There are a few books, in my opinion, that are beyond a review. At least, they should be.
This doesn’t mean you cannot critique them. But that those flaws are insignificant in comparison to the message the book delivers.
My latest read, Twilight’s Children – Chronicles of Uncommon Lives, published by Readomania is one such book.
Edited by Vasudha Chandna Gulati – a brilliant writer herself, the book is a collection of short stories and essays about those suffering from Intellectual Disabilities. It chronicles their life, struggles and successes in small and big moments. It sheds light not just on the challenges they face but also the stereotypes and discrimination they face in the hands of us ‘normal’ people. It brings forth not just their experiences but also those of their families, or those who step forward to look beyond the superficial.
The stories, as the Editor’s Note correctly says, are heart-breaking while filling your heart with hope too. It is rare to see stories affect you so deeply that you cease to see the world like before again.
When I first started reading the book I had expected to finish it in one sitting. How wrong was I! This isn’t a quick read, and you would be better off not trying to make it one.
Each of the stories is profound, deeply emotional; each of the essays insightful and causes one to ponder at length.
The first story itself rid me of my misconception that I would be able to finish this book quickly. It’s not just fiction but also personal narrations, non-fiction essays – all of which that spread awareness about what Intellectual Disability is.
A Beautiful Life by Udayaditya Mukherjee left me crying and all shook up. (In fact, while writing this review, I revisited some of the stories and this one left me in tears all over again.)
Personal narrations by Dr Shanti Auluck, Deepa Garwa, Kamalini Natesan, and Madhavi Gupta left me with a feeling of awe and respect for them. Their ability to overcome the odds and make their lives a success is inspiring.
A Star in the Dark Sky by Kena Shree, The Idiot by Tanushree Ghosh Dhall, The White Ambassador by Nirmalya Banerjee, Priceless by Dr Bhuvaneshwari Shankar, The Yes or No of My Life by Arpita Banerjee left me overwhelmed with emotion that it was difficult to breathe.
The Hashtag Hero by Aashisha Chakraborty, Two Broken Hearts by Mira Saraf, Priceless by Dr Bhuvaneshwari Shankar, Poorna by Nithya Rajagopal, Different Strokes by Namrata Chauhan brought a smile to my face.
The Boy Who Never Felt Down by Dr Karnika Mishra Upadhyay, My Friend Cathy by Deepti Menon, Mannu by Rakesh Saraf, Confessions of a Neurotypical Mom by Dr Ananya Mahapatra, A Teacher Remembers by Manika Sharma, A Disabled Acceptance by Dr Karnika Mishra Upadhyay, and The Strongest Person by Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan instilled in me a sense of hope again.
Doing Good Makes Business Sense by Aradhana Lal and What the Law Says on Disability by Dr Harshali Singh are hard-hitting non-fiction essays that not just present the ground reality – and some of which could be disheartening – but also present some viable solutions that are applicable in the corporate sector from a social and legal standpoint.
The book, or rather each of the stories and essays, forces you to look inward and retrospect on how you may well have been guilty of being cruel and insensitive by staring at a drooling child afflicted by Down Syndrome or looked with pity at someone struggling to do a basic chore that you take for granted. It makes you want to reach out and tell these people that you care, that you understand their struggles better, that you wish you could do more.
A question rises up in mind, and with each subsequent story becomes stronger – What can we do? How can we help? Can we donate money towards research, and will that be enough? Isn’t giving money towards finding a cure that would reduce the suffering for these individuals a huge contribution in itself? But then again, isn’t giving money and getting away with taking on any further role the worst form of absolving ourselves of bigger responsibilities?
So then, do we go and help in their homes – help take care of them? But are we equipped to do that? Isn’t it obvious that those with special needs need special care? Or, do they really? Isn’t love and compassion enough to make them feel better? Then again, is it? Can love really overcome everything? It surely won’t provide for a cure, will it?
At the outset the reader is left with lots of questions and no answers in sight.
But the truth is that while there are no spoonfed answers here, and the book doesn’t even venture towards providing any, it does answer that one gnawing question – how and what can we do – without being preachy.
Indeed, the best part about this book isn’t just the stories -heartbreaking and hopeful, as they are – but that one simple straight answer. It will not be fair of me to reveal it to you, though; because reading this book and discovering it for yourself, isn’t an experience you should miss.
Get your copy of Twilight’s Children here.
Have you read Twilight’s Children? What did you think of it? Which was that one book that affected you so deeply that it changed the way you think?
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