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 Table of Contents    
BOOK REVIEW  
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 91-92
Children of a better god


Professor of Psychiatry (Retd), The Association for the Mentally Challenged, Hosur Road, Dharmaram College P.O., Bangalore-560029, India

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication13-Jan-2011
 

How to cite this article:
Murthy R S. Children of a better god. Indian J Psychiatry 2011;53:91-2

How to cite this URL:
Murthy R S. Children of a better god. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2011 [cited 2019 Nov 18];53:91-2. Available from: http://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2011/53/1/91/75543



By Susmita Bagchi

Translated by Bikram K. Das

Published by Penguin India, New Delhi 2010.

Pages: 238 Price: Rs 250

This is a remarkable novel about 'special children', their 'special families,' the 'special teachers' working with them and a special organization working for the welfare of persons with cerebral palsy, namely, Spastic Society of Karnataka.

It is not often that I start reading a book and do not put it down till I have reached the last page. The book "Children of a Better God" is one such book that I have completed reading in the last few days.

As the blurb of the book notes, the novel is the story of Anupurba. But it is something more and that I will share with you in this review.

'When Anupurba comes back to India from the United states, reluctantly leaving behind a satisfying job as an art teacher, she does so with a sense of apprehension at this displacement from her comfortable, suburban American life. She never imagines that returning to India would turn out to be a profoundly transformational and life-changing direction. A chance meeting with an old college friend introduces her to Asha Jyothi, a school for children suffering from cerebral palsy. Overcoming her initial trepidation, she agrees to volunteer as a temporary teacher. Anupurba teaches the children how to draw and paint but it is the children who teach her the real lessons-about suffering and survival, joyous friendship, love and laughter. "Children of a Better God" is a deeply touching, tenderly written story about the agonizing challenges faced by children who have to live with lifelong disability, and the ways in which these very special children can powerfully enrich our lives with their grit, positive spirit and sheer courage'.

The book is peopled by special children suffering from cerebral palsy. The descriptions of the temperament, moods, the sorrows and joys and the struggles to master their disability by Abhay, Ronnie, Raja, Lata, Prabha, Sweta, Uma and others present both the challenges of children with cerebral palsy and also their joys and sorrows. One of the most impressive aspects of the book is the interactions and supportive relationships of the children.

The other group is the 'special families'. The personal life situations and the development of the character of Arundati, Ranjana, Rhea are the most touching and disturbing aspects of the impact of a child with cerebral palsy on the family lives of people. There are tragedies, losses and triumph against adversity presented in very realistic way.

The third group filling the book are the 'teachers' who are dedicated and sensitive people. The dedication, commitment, innovativeness and total immersion in the care of the special children and special families is very heartening to read. Mrs. Mathur, the Principal; Shobha, the public relationship officer; Noorjehan, the staff of the health centre; the teachers, Ranjana, Bani; and aides like Arundati all show the complexity of caring for special children and the feeling of satisfaction in their work.

Interestingly, there are a number of people in the book falling into more than one of the three categories. For example, Noorjehan starting as a user and becoming a staff, Ranjana from being a parent to be the teacher, and Arundati both a parent and a nurse aid. This is the special aspect of the book.

There are also instances of many aspects of the institution building and the challenges of funding such special institutions. The section relating to support from well wishers and philanthropists is a positive one.

The story, rather than the multiple characters and their personal predicaments, comes through in a very realistic way. There is enough of human drama and failings to make the whole novel closer to real life. This is expected as it was built on the real institution namely the Spastic Society of Karnataka in Bangalore. The lead narrator, Anupurba, comes through as a very sensitive and real life human being responding to special children and their families in a realistic manner.

However, there is one aspect of the lives of special children that is not fully developed, namely the society/community and its role in the care of the disabled. The larger society only peeps into the stories, in the form of the negative attitude of the husband and in-laws of Ranjana, and not in a significant way. There is also no reference to the many changes that are occurring in the country in the area of caring for persons with cerebral palsy like the activities of the National trust.

There is a need for more of this type of books. I want to compliment the author, Ms. Susmita Bagchi and the translator Mr. Bikram Das for this excellent novel. It has been a wonderful experience to read the book. I strongly recommend it to all those thinking of and working with special children and adults.

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Correspondence Address:
R Srinivasa Murthy
Professor of Psychiatry (Retd), The Association for the Mentally Challenged, Hosur Road, Dharmaram College P.O., Bangalore-560029
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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