Book Review: Children of a Better God by Susmita Bagchi

Children of a Better God is a novel by Oriya writer Susmita Bagchi. It was written originally in Oriya (Deba Shishu) and has been translated into other languages, including English.

This is one novel which first by-passes the brain and proceeds straight to the heart. However, it eventually asks several questions of the reader.

The story is about Anupurba, who has just returned from the US with her husband and two sons. Anupurba was an art teacher in the US, but she doesn't find any suitable job for herself back in Bangalore. She ends up volunteering to teach art at Asha Jyothi, a school for spastic children.

This experience turns out to be a life-changing one for Purba. The story takes the reader through Purba's journey, which begins with the realization that she had very wrong notions about cerebral palsy. Her initial apprehensions are found to be unfounded. She ends up being emotionally attached and also succeeds in making a difference, even guiding the children to an art exhibition.

Children of a Better God is more than a story. It attempts to give people a glimpse into the lives of children who suffer from cerebral palsy, to remove misconceptions, to answer several questions, to pose others.
  • Spastic children may have physical deformities, but they are often shunned by society because of misgivings.
  • Dealing with children requires lot of patience, dealing with spastic children even more so. For example, the book has one character, Uma, who has almost no legs, has a very bad temper. So, how does one deal with such children? Ignore their excesses? Or strike a balance by being strict with them?
  • What such children lack in anatomy, they make up for in something else. They are brilliant in art or poetry or academics - something or the other. By no means are they to be dismissed.
  • What is the future for spastic children? What happens when they are at the threshold of adulthood? Do they crave for romantic and sexual fulfillment?

Above all, the book reinforces the point that has been made about special children time and again: They do not need your sympathy. It is the understanding and support that they seek from this society.

I would definitely recommend this book. Apart from educating me about spastic children, it has sent me on a soul-searching mission. It has also increased my respect for the countless nameless teachers, volunteers, ayahs and other staff who work selflessly and tirelessly to give hope to special children.

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