Updated: Mar 23
Reading this novelette, a deeply emotional experience for me. It struck a chord with me on two separate but interconnected levels.
Over 50 years ago my school education was in an Indian Public School, modelled on British schools of the type one might have read about in books by Enid Blyton. I was taught to view Indians with derision, as worthless, lazy people needing improvement. Indians were accused of being ahistorical, with their itihasas and puranas being fairy tales. In my all-boys school, mischievous students were punished using terms reserved for Indians such as “chokra boy” or worse “ruddy Tatiya”, where Tatiya was a contemptuous reference to freedom fighter Tantia Tope,
who was an undesirable, in the eyes of the ethos of my school. Later when I studied medicine and went on to become a surgeon, I was taught to be derisive of Indian systems and Indian forms of medicine. I had to learn about diseases as viewed from the West.
As I grew older and wiser, putting many decades of practice under my belt. I realized how unfair my education had been, Indians were not stupid or lazy and over the years I underwent a deep decolonization of my mind. Along with that, I learned about ancient Indian health practices
that were simply ignored or unrecognized, including Sushruta’s surgical techniques, hand cleaning and no-touch techniques used in ancient India that were exactly what surgeons do in operating theatres and simple acts like boiling milk for sterilization.
This book is a beautifully constructed story of the decolonization of the mind of a young lady named Tara who is the protagonist of the book. Tara’s education and attitudes were exactly like mine, deracinated, contemptuous of all things Indian and admiring of anything from the West. The story shows the gradual awareness that Tara gains about the past of her own people which echo my own experiences. Perhaps the most significant part is that the story is written like our puranas. It is not written as a textbook or a bland history book.
Mitra Desai combines ineluctable historic facts cocooned inside the story of a family that could be almost any Indian family. It is woven around a delightful story in exactly the same way that our own Indian epics and narratives inform us of our past via the medium of enchanting stories.
Thank you for writing this Mitra Desai. I recommend this book to all Indians. You will not regret reading it.
Dr Shiv Sastry; Surgeon and Author of Aryan Invasion: Myth or Fact? Uncovering the evidence.
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