About the author The book was authored by Hyma Goparaju an upcoming entrepreneur from Hyderabad. She did her MBA, CFA (ICFAI) and now pursuing a part-time PhD from Indian Business School, Hyderabad.
A brief sketch of the novel A very interesting book that highlights the prevalence of a callous attitude and lack of awareness, both on the part of the society and the government, towards people who are suffering from schizophrenia or any sort of a disability – be it mental or physical – in India. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder which some times by abnormal social behavior and failure to live in reality. A reading of the book leaves much impression on you as to how a social cause has been translated into a fiction to peep it into the mind and the author of the novel takes full credit for it.
The author chose to present the issue in the form of a story so that it creates general awareness among the masses. Thus a fictions story line serves the purpose of entertainment and creating awareness. 'The Withering Banyan' is one of the best novels in recent times by virtue of its theme, story line, well narration apart from a good presentation of family drama . Thus this novel stands at top with dazzling performance of the author Hyma by any fictional standard.
The story categorically mentions about the values and traditions that are observed in a compound family and its drawbacks by exploring the intricacies of relationships in a family. The narration was well handled by the author balancing between the past and the present generation and timely surfacing of the characters by not allowing the reader to drive away from the main story line.
The story lineThe theme centres around a family by name Marri (incidentally, the author opted the Telugu meaning of Banyan tree as the Surname of the family) suffering schizophrenia which unfortunately proved to be generic for them. In spite of the fact that the mental illness can affect anybody, one of the main characters of the story 'Badri' was branded as mad by the society and his own family members. The mental sickness went on at higher measurement and the decline in the business and the downfall of the family started. The shrouds of mistrust, deceit, suspicion and contempt for one another have crept in a rich and reputed family that resulted disputes between a father named Siveswara, who earned name and fame , and a son by name Badri. The son's mind lost its balance and its maladies made the friends and relatives to think that Badri became mad.
It was due to sheer lack of awareness about the commonly uncommon disease. Such type of illness is generally influenced by environmental and generic factors. The unrefined environment and the hostile nature of the people around, further pushes down the ailment to the family line. The story sends a subtle message as to how our surroundings can harm very badly and the author takes back the story line to the pre-independent era. Till the present as many people spanning over five generations succumb to mental illness. The title of the novel 'The Withering Banyan' is apt that adds a solid dimension to the well-woven story-line and the picture of the Banyan tree on the cover page itself reveals on what context the story it could be.
The story starts with Natya who lives in Sydney with her mother a patient suffering from Schizophrenia. The disease advanced to such an extent that she suspects her own image in the mirror to be a devil who is trying to take away her daughter Natya. The story slowly gets developed by presenting the disease as an inherited disorder in the Marri family. Natya's grandfather is Badri falls prey to this mental disorder which affects the big joint family when it was at the peak of its glory. Natya decides to return to India after her mother's death and the other ladies of the Marri family had their own doubts about the smooth functioning of their joint family as this girl's presence may further ruin which was badly affected by Badri. They felt that it would be an addition of a madcap to their family.
But they could realise later that the emergence of Natya in the family was a symbol of dawn with a beautiful sunrise and the young girl could prove that Schizophrenic people are not maniacs but are just suffering from an inherited disorder. It would be interesting to know how she could manage the big family and their surroundings. How they could get transformed, to know one must read the book!
Wrap up A good job done by Hyma by taking up a theme that has not been touched by any writer so far and putting it in a fictional style to touch the reader's mind. Linking the story with five generations and the timing of bringing the characters during narration is really a marvelous effort and the thought itself is mind boggling. Truly she deserves a pat and we can expect many more such good novels from the pen of a promising writer.
Jagdish Patro is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to ISC and other websites. Fond of reading books, novels and spends his leisure time by listening to music. He did his B.Sc in Applied Chemistry and his M.Sc in Resource Development Technology. He edited and published an in-house monthly journal by name ‘Srujana’ during 2009-2011 which was totally a private circulation.
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As per the review of the book, it appears that the authoress has taken up a bold issue to highlight the plight of the families where awareness of such mental ailments is not present and someone more knowledgeable and understanding is required to explain the logic and reasons behind such abnormal behaviours.
Writing on psychological disorder themes is always a challenging proposition and the efforts of the authoress as narrated in the above review are well understood.
While going through the above review, one book immediately flashed in my mind which I had read about 20 years back or so which is the story of a woman struggling with the Schizophrenia and her ultimate victory to come out of that. The name of the book is 'Welcome, Silence - My Triumph Over Schizophrenia' written by - Carol S. North, M.D. and claimed to be her own story. It was published by Arrow books, UK in 1990.