Harsh Mandar, a well-known activist, has today come across to me as an accomplished writer. His book Invisible People: Stories of Courage and Hope is a compendium of 12 stories of unknown faces who have struggled to exist, but their existence was so determined that it turned them into heroes. Here I am assuming their acknowledgement as such by the author deserves them a hero status (though I have my reservations about the second story entitled Living below the Poverty Line). In half of the stories, the survival in jail and transformation thereof is a reason enough to call them winners, albeit they didn’t stop just there: they made it a mission of their life to help others in similar circumstances. However, the rest of the stories are no less significant, for these are also the stories of those who have existed and survived against all odds, and once so done have also helped others survive as if their own success was tied to the desperation of those still trying hard. This kind of harmony just can’t be created by design; it just grows organically out of the natural instinct of humanity. An author can just observe and reflect, which Harsh Mandar has done sincerely and beautifully.
I have picked up four stories which touched me deeply, and my claim is endorsed by my tears, which fell on the screen and blurred my vision forcing me to close my eyes and absorb. The four stories are:
1. Standing on her Own Feet
2. The Carers and the Cared-For
3. The Choice of Homelessness
4. The Boy Who Wanted to Study
Standing on her Own Feet is a story of a physically challenged girl, who chose to take upon even bigger challenge of education and when the time was ripe removed her physical challenge as if it never existed. But this was not a preparation for marriage, for she knows she doesn’t need a man to complete her life, and thankfully so.
The Carers and the Cared-For is a story of mentally challenged individuals, who find support in the community through only slightly better-off individuals.Such Cared-For may not even understand what a winner means, but they are winners indeed for they bring meaning to the lives of the Carers, who otherwise don’t stand a chance in the society.
The Choice of Homelessness is a story of a street-dweller who has no qualms, for he chose it for himself. He finds solitude in Ganja and thanks “God” for giving him working limbs and healthy body, which lets him earn his daily wages as a porter. But, of course, he wants to settle in a small home someday, albeit with his mother, for he can’t marry in this life atleast.
The Boy Who Wanted to Study is a story of a reformed criminal (‘juvenile delinquent’, to be technically correct). He indeed committed an offense in a fit of rage, but those who could empathize with him would only see a potential good citizen. Luckily, he discovered himself in the Jail and vindicated all those who show faith in the transformation of delinquents.
I think I am prejudiced by my tears, therefore, I would recommend you to read all the stories and buy the full set, which I bought from Juggernaut (I don’t know where else it is available).
(Checkout my new book Kerala Hugged)
© 2017 Ankur Mutreja