Surgery, personal obsessions, and artist dates: three things this month

charisse-kenion-502626-unsplash (1)Here’s my new more-or-less monthly update: sharing three things – a person, idea, story, event or something else – that have grabbed me and that I think people should know about.

Not exactly brain surgery

Another day, another phone interview. This one stood out though: over a fairly crackly phone line – from an echoing meeting room in central London to a Bangalore hospital – Devi Shetty told me he’d just finished a heart operation and seen around 60 patients that day. “It’s energising”, the 60-something year-old told me. “Where else do you get to interact with that many people?”

Dr Shetty has earned worldwide recognition for the chain of for-profit but low-cost hospitals he’s set up around India. Scale is often seen as the ultimate goal for social enterprises, and Narayana Health leads the pack, performing around 17,000 heart surgeries a year (by comparison, the entire NHS does 30,000).

Like many savvy entrepreneurs targeting bottom-of-the-pyramid customers – a vast, but long-overlooked segment of the population – Shetty sees serving the poor as more than just morally right. It’s also good business strategy, he told me: “If you’re only concentrating on people who can afford your services, there is always a limited market. The moment you reduce the costs, the market is virtually infinite.”

A new use for date nights

Two ideas in one. In the weekend papers I read about World of Books, a company that’s helping books go to good homes – again, on a huge scale. It buys books that charity shops can’t sell or that libraries no longer want (apparently your old Harry Potters are two-a-penny). It uses technology to scan and sort them, and then either resells or recycles them. Apparently the company recycles about 80 million books a year (the equivalent of 575,000 trees), all of which means charities and libraries don’t have to deal with costs of disposal and unwanted books don’t go to landfill.

Anyway, from World of Books I bought The Artist’s Way, a sort of coursebook that helps unblock creativity. I haven’t started it yet but I love the sound of one of the tools it proposes: the ‘artist date’, a regular block of time set aside just for you and your inner artist child. Your artist child spends most of the week being supervised by serious, rules-focused adults; date night (or day) is when he/she gets to go out and do something playful, relaxing or inspiring – anything that gets ideas bubbling.

Obsessions welcome

On bubbling ideas: I went to Magculture’s one-day masterclass on making your own independent magazine. I’d expected to be one of about 8 people there; there turned out to be 20+ participants, several of whom had come from abroad specially or timed trips to London around the day.

The Magculture shop itself is an unusual spot: it’s (I think) the only store in London that sells independent magazines, and nothing else. If you’re a lover of print and beautiful design, it’s well worth a visit (and if you’re not in London, have a listen to their podcast).

What I love most about the new wave of independent magazines, I think, is what they reveal about other people’s obsessions. People are so taken with dogs / crafts / cycling /  rock music through the eyes of women that they devote blood, sweat and tears (and cash) to making a magazine about it; many others are so taken with the same subject that they buy it. If you’re looking for your tribe, you’ll find them reading a magazine. And if it doesn’t exist yet, maybe you should create one.

Photo: Casa Magazines, in New York. Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

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