February 22, 2020
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Understanding The Crab

Wonderful stories of courage, of hope, of how something so devastating can actually help a person evolve.

Understanding The Crab
T. Narayan
Understanding The Crab
Smiles And Tears: A Salute To Cancer
By Anup Kumar
Rupa Rs 295; Pages: 272
Exactly two years ago, while walking around Humayun’s tomb, I saw Sultana at a distance. We often saw each other during these morning walks—her style was energetic and her pace three times that of mine. As we met, I casually asked her how she was—and was quite unprepared for the bombshell that followed. "I’ve got cancer—breast cancer," she said, and broke down. I was stumped. She seemed now, as always, so "normal".

Like many others, I was uncomfortable with the word cancer. Everything I said sounded so banal, trite. I really did not know how to ‘deal’ with her or the situation.

Reading Smiles and Tears has changed that. It has demystified cancer and brought it into the realm of the familiar. Anup Kumar’s second book (The Joy of Cancer is his first) collates the experience of 21 patients segregated according to the type of cancer they have. Sultana’s is one of them. Others are housewives, professionals, those in the corporate sector and journalists.

I can now identify with the people in this book, with their experiences, the pain and anguish, the "why me", the fear of being stigmatised, the sheer physical destruction. Cancer is a great leveller—its reach cuts across all barriers, and it strikes often without any apparent reason. You could be young, healthy, rich, careful and lead a sensible lifestyle, yet be a victim.

The book includes a seven-point strategy to deal with cancer that Anup evolved in his earlier work and includes an appendix of frequently asked questions. It helps those with cancer and their caregivers understand not just the physical manifestations of the disease but also the emotional trauma behind it. It also, thankfully, answers the many simple and complex queries patients and caregivers have.

All this aside, these are wonderful stories of courage, of hope, of how something so devastating can actually help a person evolve—how relationships are strengthened, how daily life is more enhanced. It really is the flip side—the gift of cancer.

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