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Illustrated Masterpieces

While ‘GRIT: the Vishwas Story’ showcases the protagonist overcoming physical disability with mental resilience and support from close acquaintances, ‘In Search of A River’ allows readers to traverse the mystique of Chitrakoot as two young boys set on an adventurous trail to find a river, and ‘The Gutsy Girls of Science’ sheds light on the incredible feats of girls in scientific domain

The three books under discussion this week are wide-ranging in all respects – in terms of genre, theme, storyline, protagonist and the core message. What connects them is that they are all eminently readable, and the illustrations supplement the text seamlessly. Though they have been written for young adults, parents and grandparents also fall in love with the storyline and the context.

The first of these, ‘GRIT: the Vishwas Story’, is about overcoming physical disability with the strength of the mind and the support of family, friends and institutions dedicated to para sports. This is the story of Vishwas who, at the tender age of ten, loses his arms in a tragic accident. Things that required little to no effort were now traumatizing, challenging and downright impossible. Initially, every day was a constant reminder of what could have been, but when he took it all in his stride, and realized that disability is not physical, but a state of mind, bright lights appeared on the horizon.

While for a lesser mortal, this sudden and debilitating episode would have led to an irreversible depression, he bucks the trend with the love he receives from his family, friends and coaches. Enveloped within the cocoon of familial devotion, the sanctuary of loyal comradeship, and the tutelage of discerning mentors, Vishwas undergoes a profound metamorphosis, emerging as an indomitable force, seemingly summoned from the crucible of adversity. As he forges a path toward cementing an enduring legacy as an accomplished para-swimmer, the prodigious talent hailing from the vibrant city of Bengaluru unwittingly assumes the mantle of an unwitting inspirer, a beacon of hope for those navigating the treacherous currents of their own life journeys. As Samhita Arni puts it: “This paradigm-shifting series forces one to reexamine their beliefs. Vishwas’s resolve and patience are immensely inspiring and a testament to the enduring power of resilience shown in the face of adversity.” Grit: The Vishwas Story is an illustrated ode to a man who surpasses unimaginable hardships and comes out the other end with integrity, optimism and gratitude. This powerful and tender tale will break your heart and put the pieces back together with a hopeful, life-affirming touch.

‘In Search of A River’ celebrates the brilliant partnership of the mother-daughter duo: Saroj Mukherjee, the author who wrote this in Hindi, and her daughter Tilottama Tharoor who has translated it into English. Translation is always a tough challenge, but given this relationship, it is clear that no one else could have done a better job in bringing to the fore the adventures of Bharat and Hanumant as they search for a river behind the caves of Chitrakoot in the deep and dense forest of Madhya Pradesh. Chitrakoot itself is so rooted in legend and history that it is easy to be transported to the world of dead kings in abandoned palaces where the secret treasure trove is guarded by the Nag Devata (the serpent king) who is adored, worshipped and feared with equal intensity. The worlds of Bharat and Hanumant are apart: for Bharat, the standard picnic basket will have a set of sandwiches; for Hanumant it is jaggery, gram and rice flakes. But they are in the adventure together, and even with their very different world views, they move on as a perfect team in the quest of the river. While Bharat and Hanumant enjoy their adventures, the readers get a chance to experience the beauty of Chitrakoot through the alluring descriptions. It is a journey into the wilderness of the country. The illustrations by Trisha Dasgupta and Sreemoyee Ray enhance the reader’s experience.

Last, but not the least, is the debut offering from a young adult Ilina Singh who has penned The Gutsy Girls of Science. She has a way with her words, and each picture that she draws with her pen makes the person come alive. Let me illustrate with her description of cytogeneticist Archana Sharam: Cytogenetics, now that’s a word, that sounds rather weighty It won Archana a Padma Bhushan at the age of eighty, Just as a house that’s fine, is made of the humble brick In your body and mine, it’s the cell that does the trick Deep inside each cell, there roams A set of human chromosomes! Herself a gutsy and spirited student of Class XI, she has crafted a literary masterpiece that not only sheds light on their incredible feats but also serves as a rallying call for young girls across India. It is more than just a collection of biographies; it is a vivid tapestry woven with threads of courage, curiosity, and unwavering determination. Through meticulously researched narratives, Singh offers readers a window into the lives of eleven Indian women who defied societal expectations and soared to unprecedented heights in the realm of science.

While the primary focus is on celebrating the achievements of remarkable women who navigated through a labyrinth of challenges to emerge as luminaries in their respective fields, her writing style (as briefly shown above) gracefully captures their trials and triumphs, making each episode a riveting journey that unfolds against the backdrop of an independent India. The writer, a former Director of LBS National Academy of Administration, is currently a historian, policy analyst and columnist, and serves as the Festival Director of Valley of Words — a festival of arts and literature.

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