“The book is useful for those who live with cancer patients with its light touch and illustrations and will help them understand what the situation is like and perhaps help them treat the situation with greater sensitivity and hidden compassion.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Writing a cancer diary requires a certain kind of resolve. There are issues to be faced like courage and self pity. Bollywood supermodel Lisa Ray wrote of her encounters with bone cancer and how she managed to reverse a death sentence through the right treatment and sang through bone marrow transplants. Ananya Mukherjee was diagnosed with breast cancer which was caught she thought, in time, but, a year later it metastatised. She decided to jot down her experiences in a kind of diary. The subjects she chooses are arbitrary though they have an interwoven kind of relevance to her situation.
The cawing of a crow on her window in the morning which is not a caw but a ‘ka’ in the way Indian crow call, or the oddities of a rooster which seems to crow round the clock. Relationships with her grandmother who tells her the story of a dream ghost that ultimately has a statement to make on how the sick should be treated, with love and physical contact. Mukherjee’s slim diary has flashes of poetry and meditations on how her condition has set her apart from the rest of the world. She does not ask for sympathy but the undercurrent of sadness is always there, disguised through humour and occasionally flashes of satire. For her, the condition is close to the bone and her imagination wanders down the paths of how to find ways of dealing with it.
Mukherjee has a love of Neruda and in the loss of love there is an undercurrent of Neruda. She can never, she feels be looked upon as an object of love but all the brave young men as she used to ne – though she does have a rational husband in another city who phones up with appropriate advice and refrains from sorrow or sympathy, seemingly treating her condition as part of life. Through the reflections there are glimpses of her family, her past and on some of the trending subjects in India – like the fact that ward boys and others peek through chinks in curtains while she is being examined, seemingly turned on by any female breast cancerous or otherwise.
There is, of course, the inevitable sense of being set apart from the world of the normal living who wear good clothes and dress up – though her girl friends take her shopping for Sephora eye shadows to make her feel good. Cosmetics are one of the weapons in the war against cancer, says an American cosmetic manufacturer. So too Mukherjee says are hyacinths or babies, things that make her feel fuzzy and happy for a moment in time.
An end note from her husband tells us that the manuscript was delivered to the publisher just before Mukherjee lost her 22 month battle to cancer and mentions a few things that Mukherjee did not mention, like giving up a six digit corporate salary to live in in a small town with her husband, or doing offline work for her company and writing notes for their NGO.
The book is useful for those who live with cancer patients with its light touch and illustrations and will help them understand what the situation is like and perhaps help them treat the situation with greater sensitivity and hidden compassion.
Added 14th May 2020