Special tale

I read all the books written by Temple Grandin, a renowned professor with autism and the subject of a TV biopic.

Published: 01st December 2021 06:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2021 03:42 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: If you are a columnist writing about other people’s books, do you have permission to write about your own? Personally, I would say a loud ‘No’. But for once, let me infringe on this unwritten boundary and share the books that inspired me to write my book, co-authored with C K Meena, The Invisible Majority: India’s Abled Disabled. Here are some of the books that helped me formulate my ideas about disability.

Among Indian authors, I came across Arun Shourie’s Does He Know a Mother’s Heart? Through his personal journey with his son who was born with cerebral palsy, Shourie introspects on suffering and critiques religion. I read memoirs by PwDs such as Malini Chib’s One little Finger and Siddharth Jayakumar’s Simply Being Sidds. In fiction, there was TGC Prasad’s From the Eye of My Mind in which the protagonist is a teenager with autism. 

However, most of the books I read were by authors from the US, a country that is at least half a century ahead of us in providing an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities (PwDs). At the top of the list is Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree, a 10-year labour of love which involved Solomon going deep into the lives of families of children with disabilities. This thoroughly researched, sensitively and brilliantly written book has been made into an equally noteworthy film. I decided to try something similar though on a lesser scale in the Indian context by capturing the life stories of PwDs and their caregivers.

No Greatness Without Goodness by Randy Lewis struck an obvious chord in me since I too, like Lewis, have a son with autism, and like him, I belong to the corporate world. Lewis, who used to be the VP of one of the fastest growing retailers in the US, went about building an inclusive workspace which became a model for other companies.

I read all the books written by Temple Grandin, a renowned professor with autism and the subject of a TV biopic. Joseph Shapiro’s No Pity gave me an overview of disability in the US. It led me to some key topics that I picked for my book: the status of disability policy and law in India and the progress of our own disability rights movement.

About Us is a compilation of New York Times essays that were part of the newspaper’s disability series. Written in first person, they reveal the lives of persons with different disabilities as they negotiate a world that is not made for them. The title, incidentally, reflects the slogan of the global disability movement, “Nothing about us without us”. I knew that mainstream Indian media would hesitate to carry such a series but at least my book could reflect the voices of PwDs and record their intimate stories.

While preparing to write The Invisible Majority, I also read novels with a disability theme. The graphic novel Nobody’s Fool by Bill Griffith is an eye-opening true-life story of Schlitzie, a man with intellectual disabilities who was displayed as a ‘circus freak’. In an entirely different vein, The Rosie Project by Australian Graeme Simsion is a hilarious romance where the protagonist is a scientist who appears to have Asperger’s Syndrome. The working of a mind that is wired differently actually creates material for humour! These books revealed the manifold shapes, sizes and colours of a subject close to my heart and inspired me to bring it close to home through my book on disability in India.

(The author is a technologist based in Silicon Valley who is gently mad about books)


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