For my blog this week I have a GUEST BLOG. It is a book review by Dr. Roy Thomas.
‘TRANSPLANTED From 110 Degrees in the Shade to 10 Degrees Below Zero in the Sun’ is a moving, well-crafted and poignant memoir by Dr. Shakuntala Rajagopal, who as a 26 years old immigrant physician from the tropical South Indian state of Kerala, came to the cold freezing wintery city of Chicago in 1964. In this book she recounts the important events in her life in America, and show us how by hard work and perseverance, she has become what she is today.
Shakuntala is a multifaceted personality, and besides being a distinguished physician in her field of pathology, she is a gifted writer, a good oil painting Artist, and an organizer of several community organizations. She is also a past president of the Association of Kerala medical graduates in America. In this exquisitely inspiring memoir, she describes how she got adjusted to the new country, the strange foods, new clothes, and the new American English which was different from the English of the English she learned in India. Still she is excelled in many fields, while being a dedicated wife, a loving mother, a grandmother, and the beloved matriarch of her family of 52 members in the Chicagoland. Her beloved husband, Dr. Rajagopal, a gastroenterologist, left for his eternal abode after 47 years of their marriage. Dr. Shakuntala still continues to pursue her passion in writing, painting, gardening and many other community activities. She is affectionately called ‘Shaku’ by her friends and it has been my great privilege to be a close family friend of Dr. Shakuntala Rajagopal over several years.
In this book, Dr. Shakuntala, who is affectionately called ‘Shaku’ by her friends, weaves an unforgettable account of her life as an immigrant Indian physician in America, and it is very encouraging and inspiring reading for the new generations of immigrants, especially physicians from the subcontinent of India.
Book available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and online bookstores
Dr. Roy P Thomas
Tasks loom ahead
Beads of sweat on your forehead
Throat dry and tongue tied
A tight knot in your gut
Legs ready to collapse
Feelings of fear
Sometimes even panic
Amounts to fight or flight
But would you, should you
fight or flee
One fleeting moment to decide
No time to assess
No time for regrets
Nor time to find your arms
Victory or defeat
All up to you
Wipe your brows, I say
Tighten your belt
Fight the fear
take on the challenge
Get on with your task
Your weapons your experience
Your armor your inner strength
your action plan
And end game,
running a race
cooking an apple pie
beating your challenger in tennis
or beating the demons in your dreams
all amount to
So, on you go soldier
Only your goal in sight
It is all right to be afraid
But don’t let fear stop you, ever
Victory, I say
Do not give up lace in your underwear
Especially when you are over sixty
Do not give up lace in your underwear
Don the best close to your skin
Who’s to say you can’t feel your best?
Elegance has no age barriers
Even if your long skirt has tattered a hem
The lace beneath elevates your mood
And of course you add a lace of
Bourbon in your drink too
And ease the pain within your heart
When you were six and your mom
Dressed you in Sunday best
There was lace in your petticoat
and her warm hug that made you smile
was it your mothers kisses or was it
the lace that made you feel special?
To avoid what you need to do
will help no one
will do harm to your psyche
will ruin your smile
would you rather have a sad, smooth
face, or a wrinkly smiling one?
Put the smile back on your face
Widen your arms to embrace
Life, love, and whatever comes your way
There is a divine plan for you my love
You may not say no to it
You will not be given a choice about it
Just sit back and enjoy your ride
When the rollercoaster stops
Get off and breathe in the blessings
I found this poem I wrote nine years ago. I realized that nineteen years later I still hold these sentiments.
I could change the word sixty to eighty, and it would still be true.
So, to all who read this, age does not matter.
I just sit back and breathe in my blessings
My memoir “Transplanted” Has been published by Outskirts press. My memoir named “TRANSPLANTED, From 110 degrees in the Shade To 10 degrees below zero in the Sun”, recounts my experiences as a young doctor of 23 years old who left the South Indian tropical town, Thiruananthapuram, and got dropped into a ten degrees frigid Chicago winter forty-eight hours later, and despite the strange foods I had to adjust to, the strange clothes that I needed to survive the cold, and even the strangeness of the English language, (which I had hitherto believed I was well versed in,) I was able to mold my life and likes, and establish myself as a successful pathologist, a dedicated wife, strong yet kind and loving mother and grandmother, and now a Matriarch to an extended family of fifty two in Chicagoland alone.
I had to grow up twice. The first time, in the bosom of a warm extended family growing up was a pleasure. As a young bride I followed my husband Raj to Berwyn, a suburb of Chicago, and had to grow up all over again. In our early years here without any family, life was hard, and sometimes lonely. Our love and devotion to each other enabled us to make life here an adventure and a gratifying experience.
Any one displaced from a place of comfort (whether it is one hundred miles away or ten thousand miles away as I was,) and looking for guidance to overcome difficulties and to survive and flourish will find my “Immigrant story” helpful. While accepting and assimilating the American Heritage for my own, I detail the tradition and the legacy that I brought to the melting pot that this land truly represents.
You can come visit with me and discuss the book at the 35TH ANNUAL Printers’row Lit Fest on June 9th, Sunday between 10 a.m. and 5p.m.
The 2019 Printers Row Lit Fest, presented by founding organization the Near South Planning Board, returns to its roots to bring you the 35th annual book fair, with a bigger footprint along South Dearborn Street from Polk Street to the newly named Ida B. Wells Drive (Congress Parkway). This year’s fair includes more book dealers, all-free programs, a kids favorite book character costume parade, and much more.
Come celebrate Chicago’s booming literary community over the course of this historic weekend.
I am not one who makes excuses for not doing things on “my to do list.” But, I do have a very good excuse for interrupting my efforts at weekly blog posts. My youngest daughter has brought home a newborn baby boy.
She is staying with me for her three months of vacation time with this small baby boy. I am over the moon with the closeness I am building with this person, who, as small as he seems, is quite a big man in the effects he has on me and the rest of our family.
First of all he makes my whole being happy. Just being himself effortlessly makes every member of our family happy. In the two months of his life, each of his achievements amazes us. This baby brings back those emotions from years ago. It was the same feeling when I held my little ones many years ago, and, later when I held my two older grandsons when they were babies. So it doubles my feelings of happiness when I hold this two month old.
The happiness quotient expands my heart and when it can’t get any larger, I just let it overflow on to the rest of my loved ones, each time. How such a small being can give such expansive thoughts in me: I don’t understand. So intense, I stop breathing for a few minutes. But it is a breathlessness that does not deplete any oxygen. It only adds more energy. Inexplicable!!!
“Gratitude is the Attitude.”
This was the theme we taught at a summer camp to our grandchildren a few years ago.
Every day, I feel this is true in my life. Right now I am grateful for a visit I made to my sister Shanthi. I had not seen her in two years. From the time in December 2018 I told her over the phone that I had tickets to go visit her in India and the time I got there last month, her voice was stronger, her resistance to doctor visits and updating her meds had decreased and there was a big smile on her face. She had not cooperated with her daughter about checkups with her doctors in the past several months.
My youngest daughter who accompanied me on this visit boosted the efforts of her cousin to take Shanthi to all the specialists she needed to see, and to update her meds. I know between the two cousins they pushed Shanthi to get the care she needed.
Shanthi was almost herself, making home-made banana chips and raw-jackfruit chips and breadfruit chips. Not just for us to taste but also bring a few bags back for her nieces and nephews here in the U.S.A.
I am very grateful I was able to be there, although the visit was a short three weeks, and that all of us benefited from her energy.
On this trip halfway around the world, covering 10,000 miles one way which takes 23 hours, and the flight hours of 17 to 18 hours; I am grateful to the Gods for keeping us safe and all the Airlines and staff for their knowledge, commitment and efficiency.
I am also grateful for my sisters, cousins, sisters-in-law, and their families including nephews, nieces, and even grandchildren who shower unconditional love to me as I drop in once a year or once in two years, and then disappear into the skies.
Swamee Rakshikkane. (Oh God, Take care of us.)
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!
The process of getting your book in print is not a very smooth one. Many things I thought were clear got obscured in the final process. Just for example, the font, size and color of the caption for the front of the book had to be looked at, and the photos rescanned and their dpi quality had to be changed, when possible. But I am in the end-stretch of the road and soon I will have a release date for my memoir.
FROM 110 DEGREES IN THE SHADE TO
10 DEGREES BELOW ZERO IN THE SUN
Christmas this year was special with celebrating my newly-wed grandson and his wife, two high school graduates in the family, a four-month old little princess among us, (my nephew and his wife gave us that one), and the announcement of a new baby coming in the family in June, from my niece.
While all these new memories are being made, we cherished our memories from the past, and the people who have left us after leaving indelible imprints in our hearts and minds. Just talking to each other about those dear ones give us a special strength to carry on what we need to do today and in the days to come.
Happy New year and tons of love to all.
Swamee Rakshikkané “God, keep us safe”
(This is a blessing and a prayer of surrender into God’s hands for safekeeping.)
I disappeared from these pages because I had to immerse myself in the book production site for my upcoming memoir “Transplanted from 100 Degrees in the Shade to 10 Degrees Below Zero in the Sun”:
Now that my manuscript has been submitted to the publisher, I can get back to sharing my thoughts and feelings.
When you write a memoir, you start with a conception it is all about you. But as you start writing, you realize it is about the places you lived, your loved ones, the classmates, the colleagues and the mentors in your life. Above all it is about what your relationships and life experiences helped to mold the person you are now.
I understand now that ones who clung on to the past were stuck in the rut and remained unhappy despite their blessings. The people who used past experiences to learn from them and used them as stepping stones to leave them behind and go forward in their lives stayed happy and content.
In the book “Anam Cara, A book of Celtic Wisdom”, John O’Donohue says that some people are born happy. To see a silver lining when dark clouds loom is a special gift some are born with. Yet, we can all cultivate happiness. That is what I learned while writing this memoir.
Seventy-one years ago my sister Shanthi and I alongside our cousins, were allowed to stay up until midnight to hear the celebration on the radio of The Birth of a New Nation, an Independent India.
The National Anthem blasted over the radio at Midnight. I sang along, as best as I could at seven years old. I don’t think I knew all the words. But I remember my little heart pounding with pride as my father cheered on.
The next day we watched the Independence Day Parade at the Pangode Military Base, not too far from town. We were handed little Tricolor flags of a free India to wave as the Parade passed by the viewing stands.
In the year previous to this event, Mahatma Gandhi had tried his level best to avoid splitting “India” into the two countries of India and Pakistan. In support of Mahatma, my father, photographer Sivaraam, who was an ardent Gandhian follower, posted these tableaux in the local paper as an illustration to keep the two countries together. With the relief of an United India-Pakistan in the background, I donned a Nehru-cap and touted the Indian flag, while Shanthi had the Muslim salwar-kameez outfit and the flag of Pakistan. The accompanying article pleaded with our leaders not to split the two countries.
While both attained freedom from the British rule, history has shown the united nation was not meant to be.
Freedom fight, 1946-1947
On the relief of an United India-Pakistan country, Shaku wearing a Nehru-cap holding an Indian flag, and Shanthi with the Muslim Salwar-Kameez outfit holding a Pakistani flag. This was the local town’s appeal to avoid splitting the two Nations. It did not come to fruition.