Saturday 10 October 2015

Book review: Wondering Who You Are

Do you remember Balu Mahendra's Moondram Pirai Tamil film which came out in 1982? Ok, how about Sadma which came out in 1983? Sridevi and Kamal Hassan had mesmerized the audience with their fabulous performance in it. Sridevi plays the role of a young modern girl who meets with an accident and loses her memory and behaves like a seven-year-old girl. Kamal Hassan rescues her from a brothel and brings her home and spends several months together sharing an amazing and innocent relationship that treads the tender line between affection and love. 

Kamal takes Sridevi to the village's medical practitioner who cures her and brings her back to sanity as she regains her memory up to the point of her accident. When kamal comes to meet Sridevi later that day, she is unable to identify or remember him. Despite his efforts to make her understand that he was the one who had taken care of her for several months, she is indifferent to him and leaves the place for her hometown, thus abandoning kamal and the life and relationship that she once had with him.

How about facing such a situation in real life? After going through such a situation in her own life, Sonya Lea writes 'Wondering Who You Are: A Memoir' (2015) and tells the world how the course of her life changed completely after her husband forgot who he was and what relationship he shared with her and their two children during their blissful married life of 23 years. 

When Sonya and Richard were entering their 23rd year of married life, Richard was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, also known as PMP, a very rare and deadly appendix cancer. He agrees to go through HIPEC, popularly called as Mother of all surgeries, which included a 10-hour grueling operation. Miraculously, Richard survives the surgery, but unfortunately forgets his past -- due to lack of oxygen supply to his brain all his memories were completely erased! 

He struggles to know who he is and the people around him. The man who went to the hospital was completely different from the man who came out. He does not even know how to talk or smile let alone remember his family. His situation not only put himself in trouble, but also his family members, especially the author, who continuously strives to help him regain his memory. 

The author does not hesitate to reveal her bad side and his bad side even though her husband had no memory of them. She goes on to build a new relationship, a new life with him. In a way, it is not Richard who asks "wondering who you are", but the author herself as she questions herself what is the role and place that she holds in the life of Richard, a new man, a complete stranger after the surgery. It's difficult to live with a stranger under the same roof, but hats off to the author, she not only lived with him,  but also found a new life with him. 

The book intertwines both her love story and the hospital days and readers instantly fall in love with the style of narration and the bitter truth, sometimes too private, the author dares to tell the world. 

The book looks like an answer to the questions asked by Richard in the hospital bed. She is fortunate that Richard loves her more than before and tries his very best to impress her. He does every possible thing to keep her happy, even agrees to her wish of having a boyfriend! 

One has to laud the efforts of Sonya for helping Richard in all the ways. She keeps encouraging him to regain memory, helps join back his job, and what more the way she stands like a strong pillar during his worse days is more than enough one can expect from a wife. 

As Sonya says Richard is a puzzle, a mystery for her, in fact, she herself is a mystery as she found a new love and life with him. Readers get the perspective of Sonya throughout and one wonders how Richard feels about the whole incident. But then one has to keep in mind that Richard has not regained his memory completely and he is constructing his memory based upon what his wife and children are telling him. So maybe this is where Sonya's perspective becomes important, not only to Richard, but also to readers. 

The book is interesting and keeps readers glued to it. It has everything, love, loss, confusion, deathbed, family, sex, health, most importantly memory loss and identity crisis. The book begins in a faraway western country and ends in the nearby Haridwar, bringing both East and West together in thoughts. Readers fall in love with the author's way of story narration and simple language. 

Note: This review was originally published in Sakhi magazine here:

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