Saturday, August 29, 2015



                   P. HARIDAS : NOTIONPRESS.COM : PAGES 235 : PRICE RS 550/-

P. Haridas is a first- time author. He has written an autobiographical book on how he battled with epilepsy which afflicted him since he was five months old. Books on this subject by Indian authors are very rare. The few that have been written on this disease are by expert physicians. This book is therefore very unique as it is written by a patient. What you read in the two hundred and thirty five pages are words literally from the horse’s mouth. In spite of this debilitating disease, Haridas led a near-normal life, excepting when seizures (fits) attacked him. Then all hell would break loose.

His is a close-knit and God-fearing family. His parents and his two siblings give him extraordinary support. He is extremely attached to them as can be seen from the various anecdotes in the book. Haridas has written in a simple and engaging style. In the early part of the book, he writes about his family and childhood memories. He graduated in Arts from Loyala College, Chennai. His father was the sole bread-winner till Haridas took up a job. The financial strain on the family was severe. Yet, the family members kept their heads above water by frugal living and performed household tasks in a co-operative manner. When Haridas took up a job in 1988, there was some improvement in the family’s fortunes. But medical expenses continued to take a big toll. He worked for almost twenty years in various organizations in Chennai and gathered considerable secretarial and managerial experience. He is now a freelancer. His epileptic attacks which fluctuated and kept coming left him on tenterhooks all the time. He could not perform to his peak potential. His underperformance irritated his bosses and he had many skirmishes and run-ins with them. All these incidents have been narrated by the author. A differently-abled person sadly often gets the short end of the stick. Haridas was no exception.

Epilepsy is a condition of the brain which causes seizures. There is an electrical disconnection between neurons. Unprovoked seizures twice or more after a time gap of 24 hours is a clear sign of an epilepsy patient. Haridas was a confirmed epileptic. The disease is challenging and directly affects the quality of life. 65 million people around the world suffer from epilepsy. India has an epileptic population of around 10 million people. Astonishingly, 95% of them do not receive any medical treatment. In fact, many of those afflicted and their parents do not know what they suffer from till seizures attack them. There are psychological, psychiatric, psychosocial and behavioural disturbances known to be associated with epilepsy. Epileptic patients suffer from a great sense of insecurity, frequent seizures and social unacceptance all of which lower their self-confidence and self-esteem. Good drug treatments are available for immediate relief. However, the general rule used to be ‘once an epileptic, always an epileptic.’ That picture has now changed.

After terrible suffering in childhood and in the prime of his youth, Haridas came to a stage when he decided to consider other options for treatment. He heavily researched, read books and surfed the internet for useful and pertinent information. Surgery appeared to show promise for a partial if not complete recovery. As the book progresses, Haridas dwells on his pre-surgery days and post- surgery days. He took the tough decision to go ahead with the neurosurgery entirely on his own in a split second armed with the knowledge that he had gained. The scar on his right forehead of the brain identified by Dr. Prithika Chary of Apollo Hospital was the marker which indicated the root cause of his epilepsy. For him there was no looking back. His parents were very apprehensive given the risks and totally rejected their son’s decision. But with gentle persuasion and statistics on how many patients had recovered after surgery, he was able to convince them that surgery was not a very risky option as thought out to be and that chances of partial/full recovery were extremely bright. In any case, Haridas says that he had come to the conclusion that life was not worth living in such traumatic conditions. He was immensely helped in arriving at this decision by Dr. Chary who recommended surgery and managed his case very ably. Surgical intervention has huge psychosocial benefits. However, there are risks involved. Haridas had a successful surgery. His seizures have almost stopped. Dr. Chary continues to give him support and advice during the post-surgical period.

Haridas’s main objective of writing this inspirational book was to make every reader know of the remarkable changes that surgery brought about in him and in his personality. His target audience mainly consists of epileptic patients, their families, care providers, doctors and surgeons. Surgery was an important landmark in his life. Haridas claims that he has experienced fifty stunning changes in his life after surgery. Each of these changes is narrated in the book. His ‘magical moment’ would be he says when people learn more about epilepsy, how it creates havoc in one’s life and how one has to cope with it. When medicines don’t work and life becomes hell, surgery becomes a strong and workable option, though it is expensive. It can bring about incredible transformation in health, attitudes and family relationships. Patients must come out of the fear psychosis that grips them when surgery is recommended to them. He has proved by example that one should face surgery happily and courageously with confidence in its success.

Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC) widely known as the ‘Father of Medicine’ wrote the first book on epilepsy. Many books and articles have been published since then. This book is a very useful addition to the list of books written by the illustrious authors. Haridas has not waited for the long gestation period required for the book to see the light of the day if one approached book publication in a conventional manner. He decided to have the book published through an indie-publishing platform. did the job in a remarkably short time. Haridas has put his heart, mind and soul in writing the book. It is a superlative attempt in reaching out to differently-abled persons and for spreading the message that family love and belief in God can work wonders. Haridas has profusely expressed his gratitude to his surgeon for having changed the course of his life. Dr. Prithika Chary, he says, will remain etched in his mind till his last breath. Pages 224 to 234, eleven pages in all, have twenty-two touching testimonials embellished with sketches of flowers for a kind and loving surgeon from an ever grateful patient.

I have only one regret. This excellent hardcover book with good printing and appealing cover which also has a ‘kindle’ edition could have been moderately priced which would have helped in reaching to a larger number of readers. Haridas could consider publishing a paperback edition in the near future.


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