Hello readers! Besides my Whimsical Wednesdays series, where I post a detailed book review every week, I will be sharing reviews of shorter publications like short stories I have read. Daastan is a relatively new publishing platform of Pakistan that organizes short story competitions in both Urdu and English categories. I participated in “A War Within” (English category) and made it to the Top 15. Today, I will be reviewing the first entry I read from this year’s batch of short stories: An Abandoned Leaf by Neeraj Brahmankar. Congratulations on clinching the 6th rank this year, Neeraj. May you enjoy more success in the future 🙂
A War outside is visible, but when it is within you, even if you bleed, no one sees it. There was a war between his mind and vocal cords.
Some people are fortunate enough to be born with a healthy body. Some are born disabled. He struggled to speak, due to stammer.
“An abandoned leaf” portrays the life events of a boy who despite having chaos in mind and outraged with pain, tried to flow like a meandering river.
Passing through a stage of resistance to abject surrender, he fought a long battle against the stammer, and words were like leaves buffeting against the wind of stammer.
Now even after battling with all his demons, he is left with nothing but a blurry childhood. Will he ever be able to revive what is lost?
An Abandoned Leaf by Neeraj Brahmankar is non-fiction and written with a first person narrative since the author relates his story. It may sound a bit like an autobiography as he shares his struggle with stammering, which he developed as a child due to an illness.
The book opens with a quote by Einstein that pretty much sums up the message the author is trying to convey through this story.
He explains that every person has their own special strengths so they should not be compared with others and made to feel inferior for not having a particular ability. To add to that everyone has their own idea of “normal” and “perfect”. The expectations are equally strong from each side but all demand different things.
In this case, his disability was something that most of us don’t think twice about because we have to put in zero effort to give our thoughts a voice. He describes the importance of speech in human expression and reveals how hard it was to even say his first name. It’s not difficult to imagine how such a disability robs a child of confidence and self-worth. A child lives to please their peers and elders. The theme of the contest, “A War Within”, fits here as “the endless battle between my brain and my vocal cords”. He says that even if he managed to speak, his words weren’t invited by most people. However, all wasn’t gloom and doom as you join in the joy of his first success: shouting his name out loud during an interview for a school admission.
This is the point where he decides to take control of his life and not let his stammer dictate his progress. The author’s dedication to rising above his disability is truly inspiring not just for the disabled but also the rest of us who give up at the first sign of failure. He narrates his struggle with “different shades” of his stammer. You can see that it is way more complex than it appears from the outside. If you have ever wondered what life’s like for a disabled person then An Abandoned Leaf will give you a whole new perspective. The invisible war within the author mentions is not something others can see peering in from the outside. Whether you realize or not how every little comment opens up a world of hurt for them, it is unacceptable to be insensitive about something that’s not in their control.
His perseverance and hard work led him to not only overcome his stammer but excel in public speaking. Meanwhile, he also became a wonderful writer and poet. The young boy who struggled to speak became fluent in several regional and global languages. He found solace in music playing the harmonium where words seemed inadequate to express the depth of his feelings. He was bullied and taunted at every turn by others but his family and some teachers stood firm by him. It just goes to show how far a person can go with a few kind hearts and understanding minds.
The author delivers a powerful message to the disabled to become the masters of their own fate. This story is an eye opener for teachers, family, friends and the rest of us who look down on the disabled. Many do not bother to extend a helping hand or worse, humiliate them. This is a very common attitude that needs to change. You learn about the first hand experiences of the amazing man who was pushed down repeatedly but never lost hope or gave up on his dreams.
The writing is beautiful, personal and has a strong impact on the reader. I don’t read non-fiction that often but this is one piece everyone should read regardless of your preferred genres. It’s not just a story of a stammering boy but a mirror that shows us how ugly we appear to such people. There is so much we can do but we don’t even bother saying a kind word. Like the author said, “Love is all that they need” and The Beatles agree 🙂
Have you read any of the short stories published this year at Meraqissa store?