The book is about a family that bravely came to terms with terminal illness and is a personal account of the survivor of that family. The family was an ordinary family just like you and me.
The action begins in the first chapter itself leaving no place for you to settle down comfortably and then slowly plunge into the story plot. What grips you is the book’s ability to help you identify with the characters namely, Dr. Kumar Jesudasan (the protagonist), his wife and author (Usha) and their three children. The book makes you feel as though you always knew this family. They could even be your neighbors! What adds to the charm of the book is Dr. Kumar’s dedicated devotion to the cause of leprosy. He takes his work towards leprosy patients in the lush green nature reserve of Karigiri, located somewhere between Chennai and Bangalore as a serious calling. His work is missionary in nature and his petite young wife who has lived all her life abroad gives him company.
Since Usha herself has written the book you get close to her inner emotions – what she felt when she began her life afresh with Kumar in India. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined that an educated, qualified, articulate and modern woman like herself would have to give up all that she desired in life to settle down to a marital life strewn with thorns that hurt her at every step. Usha has been honest as she describes her disgust and dislike when she was introduced to the leprosy prone life in Karigiri. In and out, the book rocks you as you are pushed into flashback to understand how the family gets together and then, again into the present when you see the family struggling through ailment, unhappiness, loss of faith and love. Just when you thought that the book was taking you into the future you find yourself shoved into the past. Just when you thought that the pain that the family was undergoing was too much to bear Usha takes you back to a pleasant, happy and even enlightening memory.
So, what is the book about? Dr. Kumar is a dedicated leprosy doctor and is known the world over for his specialized diagnosis and effective treatment. He is mentor to innumerable people who consider him as family after having being discarded by their own relatives and friends. Dr. Kumar’s family slowly but steadily realizes the importance of his work and make use of their religious faith to bail them out of crisis whenever the going gets tough. But then, destiny plays cruel games sometimes and Dr. Kumar is diagnosed with Hepatitis B after a suspected hepatitis contaminated needle was used on him during one of his several blood donation events. An occurrence of the cirrhosis of the liver is definite and that was to be the end for him. Just imagine! Knowing the way you were going to die and not being able to do anything about it!
Much as Usha and Kumar try to handle the limited painful time that they have in their hands sometimes, faith seems hard to come. Usha is unable to see Kumar suffering anymore especially when she knows that all that he has done in life is good for mankind. Innumerable quotations from the Bible and from several other inspirational books help the young couple. Usha explains how she and Kumar try to come to terms with their state, with Kumar’s sudden comas and with the children’s trauma. Usha reads the Psalm 34 time and again to stay strong for her dying husband and for her scared and confused children:
“The Lord is close to those whose courage is broken,
And He saves those whose spirit is crushed.”
Unable to bear the suffering anymore and unwilling to die a painful death shackled to a cold deathly hospital bed Kumar decides after a spate of comas that enough is enough. He wants to die at home with his family beside him, not in an ICU ward. He is brought home and as per his wishes he is not revived when he goes into coma. Miracle descends upon the family when he gains consciousness again and again every time he goes into a coma. The society that was accusing Usha of not loving her husband has nothing more to say and Kumar leaves finally with the following lines of Joe Mannath in his heart:
That you will call me
When it is best for me….
My loved ones cannot come with me,
You alone –
You will be there at my side,
As you have always been,
You will hold me,
And remake my broken frame.
In your name I surrender
The remaining hours of my life,
Knowing that the best is yet to come.”