One day in the late 1970s, when Aravind’s small clinic examined a record-breaking 100 patients, Dr. V treated the staff to ice cream. As the treats were passed around, he urged everyone to aim for the day when they would see 1,000 patients. Even his most experienced staff members thought he was joking. Today, the Aravind Eye Care System sees more than 70 times that original milestone every day. “Throughout the time that I have known Dr. V, his vision for what was possible was way beyond what was anything reasonable,” says Fred Munson, his voice rich with amusement and awe.

Aravind’s growth was hardly one-dimensional. At different turns, it unfolded new and unexpected capacities. “I have read a little of Sri ...

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