Abhi Ganju and I met at a healthcare design conference in 2011 and have been Internet friends since. Abhi is from New Delhi, India. She immigrated to the United States as a young physician and had a specialty practice in asthma and allergies for thirty-five years. When we met she was also turning her passion for photography into a business (www.abhisphotos.com), creating photographic art suited for healthcare environments. Last year she retired from medicine and has expanded her artistic pursuits to painting; oils, pastels, and currently water color. We met for lunch on Chicago’s Southside to reconnect and talk about tomorrow.
“I love photography, but making a business of it required more time marketing than creating. I still have clients, and happy to have more, but I’m more involved in making art than trying to sell it.” Abhi reached a plateau in her photography and realized that she wanted a different avenue of expression. “You can only take a photograph of what is there. The whole game is excluding things from the frame. With painting, I have more freedom to create the entire composition. Right now I am getting my brush mileage. First, I have to learn the craft, and then focus on composition. I am already good at that from photography, but in painting it’s different. Then I’ll develop better drawing skills, all before I can have a personal vision.”
Abhi’s description of the steps she’ll take to become a satisfied painter led us to discuss Malcolm Gladwell’s concept in Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours of work to master any task. Abhi mastered being a physician and a photographer, while I mastered being an architect and writer. Now we are both pushing different interests a deeper level: she painting; me cycling.
I ask Abhi about the pull that brought her to the United States. “In the 1970’s and 1980’s the United States gave green cards to almost any physician or nurse who wanted to come.” Although Abhi’s family had traditionally been farmers, her father became a doctor and established a professional precedent for Abhi and her two brothers. They each came here, and eventually their parents followed. Abhi’s two sons live in the United States; she has no immediate family in India. “This is where I experienced true freedom. Here, if I am willing to work hard I can get what I want. People who are born here sometimes take that for granted, but for people from other countries, the freedom here is very real.”
How will we live tomorrow?
Then she added, more seriously, “My hope and wish that we will live in a world of clean air and water, renewable energy, equality, and kindness towards all living creatures.”
Then, as we finished our lunch and said our goodbyes, “To me, this is the most exciting part of life; when we are done with survival needs and can truly explore our own intellectual potential.”