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Journey through an Era

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By Savitri Narayanan
Name of book: Uncharted Life’s Journey
Author: Dr Dhirendra Sharma
Published by Educreation Publishing
Price Rs 550
‘Uncharted Life’s Journey’, an autobiographical account of a social activist, takes us to another era offering glimpses into history of half a century and more. Imagine growing up in an orthodox household where the language of conversation was Sanskrit! But that was a launching pad for the author who pursued his education and career across continents and now has come home to roost in Uttarakhand. The 200 odd pages take the reader through the villages and towns of British India, the universities in India and abroad, the prisons in Delhi and United Kingdom and along the streets of North and South America, to name a few.

A collection of anecdotes and life experiences are woven together. The presentation is reader-friendly in a way that it doesn’t demand long stretches of time and attention. It allows the reader the freedom to go through it, off and on, as and when one finds time and mind-space. The narration opens the doors to different worlds to meet interesting people, including dignitaries, authors, statesmen as well as the common person on the street.

There are names, faces and places that one usually comes across only in newspapers and news channels – like ministers, spiritual leaders, space scientists and diplomats. Dr Sharma’s gifted narrative style is such that, as one leafs through the pages, these people and places come alive and turn real. The late Atal Behari Vajpayee, former PM, gets a human face when as a policy he opts to play down the Bofors Gun issue stating the reason, “…what will the historians say? That for a few crores, our country victimised our bahu, that too the widow of our ex-Prime Minister? (pg.86)

The story of ‘An animal doctor in Pundit family’ (pg 126) gives a glimpse of times when the profession of veterinarian was not acceptable for a Brahmin boy. Interestingly, the mother finds a way of supporting the aspiring son, tactfully ignoring the disapproval of the grandfather-patriarch. (pg125)

Heathrow Airport, Buckingham Palace, Peshawar – the land of Kabuliwallah – all come alive as the readers join the author’s life journey. The illustrious police officer, Kiran Bedi, becomes a concerned mother when she steps in to rescue a student who erroneously lands in Tihar Jail (pg102).

APJ Kalam, the ‘missile-man of India’, who later becomes the President, gets a face when he finds time to inaugurate the playschool in the neighbourhood and have a vegetarian meal at the author’s home. (pg.192). The hospitality of the subcontinent is showcased with the mention of a fruit-juice seller in Peshewar and a sweetmeat shop in Lahore, who waived payment because the author was a visitor from another country saying ‘aap hamare mehmaan ho’. (pg 137)

The author’s own experience of living through Partition, breaking down the Berlin Wall, being part of peace-marches in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are some narrations that make history come alive. His connectedness with the community, the indulgent humour and an overriding air of empathy make this book an interesting read. It is a documentation of an era where any reader could find points of identification.