Tilganga M. Optometry student first batch
With my batch mates

I joined a primary eye care center located outside Kathmandu in 2010 right after my graduation. It also served as a surgical center where monthly and later fortnightly cataract surgeries were performed. During my job posting, I witnessed the center grow into a secondary eye hospital and it is now on the verge of being a tertiary one.

In May 2019, I left the eye hospital to pursue my master's degree in Kathmandu -based center of excellence which later turned into the WHO collaborating center in ophthalmology. It was supposed to be a two-year course but due to the COVID pandemic the course extended to become 2 years and 8 months − hence the title. This was a time I survived as a total, wholesome student. In these 2.67 years, a lot happened - of course, not only COVID-19.

On a personal level, I went through a major course of my life. This was the turning point of my life where I decided not to go abroad for further studies. I was in my mid-thirties, and I was unemployed after nearly a decade of being habituated to earning money. My wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I was broke and meanwhile my family responsibilities were increasing. My study habits were discontinued for a long time and in the first semester I found it difficult to catch up the pace with my classmates. In this period all my family members contracted COVID-19 two times and my wife needed hospitalization for 15 days. She still does have COVID after-effects.

My psychosocial  behavior was in turmoil for a month and it was only later I realized that I was going through a mid-life crisis. It is when you are in the middle of nowhere with literally empty pockets and have a lot to do but can't. In terms of friendship and pastime, I should not be hesitant to say that these 2.67 years were the golden days of my life. I got a really very good company of six brilliant friends that made the journey ever more pleasant.

Together with Jeewa dai, I was actively involved in a humanitarian eye care mission of OneSight conducted at Okharpauwa rural municipality in Nuwakot through our own organization - Better Vision Foundation, Nepal. I was scheduled to go to a Rohingya vision care mission in Cox Bazar of Bangladesh but had to call off due to my exams. During one month of the fourth semester, I got an opportunity from OneSight to serve as a consultant in the assessment of eye care networks of Nepal. The salary covered my academic fees and I was able to have a new motorbike too. In the time of Dashain and Tihar (September- November 2021), I was working for an international project and was visiting different eye hospitals and vision centers around the country all in a hide. It was a great experience for me. Moreover, I was also selected for the Peter Ackland Scholarship to study International Eye Health short course at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in July 2020 which was unfortunately made online due to the pandemic.

With all the memorabilia, I am now finding it difficult to rejoin my previous job. As a student I lived a careless, fancy-free and footloose life. We created a lot of gratifying memories with friends, fellows and juniors. Family, relatives and society expected very little from me in these times. So, in the leeway of rock-bottom obligations, I could enjoy the freshness of being a student even after three and a half decades of my life. But now I have to bootstrap myself to become a fully grown up and socially responsible family man that also happens to be a clinician. The transition will take time, I presume.

Overall, this journey was a blast. My perception of many things changed in these past years. I have learnt to take easy on things that I don't have control of. I deeply realized you can't change the world as one person and the feeling of superbia will only be transient. You may think that you are smart but there is always one other person who is smarter than you but that lies in wait for opportunities. You are in a hurry but some other person is in a hurry more than you. So, the world is not the way you think it is. It is what it is but our senses limit us to perceive it exactly how it is.




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