November 2015 By Punya Srivatsava Dancing with Life: Living with Multiple Sclerosis By Jamuna Rangachari Hay House, Paperback, INR 299; 236 pages If bravehearts are those who combat against the circumstances they are trapped in until they triumph, then Jamuna Rangachari is indisputably one of them. Hers was a battle against her destiny for a life of dignity. Jamuna waged a laborious war with multiple sclerosis for over a decade, and this book is a chronicle of her never-say-die attitude towards life. As a colleague of Jamuna’s, I have been privileged to watch her wage this battle from close quarters without any thought of giving up, ever. The book is engaging from the word go, thanks to her candid description of her initial lackadaisical response to MS and subsequent fallout. Who cannot resonate with the temptation to not look too closely at what can seem like a devastating verdict, and pretend instead that all is well? The narration is far from grim. The subtle straight-faced humour at places where she laughs at her own careless mistakes drew out a few chuckles. The book spans the spectrum of the author’s indefatigable search for a possible cure for MS through the vast field of alternative therapies. Her unwavering surrender and faith in healers, coupled with her own determination to lead an independent life attracted grace in her life by way of chance encounters with healers and related contacts as she struggled with raising two children, managing a job, running a household; all this while changing cities along with her Navy officer husband. A chronicle about battling a debilitating condition has every chance of turning into a tear jerker, but this book is no sob story. What lifts it is the matter-of fact manner with which Jamuna narrates the episodes of extreme hardship she faced as the disorder progressed. These included, in the early stages, loss of vision in one eye, spasticity, ataxia and fatigue, but the most harrowing time came, as she writes, with the onset of severe and distressing bouts of urine incontinence. As the condition worsened, the only thought that plagued her mind every time she stepped out of her home was to locate a washroom urgently. Once, she had to buy a whole set of new clothes off the rack while out with family for a simple routine outing. “This began to have an impact on my quality of life,” she writes. Similarly, she recounts instances of difficulties in using disabled-friendly public transport and public apathy towards people with hampered motor skills, all of which would have made anyone else reluctant to even step out of home. Jamuna, however, strove to not let the illness define or hamper her. An undercurrent of hope, and conviction in staying positive runs through the narrative. And what is more, a happy ending too, for alternative therapies did provide succour to Jamuna and restore her life to near normalcy. Moreover, a compilation of real life local and global heroes and brief summaries of their fight to lead happy lives adds to the overall feel of optimism. A frothy lightness settled in as I kept the book down.
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