White truth
Gitanjali Sharma

by Sudha Murty. Penguin Books. Pages 154. Rs 150

MahashwetaThe writer has had a purpose for writing this book. At the onset, she mentions she has devoted this book "to all those women in our country who suppress their emotions and suffer silently because of leukoderma." As you turn one page after the next, you realise that from each line of Mahashweta emanates the sincerity of her purpose.

Sudha Murty, Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation and a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction in English and Kannada, has exposed a society which still shuns a leukoderma patient, be it a daughter-in-law or wife. Her book however just doesn’t dwell on the pain and trauma faced by one such victim, it also underscores how hardships can be surmounted with courage and innate faith in one’s self. Mahashweta thus emerges as a candid reflection of society as well as a don’t-lose-hope story for all those women who have just themselves to fall back on when afflicted with leukoderma.

To drive home her point, Murty begins with a simple love story that goes awry with the entry of the villain called leukoderma. The tale goes thus: A poor little girl Anupama meets a rich boy Anand and they fall in love. The blot on their fairy-tale romance and marriage comes in the shape of a white patch on the girl’s foot. Then all hell breaks loose for Anupama. She’s disgraced in her in-laws’ house and unceremoniously packed off to her poor father’s house. The husband is away to England when his wife is being meted out this inhuman treatment just because she has leukoderma — which incidentally can occur at any time to anybody. Anand, who is a doctor, ironically shows no sympathy for his wife of a few months because he had always wanted a "beautiful" wife. Then begins a life of struggle for a shocked Anupama who has to face many an insult heaped on her. Besides facing poverty, an inconsiderate stepmother, an unfeeling husband and in-laws, she has to come to terms with her own acceptance of the disease`85 a disease that has taken her totally unawares and brought her life to a naught.

It is mainly with economic independence that Anupama begins to regain her confidence in her self and the world around her. The book brings some pithy truisms as the heroine realises her true worth. Coming up trumps after the many betrayals life’s shocked her with, she admits: "Who says life is fair?... I have come to realise that courage and confidence are the real wealth in life. Education can improve your chances of success, but ultimately you have to face life all alone."

A tale well told`85 though predictable in parts with straightjacketed characters. The sincerity of purpose however stays till the end as one bids goodbye to an Anupama who has grown in stature and has not allowed leukoderma to wilt her spirit.

Her lesson of life, that holds good for one and all, goes thus: Of the thousands of flowers that blossom on a tree only a few will bear fruit. And out of those few fruits, insects and trees will eat some. The tree doesn’t keep anything for itself. Does that mean that the life of the tree is wasted? I have great friends and good students, and I am economically independent. I neither worry about the past nor brood about the future. I accept life as it comes and I don’t have any regrets."