“I have always accepted what was expected of me all my life.”
“I try to recollect when I had chicken served in a wedding. Suddenly I remember – it was my own wedding years ago.”
A must read narrative spanning several decades in 20th Century North India.
Pankaj Varma is a retired banker. His mother developed dementia and suspected Alzheimer’s about a decade ago. This is a fictionalized account of her story.
Diagnosed with dementia and possible Alzheimer’s, she faces the prospect of a steady decline in her mental functions. She starts writing down her story, writing down everything she knows while she still remembers it so that she can read it back when dementia makes her forget it all. She is elated that dementia cannot rob her of memories now because she has it all written down. It is a major victory for her as she tries to combat the onslaught of her disease. Her story has been re-written by her son to present this touching narrative straight from the heart. This fascinating and intriguing story spans a major part of the 20th century in North India and depicts the hurdles faced by an educated girl before and after marriage. It gives an unusual insight into India-that-was, reflecting the social mores of that time. A must read for everyone connected with India and for anyone who has a loved one suffering from dementia.
Visit Pankaj Varma’s website.
“”Those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they’re all individuals and they’re all unique. And they just need to be interacted with on a human level.”
Maybe that’s what the author, Pankaj Varma, has tried to portray about the Dementia patients in his debut book, Silver Haze. A story so profoundly crafted in the words of a woman who has narrated her whole life story till the point, when the silver haze has turned into a dark fog and she couldn’t see anymore beyond the fog.
I’ll have to thank the author, Pankaj Varma, a zillion times, for sending me over a copy of his book, in return for an honest and unbiased review.
Firstly, this story is loosely based on the author, Pankaj Varma’s mother, who too is a victim of Dementia in her old age.
Before getting wiped out off of all her precious memories and her journey to old age, an old, Dementia-affected patient named Kamala, pens down her life story. She pens down every minute details of her life, since beginning from her childhood, the place where she was born, its history, her friends, leaving that place, college, getting married, kids and finally losing her life before even her husband died. Her words are like so flawless and very simple and you can account each and every incident right in front of your eyes.
From ‘GurGaon’s’ history to Ludhiana to Lahore to Agra, this story takes you on a journey of India’s history too beginning from India’s independence to the day when stock markets were established. Along with Kamala’s life story, we also get a taste of India’s road to development and growth right after the British left India. The author has a deep psychological grip on his characters, who are portrayed as multifaceted, flawed and sympathetic human beings, especially, Kamala, who never decided anything about her own life, even in her old age, she never had that kind of control over her own life, what others thought or asked to do, she did that only, as if she had no feelings of her own. I really loved her character, how she stood her ground when she thought she was giving up herself into too much temptation. I liked how she stood her ground that the servants were stealing from them, although nobody believed her. I loved how she used to care for her husband and his parents and her own parents, before even thinking about herself, I really loved how she said “NO” to the wrong things. Everything about her will make you realize that a Dementia victim is not leading their life as vegetables or mentally challenging lives, instead, they have their own control over the mind and in the end they might not have that control at all. I consider them as the truth-telling machine.
Read this book for sure to remain amazed by the author’s choice of simplistic words to make this story more and more interesting and captivating.”
~ Carey Mulligan, an English actress.
About Pankaj Varma
Pankaj Varma was born in 1953 and attended school in the city of Ludhiana in Punjab. His father was a college professor (later Principal) in Government College, Ludhiana, one of the most prestigious colleges in Punjab. His mother was a college topper from Kinnaird College,Lahore, a leading girls college in North India. Varma passed out at the top of his class and won the National Science Talent Search Scholarship. He went on to get his Masters at the Honours School in Physics at Punjab University Chandigarh, a highly ranked University in India. He was selected as a Probationary Officer in State Bank of India and pursued a career in banking for four decades before retiring as a Deputy General Manager. The bank allowed him to develop his creative abilities, particularly when he was in the bank’s in-house training system. After retirement in 2013, he has settled down in Panchkula (Chandigarh) with his wife and taken up writing full time. Silver Haze is his first novel based on a fictional recast of his mother’s story. He is already working on his second novel which is in the Science Fiction genre.
His wife, Urmi is a Masters in Home Science and has extensive experience of teaching. His elder son and his wife are PhDs in Electronics and are designing computer chips with Intel in US. His younger son and his wife are MBAs working in Netherlands.
He and his wife love to travel and have extensively traveled over US, Europe and India. They love their morning walks and play Sudoku at the ‘Evil’ level.