Author: Vasundhara Ramanujan & Mohammed Akmal, MD
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