 14 surgeries, including 5 corneal transplants. “I have not been in the best of health and there are several restrictions on my diet. Traveling and delivering expected results in these circumstances can be testing. In my 45 years as a trainer, I have only postponed six programs, when I was placed in impossible situations.” He has also been on assignment to train the cabinet of President Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico. “I have always been an optimist. I accept whatever happens as part of the game of life and only think of what needs to be done to address that particular challenge. Over the years, I have developed a philosophical attitude to these events. I have taken a policy decision. I will surf these waves with a smile. I will be happy, no matter what. The difference between a visit to the intensive care and a picnic is only in the mind.”

Be Positive

In spite of his health, Parimal says all that has happened with him has equipped him with a ‘never say die’ attitude. “I am also a believer in Karma. Whatever has happened to me is the result of my negative karmas of my past lives. And I am glad that in one fell swoop, so much Karma has been wiped out in a single lifetime. I am an expert patient. I can predict what doctors are going to tell me though I let them make the decisions that are best for me. Life has taught me how to deal with itself.” His advice to people who are diagnosed with cancer and life-threatening diseases is simple. “No one promised you that life will be long or easy or fair or go according to your plan. So, even though it is human to be saddened, do not grieve for long. There are some formalities that one must complete with a sense of urgency. Make a will. Add nominations to all your property. Tell your family where you have stashed everything away, if you have. Tell them about your assets and liabilities. Donate your eyes so you can live on. Do not waste your energy on unproductive questions like ‘Why me?’ They lead you nowhere.Do accept what has happened and do label it in a neutral or positive way. Shun people who demotivate you and drag down your morale. Such people are toxic.Do remember that it is your mind that runs your body and not vice versa. Also remember, that you are not just your body but an immortal soul. To misquote Arnold Schwarznegger, you ‘will be back’.”

Parimal Gandhi_Can Surmount_Author and Trainer
Parimal Gandhi_Can Surmount_Author and Trainer

Life is Beautiful

For someone who believes that quality of life is far more important than its quantity, Parimal says that each person must make the most of their lives and forgive and forget. “Say what you have left unsaid. Express gratitude. Instruct people to celebrate your life, rather than mourn your death.” While his story of his battle with cancer was a secret until a newspaper interview spoke of his story and eventually led to him write his book. “Can Surmount describes my health challenges and how I have managed both a demanding career and an exacting life.” Looking ahead he has been journeying into Indian spirituality and have started teaching some of what he has have learnt from there. “I want to share what I have learnt in the profession and train my successors. I want to travel more. Kailas Mansarovar, Antarctica, New Zealand and Africa are on my bucket list even though they seem out of reach because my health continues to challenge me. But I am simmering that pot on a back burner. Life is an opportunity to make things better. To add value. To grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and help others to do the same. We are given a chance to leave a lasting legacy. I want to embrace that chance with both arms,” he signs off.

This story first appeared in The Hans India dated Feb 16, 2020 here:

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