Monthly Archives: August 2012

Book Review: shades of life

Book: Shades Of Life

Author: Vasundhara Ramanujan & Mohammed Akmal, MD

Publisher: Westland

Year of Release: 2012

Surviving a potentially terminal sickness or seeing someone close fighting through one is a life changing experience. Not only do you start valuing your life more but also you tend to observe pretty interesting things about the otherwise mundane moments of life. Longer the ardor to live amidst declining chances and negatively favored history during the course of the sickness, more keen and fundamental the observation. Hence it is not surprising that when people who survive such sickness or see someone close survive such sickness pen their memoirs, they make for beautiful books.

‘Shades of Life’ is the story of a fifteen year old boy who is diagnosed with complete kidney failure and yet fights his way through the disease and the consequent difficulties posed in his life, as has been penned down by his mother and doctor. It is chronological and starts from the time when Aditya, the protagonist, first sees the symptoms of the sickness and continues till his lived-happily-ever-after ending. All in all, it covers a period of around 13 years, from 1996 to 2009. It may sound like a very insignificant duration of time but imagine living through a sickness that throws up a new challenge to handle every day; that keeps recurring every 6 months with new complications; that takes away the stability in life that we all seek leaving with us a tomorrow that is far more uncertain than what it usually is. And among all these is a teenager, supported by his family and friends, trying to steal a few more moments from his own life and in the process grow up. How ironic!

The book is an easy read and the narration flows quite smoothly. Except for the part when the story digresses a bit towards a simultaneous ailment that the mother of Aditya and the narrator of the story faced, the narration sticks to the plot (The ailment of the narrator is crucial to the plot but the timing of its appearance in the story breaks the flow). The narrator does get philosophical at times but she does not get preachy. The narration is more or less factual and follows a timeline. There are few major characters in the plot and all of them are well sketched.

‘Shades Of Life’ is my second book in this genre. The first being, the ever-fascinating classic ‘It’s Not About The Bike’ by Lance Armstrong. I could not help but wonder that the timing of my second book in this genre coincides with the time when the hero from the first is going through a professional crisis. A comparison between both these books is unwarranted but what amazed me is that there is a common pattern in both these survival stories. In both the cases, the patients had a unidirectional treatment approach. They took their time in deciding their doctors but once they did they followed his advice to the hilt.  Both Lance and Aditya did not get bogged down by the magnanimity of the situation. Instead they were in complete control. They avoided negative thoughts by keeping themselves busy in learning the nuances of the disease and drew inspiration from medical success stories that preceded them. Both had the privilege of an excellent support system and a very involved family. As this pattern started shaping up, I began to wonder, if there exists a universal formulae that unites all survival stories. Two stories are too few to draw such a generalization but somewhere deep inside me I believe it does!

Best part of the Book: Chapter ‘Sense and Sensibility’. The author’s point is beautifully conveyed in this chapter.

Worst Part of the Book: The story-telling could have been better. The narration is very factual.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!


the other side of the grass

It was only 6 o’clock in the morning and he lay wide awake on the bed.  Post retirement, he had woken up early on almost all days. When he was working, he had always looked forward to the time when he would retire and sleep late into the morning but post-retirement bliss is a myth; he now knew. What irritated him even more is the fact that next to him was his wife of last forty years – sound asleep! On a regular day he would not even notice her mild snore but right now when he was awake and had nothing else to do; he seemed tremendously annoyed by it. He pulled more of the blanket towards himself, closed his eyes, tried one more time at getting some sleep, heard her snore and nudge at the blanket, decided that it was humanly impossible for any man to sleep in that condition, gave up and sat upright on the bed.

“Forty years,” he told himself, “Forty years of my life, I have spent with this woman, and she still would not let me sleep in peace for one night.” He looked at the clock and sighed. It was 6:10. Still twenty minutes before the newspaper arrived. He looked at her sleeping blissfully and wondered if life would have been any different had he chosen to marry Aruna, his college sweetheart, instead of obliging to his parents’ demands and marrying Jyotsna. He shared chemistry with Aruna that he never had with Jyotsna. Probably he would have been happier. Probably they would have gone on a world tour, just as he had promised her then, now that he is retired. Jyotsna on the other hand hated travelling and the farthest that they have gone together, since their marriage, was to Lonavla, that too because her parents had sponsored their honeymoon and she did not want to disappoint them. Bloody in-laws!

You might live through an arranged marriage, he thought to himself, but they never ever are successful. You simply do not have the connection. You never understand each other. He envied his son and his daughter-in-law who slept in the adjoining bedroom. They seemed to be perfect for each other!


Alka fiddled with her hair as she sat thinking something and then typed furiously at her keyboard. She looked as the clock struck 6. There was a board meeting in another three hours and her report had still some work to be done. She had a pretty long night. It was tough getting back to work after two pegs of whiskey followed by two rounds of sex but the damn report could not wait. Memories of the night made her happy for a moment and she coyly looked at Adit who lay there dead drunk and naked. She tried to tickle him with her toes but that did not help. She kept her laptop aside, and pushed herself against his body trying to grab his attention. When that did not help either, she childishly started biting and whispering into his ears, taking time in between to smile at herself.

Adit, woken up by her last effort and still a little drowsy because of the alcohol, flew into a rage. “Why can’t you just go to sleep? It’s 6:10 in the morning, what the hell do you want me to do? For heaven’s sake, I have a client meeting at 10.” He carried the blanket to the sofa and collapsed in there, leaving her on the bed with an explanation that he was not interested in any further.

All of a sudden, she did not know what to do. Should she wake him up and explain that he had no right to insult her womanhood, especially after last night or should she just let him be? Wasn’t she the one who had been working the whole night and needed a bit of consideration? Would men ever understand that love is not just sex? Things were different when she was his girlfriend. She wondered if they have changed, now that she is his wife. Or is it because they were in love before they got married, that she was being taken for granted? She looked at her laptop and was reminded of her pending work but somehow she did not find her enthusiasm back. Suddenly, this was a night she wanted to forget.

You might live through a love marriage, she thought to herself, but they never ever are successful. You just become too familiar to each other. You start taking things for granted from the very start. She envied her mother-in-law and father-in-law who slept in the adjoining bedroom. They seemed to be perfect for each other!


The clock struck 6:30.  Mr. Gujral and Alka bumped into each other as they both came out of their bedroom.

“How was your night?” Mr. Gujral asked.

“One of the best,” Alka forced a smile, “How was yours?”

“At my age, you never have a bad night.”

They both laughed and then went towards the kitchen for the morning coffee.

There is nothing called Love Marriage or Arranged Marriage. There are only you and me, and whatever happens between us!

This is my entry for the Indiblogger Competition sponsored by Sony on ‘Love Marriage or Arranged Marriage.’ Know more about both of them at


I sit and watch
Silent and still
As the world speeds by.
I ask them what the hurry is,
They do not reply.
They smile and think I’m drunk.

I look at the chaos
Revel in the entropy
Finding perfection in the seemingly imperfect.
I wonder why everything needs to be in order
Like clay: molded, dried, burnt and set.
They smile and think I’m drunk.

Drenched in love
They seem happy
Or so they have come to believe.
I tell them love is a myth
This is a life I do not want to relive.
They smile and think I’m drunk.