31 August, 2012

#BookReview :: Shades of Life: Sublime Joy Is in Living by Vasundhara Ramanujan & Mohammad Akmal

In November of 1996, fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Aditya Raghavan complained of a headache-one that could not be soothed with over-the-counter pain relievers. His motherVasundhara took him to the doctor where more tests were conducted. What the doctor discovered-chronic kidney disease-would change Aditya's life.
In "Shades of Life," author VasundharaRamanujan tells of her son's struggles with renal failure and the subsequent effects that his disease had on his life. The story traces the major stages of the progression of his disease and at each stage offers a glimpse into the physical, emotional, and psychological impacts of renal disease.

This series of chronological events shows how both mindsets of Aditya and his family collectively evolved until they were able to comprehend, accept, and eventually find the courage to overcome the challenges and continue leading a positive and meaningful life.Vasundhara candidly tells this story to help others appreciate the enormity of the disease, to help them be prepared to meet the ordeal, and to help them find a life-saving solution.

A fifteen year old boy suffers from a headache that none of the over the counter pain relievers can get rid of. A visit to the doctor for a quick check up leads to a situation that no one could have predicted. The boy is diagnosed with a kidney disease that could slowly take him towards a kidney failure and ultimately an untimely death. Thus begins the struggle for life for a teenager and his family.

Vasundhara, Aditya, Srinivas and Dhananjay were like any other family. Settled and revolved around each other. Hectic job and pressure of academic life were their only cause of anxiety. But everything changed with a single visit to a doctor’s office.  Aditya, the youngest in the family was diagnosed with a kidney disease. Thus began the medical treatment and diet control. Then came the almost inevitable dialysis and the transplant. 

Yes, Aditya survived and went on to graduate from IIT and earn a PhD. The complete account of how their lives were affected and how they battled against the disease is narrated by Aditya’s mother, Vasundhara Ramanujan in ‘Shades of Life’. The chapters in the book are like chapters of their lives and the book ends with a message of hope for not only Aditya and his family but also for those countless other families who are going through the same thing.

I have to say it right off the bat that though this is no work of fiction, at times it felt like fiction to me. And no, I don’t mean it in a negative way. It’s a compliment to Vasundhara because the courage and strength she has shown in her life is amazing. She has fought the disease alongside her son. She has probably had the toughest job – to fight a dangerous disease herself and donated her own kidney to her son. It is well known that there is nothing that can be compared to a mother’s love for her child and Vasundhara has proved that ten times over through her life.

Aditya himself is a brave person. Realizing that he had a life threatening disease at the age of fifteen and understanding the implications of that disease could not have been easy. I feel as if he had to grow up a few years in span of a few hours to actually understand. He has fought as hard as one can to live a life that we usually take for granted. His determination and adaptability surprised me time and again throughout the book. To see beyond the next dialysis and pursue his interest showed his strength of character.

The book also sends across the message that the doctors are only human after all. While there is corruption even in the medicine line, most doctors are sympathetic and humane. They can each only do so much after all. Srinivas and Dhananjay each played their part in this struggle. But still Vasundhara clearly overshadowed everyone with her strength, grit and positive attitude. 

What I liked about the book was the Preface written by Mohammed Akmal, an MD who is associated with the University of Southern California. He has been associated with the family for quite some time now. In his words he has characterized Vasundhara so well. Also there is a list of those who has lent their expertise in the medical field and guided the family through the most turbulent times. It was good to see that list there and that credit was given were it was due. There’s also a glossary of the medical terms and a bibliography at the end to guide the readers.

Overall, the experience of reading this book isn’t one that I can express through my limited vocabulary. I cannot say that I felt what the family had to gone through because I can only imagine the deep struggle and sympathize with the family. But yes, through the book, I have ‘watched’ the family struggle to deal with a whole lot of things. I have grown with Vasundhara and Aditya and I realize that we take our lives for granted while Aditya did not have that option. While we fight for and about petty things in our lives, Aditya had to fight for his life almost every single day of his life since he was fifteen. 

I would suggest and recommend this book to everyone I know as it will not only make the readers take a deeper look at their lives but also spread awareness of this killer disease. A MUST READ FOLKS!!

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