All of us love a good survivor story. It reaffirms our beliefs in whatever Almighty we believe in and let us convince ourselves that whatever happens, happens for the best.
Is that always true? Do we think similarly when the conclusion is not in our favor?
Karanbir Singh has poured his heart out in his book “My Little Infinity“, a true story of Dr. Rajinder Singh (Karanbir’s father) and his fight against aggressive cancer that afflicted him. The most poignant part of this book for me was that the first 4 chapters of this book were written by Dr. Rajinder Singh himself and when he did not feel able enough to continue to recount the story ahead, Karanbir stepped in.
Dr. Rajinder and his family were the quintessential happy Indian family of today. Educated; this was would be an understatement given that Dr. Rajinder, his wife Dr. Roop and their daughter were doctors and Karanbir was doing his post-graduation in Bangalore when this story unfolds. Let me start again: educated, reasonably well to do, a thriving practice, all family members well aligned and at peace with themselves with both children looking at a bright future with fully supportive parents behind them.
A routine medical check-up revealed that Dr. Rajinder had a suspicious lump on his liver and further investigations confirmed the malignancy. Being the extremely practical people they were, they wasted no time in consulting with the best specialists they knew and arranging for a liver transplant with Dr. Roop as the donor. The transplant was successful and Dr. Rajinder embarked on his journey towards remission at home.
All was well for a while but what followed next was a series of twists and turns that tested this loving family to their limits. Each day was a torture with each one of them looking at their hero, the man of the house go through extreme pain as the disease kept making its presence felt and ravaging his body from within.
Karanbir writes very evocatively about the close relationship he shared with his father and even during this tough phase, what stands out is the extreme love shared by the father and son duo. While almost all of us have lost loved ones at some point or the other, one can only imagine the pain that he must have gone through seeing his beloved father go from a hale and hearty person who cured many people on an everyday basis to a weak shadow of himself needing support even for the most basic of tasks.
Dr. Rajinder fought on but cancer eventually won and took away a genial and gentle human being from our midst. This loss and the journey of the months before it led Karanbir to explore his own consciousness and also alternative avenues to come to terms with what happened. In the latter part of the book, he succinctly outlines his quest to answer the basic questions most of us ask at some point in time; why does this happen? Why are good people taken away before their time? What are life and death? In the course of this quest, he met with and spoke with many people known for their knowledge in spirituality, astrology, and other alternate sciences and tried to make sense of and resolve the turmoil within himself.
In the book, Karanbir does a good job of penning down thoughts and ideas which being abstract is difficult to explain but are common to most of us. In conclusion to this memoir, he accepted that life and death is a continuous cycle and we are but small specks in an infinite chain. Having said that, each one of us has our own little infinity within us and it is up to us to accept whatever life throws at us as part of this infinity.
Grief is personal and universal both and each one of us has to contend with it. We need to coexist with it and understand that it is this grief which makes us more accepting of other people’s disparities knowing that they too have their own internal struggles.
My Little Infinity is a very personal memoir and all credit to Karanbir Singh for having the strength to bear his heart to the world at large. I have my own personal grief to grapple with and I identify with Karanbir, as would most of us. My Little Infinity for me is a tragic but heartwarming story of love, despair, and eventual enlightenment through self-reflection. I hope that through the telling of this tale, Karanbir was able to make peace with himself and the happy memories of his beloved father stay with him and his family as a constant presence from now on to infinity.
Reviewed by Sachin Shanbhag
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