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Book Review: The Weight of a Cherry Blossom by Shruti Buddhavarapu

Introduction

Living with Chronic Illness is like being in for a new surprise everyday. Despite following all that you have been advised, your body might choose to respond differently to the same factors daily. Bringing together such experiences of day to day life is Shruti Buddhavarapu’s book ‘The Weight of a Cherry Blossom‘.

About the Book

If you took a map and pinned each city I’ve lived in, I’d exist somewhere in the tautness of the string attaching one point to the other.

The Weight of a Cherry Blossom_final draft

  ISBN: 978-93-5333-699-8

Category : Non-Fiction

  Imprint : Rupa Publications

  Year: 2019

If a life is lived across many homes—from balmy Chennai to muggy Mumbai, the crackling expansiveness of Delhi to the breathtaking splendour of Vancouver in spring—where do you truly belong? If you are constantly on the move, is home just what Customs can clear? And how do you find love, in the middle of it all, when you do not or cannot stay in one city long enough?

Funny, poignant and reflective, The Weight of a Cherry Blossom is a fable of rootlessness and belonging in the modern world. It is equal parts a story of urban loneliness and self-discovery, and of the healing powers of kinship and love. Revisiting the awkwardness of adolescence and the chaos of growing up, it looks the foibles of adulthood irreverently in the eye.

Tracing the powerful patterns of family, friendship, storytelling, fear, love and loss from her childhood to the teetering end of her twenties, Shruti Buddhavarapu takes you through the embarrassing yet affirming adventures of a life lived with one’s heart on one’s sleeve—through illness, despair and joy.

About the Author

shruti
Image Source: Goodreads

Shruti Buddhavarapu is a poet, writer and editor currently living in New Delhi. She has a double masters from Jawaharlal Nehru University and the University of British Columbia.

She is fascinated with politics, pop culture and how seamlessly one bleeds into the other. She is also a researcher with an interest in the rhetoric of health and medicine.

Her first book, Mother Steals a Bicycle and Other Stories was co-authored with Salai Selvam.

Review

In our country, where people do not wish to discuss invisible illnesses openly, it is very courageous of Shruti to come up with a memoir based on her chronic illness and life around it. Though the tag line states it is a memoir on adulthood, one cannot deny the fact that it is also a memoir about living with chronic illness and how it impacts various aspects of your life including work and social life.

“Even the possibility of having a conversation, where I could ask her questions about PCOS, about my PCOS, was foreclosed to me. ” (Flesh, Pg. 89)

One of the biggest complaint that most of the pain warriors have is the fact that they see sympathy in the other person’s eyes where there should be respect and mutual empathy. That makes them feel let down. Shruti talks about many such let downs in her memoir where life, friends and loved ones let her down including her own body which is not in her control most of the time. And yet she doesn’t give up. She continues striding ahead despite all that comes her way.

PCOS Awareness Symposium - Presented by PCOS Challenge, Inc.
Image Source

Painfully Yours

When the author talks about the longing and despair she undergoes due to her chronic illness, you can not only relate to it but also feel her pain. There is a certain honesty in her tone throughout the book. As if she wrote this book to bare her soul to the world and give them a glimpse of what her world looks like.

What is commendable is despite suffering from a chronic illness (PCOS) for close to two decades of her life now, she barely mentions it or refers to it in a debilitating tone. Rather, she includes and accepts it as a part of her existence and talks about life, through her perspective. PCOS as we all know, impacts the weight of the pain warrior. Here, the author compares the physical weight to the emotional weight it brings along and talks about it metaphorically making it extremely poignant.

Her journey to diagnosis and constant medical follow ups are so relatable that you want to reach out to her through those pages and hug her for dealing with it all so bravely.  Like many of us, author also faces doctors who do not see her chronic illness as a big deal. The insensitivity of their behaviour, clearly visible in the narrative.

Neatly divided into two sections, the book deals ‘Weight‘ and ‘Weightlessness‘ experienced by the author. While the section weight deals with her diagnosis and the journey of acceptance, weightlessness talks about the rebel within her who finally strives to find a way out of this confined definition. She spreads her wings, discovers self love and fills her being with dreams and hope.

Life Defining Changes

How many times have we let an illness define us?

I am sure many of us have been guilty of doing so and Shruti Buddhavarapu is not different. Exploring various themes of love, longing, relationships and alienation, she talks about dealing with life along with chronic illness.

The different sections of the book deal with her ability to acceptance. The whole book can be called a part of her journey and readers get to witness how it wasn’t easy , just like is the case with all of us. How she went through all those phases of grief, denial and anger to finally reach the stage of acceptance. In those pages somewhere, the author grew up. Not only in age but also in maturity and understanding of life.

As the author herself says in the acknowledgements,” The story I’m threading together is done so with deliberation and some amount of poetic license. It is an offering, a guided stop-motion-picture tour of rootlessness, chronic illness and solitude.

Growing up with a chronic illness is not easy. As apart from understand the sudden changes your body undergoes ,you also have a hyper active mind and heart that suddenly seem to have found a voice of their own. In this, the author tries to channelize her anger in the right direction which leads her to make peace with it all.

Written in an extremely lucid language, this book manages to touch a raw chord with the reader due to the sheer honesty in the narrative. The experiences of falling in and out of love, making family understand the impact of living with a chronic illness, losing out on friends and making new ones, the need to have a stable career while dealing with all of this – Everything has been beautifully summed up by the author in The Weight of a Cherry Blossom. Her words make you sit up and feel the exact emotion she is undergoing at that moment. Be it joy or pain, it all there for a reader to witness and bask in.

A recommended read for all caregivers and pain warriors, this book makes for an excellent read to understand lives of pain warriors better!

About the Reviewer

Namrata is the founder of Keemiya Creatives, a boutique consulting firm for aspiring authors. After being an investment banker for a decade Namrata found her true calling in books. With numbers playing in her mind and words throbbing through her veins since close to a decade now she writes, reads and of course forgets to count them! She can be reached at privytrifles@gmail.com

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