How I became a Tree – Book Review

How I Became a Tree


It’s been some time since I read a book and I am glad I choose this gem by Sumana Roy.I have been nodding at various passages in sync with the author and at times I was marveled at the way she was able to draw a parallelism between being a human and being a tree.
Trees have always fascinated me.Their long trunks as a testimony to their strength, their deep roots, their ever hugging nature by the branches.Sumana was able to put words into my thoughts that had always marveled me.
This is a book I will always remember reading. 🙂


Em and Big Hoom

Em and the Big HoomEm and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you go to a home, you knock and wait for someone from the home to open the door and let you in.There is a certain premise to enter the home, make oneself comfortable and then have a chat.And when it’s finally time to part, you might or might not have understood the reality of that home or the family.But that was not the case with Em and Big Hoom.

When I started reading this book, I was literally put in the middle of the lives of Em, Big Hoom and their family. I felt warm and welcomed to their home.Not one time did I feel I was not a part of their family.I literally lived and breathed with them.

I felt the burning and suffocating smell of beedis in my eyes and nose.I understood the bits and pieces and was able to read in between the lines from Em’s talks.I felt ashamed at the same time intrigued at her adult talks.I felt the silent, yet the roaring presence of Big Hoom.I sensed the tender love between these folks.I could hear all the thoughts of em for endless hours.I also shivered when she tried to let go of her life.And I was part relieved and a part sad when she finally left.I knew I was somewhere becoming the shadow of the narrator, who has poured his hearts out!

Our mothers are very dear to us.She somehow has been bestowed with the power of holding all the members of the family.Now, it’s very scary situation if something happens to such a strong link.And even scarier if it related to being mentally disabled.Imelda, aka Em, is one such person, who slowly and at times looses the grip of reality.

‘After you were born, someone turned on a tap. At first it was only a drip, a black drip, and I felt it as sadness. I had felt sad before . . . who hasn’t ? I knew what it was like. But I didn’t know that it would come like that, for no reason. I lived with it for weeks.’

‘Was there a drain?’

‘No. There was no drain. There isn’t one even now’.

‘It is like oil. Like molasses, slow at first.Then one morning I woke up and it was flowing free and fast. I thought I would drown in it. I thought it would drown little you and Susan. I got up, got dressed and went out onto the road and tried to jump in front of a bus. I thought it would be a final thing, quick like a bang.  Only,it wasn’t.

I don’t know if there is any better way of defining depression.It’s akin to drowning in one’s sadness, though we don’t want to be drowned and we know how to stop oneself from being drowned but yet, yet simply could not help but sink down.That’s depression.

And how can one forget Augustine, the Big Hoom ?. When there are people who simply choose to stay out of trouble by avoiding ill people from their lives, here a man who stays and fights for a normal life.His love for Em, cannot be said in words.It can be known only from the heart.

“Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself.”

Such a brilliant portrayal of a dysfunctional(?) family amongst us describing the vivid emotions and the broken thoughts of a depressed, bipolar, suicidal mother but more importantly reading this book showed me the difficulties, that sort of numbness and the absence of normalcy in the lives of the caretakers of these mentally ill people.

I wonder if one day, I fall as hard as Em, will I be lucky enough to be surrounded by folks like Em’s family?

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My Husband and Other Animals

My Husband and Other AnimalsMy Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What made me reach for this book was the title,”My Husband and Other Animals”.Since I had never read any of Janaki’s columns in The Hindu, I didn’t know what the book would be about.While reading this book, a bunch of articles gave me a totally new experience.
We live either in a city or in a village or in a flat or a good old mansion.We make god friends and enemies with your neighbours, relatives, friends etc.But we never would have given a thought about the various “other” beings around us.Reading this book made me literally me sit up and think about the toads, cats, dogs, birds, worms, flies and even mosquitoes[the beings around me].It did make me wonder about their conversations :).

Ms.Janaki favourite and recurring topic in her articles is her husband, Mr.Romulus Whitaker-who is an herpetologist and founder of Madras Crocodile Bank. They together have been living in Madras Crocodile Bank, and later on moved to a farm house near Chengalpet.While reading through the experiences of the author I was quite envious about her adventures and most importantly the fun she had while on them.Be it “always finding a way back to home toads” or “cyclone crocs” or “trekking deep forests”, she has had a great run which we can only imagine.

Laughing and giggling to myself, I finished the book in no time.It was a quick and hearty read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The Kaunteyas.

The KaunteyasThe Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the tale of Mahabharata retold from the viewpoint of Kunti, who I believe was the one who had the power to avert the great war but she couldn’t choose to do so.I now realize why !.At every point of the tale, she always chose the well-being of her family and her kingdom above her own life.Though she is very intelligent and witty and full of love and honor, she always did what a lady is advised and supposed to do since the day she is born.She had huge powers vested upon her but she was always bound to look beyond herself and chose not to utilize her power as a mother, as a queen or as a lady.

The life of Kunti was depicted in such a way that we naturally sympathize with her and her choices and life.From a girl who was given away right after she was born, growing up in foster care, being naive, being vulnerable, being obedient but inquisitive and intelligent, her pain of being in love, her defeat to share her husband, her sacrifice for children everything is elaborately described in this book.For me, it felt like a mirror to the lives of women in our society today as she is expected to keep herself and her priorities at the bottom of the chain. These long tales painted such a picture of how a woman needs to keep sacrificing for her family and how she must follow her husband’s orders, how she is not allowed to make herself a priority, how she has no support from anywhere that it has become the new norm leading our society to a patriarchal one.

I was not particularly blown away by the narration as it had nothing new to offer except a new viewpoint as that of a women’s narrative.This may because I had expected something on lines of MT Randamoozham.Nonetheless, a good read!

When Breath Becomes Air

The title is what made me want to read this deeply moving memoir.Such a profound one, your breath is your life and you don’t realize until it becomes just air.I am not sure if I grasped it correctly, but that was what spontaneously came to my mind when reading the title there.I understand that it has been taken from here: “The book’s title is paraphrased from a verse in Caelica, a 17th-century poem by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville: You that seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath ”

We all don’t understand the real value of our life until we have been through the tragedy of it.Our perspective suddenly changes.The sufferings and pain become too real to ignore.The author Dr.Paul seemed to have everything in his life, until one day when he found them to gone out just like that.The author ended up being a neurosurgeon to understand the ultimate philosophy of life.All the hard work he has done to make it this far, the many sleepless nights, the choices of subjects he chose to learn, his ultimate seeking of truth about life died a sad ending.

The book showcases the changes of Dr.Paul from a doctor to patient.The reader is taken through his choices of subjects to learn and why he ended up being a neurosurgeon.He discusses the flimsy knowledge of life we have and how he wanted to help more of people with the knowledge he possessed.The book provides a great insight into the lives of the saviors, their working hours, their procedures, the emotional trauma, their depressions.

It also outlines his personal struggles with his life partner, about Lucy both before and after his diagnosis.It also dis is own sufferings and the limited amount of time he had in this world and how he chose to spend the same.I wonder how much pain would he have endured to write down his thoughts.One of the most touching verses in the book is where he and his wife discuss the possibility of having a baby. Lucy wants him to decide: he wants her to.

‘Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?’ she asks.Wouldn’t it be great if it did?’ he replies, adding: ‘Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.’

Paul and Lucy together had “Cady” and he was able to spend a few months with her.It might have been difficult, but “Cady” is a lucky girl to have a great father and a great legacy.



Reading this book which has been posthumously published after Dr. Paul expired to stage IV lung cancer in March 2015. Through this book he makes us realize that If we had led a meaningful life and if we made the right choices, then our lives are wonderful even of we see a sudden end to it.this book has given me another reason to cherish my life and I keep adding newer memories every day.