Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: A book of memory (Autobiography) by Sudhir Kakar

When a psycho analyst writes his memoir, it will sure to be more than his life story. This autobiography by Sudhir Kakar is an analysis of personalities and events which made him the person he is as an adult. This book begins with a characteristic narrative, remembering the day he lost his father and then moves on to formal style of biographies, a start with childhood memories. His childhood had influences of both maternal and paternal grand-parents and siblings of both of his parents. As he grew up he got more attached to his father ideologically. After he moved to a boarding school, letters become his way of regular communication with his father. This book also includes the account of lifestyle of the people lived in and around Punjab and few colonial places during pre-independent India. The pain separation of India and Pakistan brought during independence to the lives of Punjabis is well documented.

He got pushed to study Engineering against his own wishes but to obey the wishes of his father and he does not do so well in that although he completes the formal education. His travel to Germany for an internship  appears to be the time Sudhir took his life into his hands, became more expressive and begin to find an identity of himself. The five years he spent in Germany shaped his personality and he realized beyond any doubts that he is no more interested in a career in Engineering but wanted to be a Psycho-analyst. Despite resistance from his immediate family, he found support in Kamala, a relative and Vikram Sarabhai, a popular figure and also a friend of Kamala.

Living in Ahmedabad, brought him near to an interesting person in his life, Erik Erickson, an established author and psycho-analyst, who was in Ahmedabad to write a book on Mahatma Gandhi. Sudhir found a mentor in Erik and requests him to accept him as a trainee under him. Erik suggests to Sudhir to complete his PhD and join him at Harvard. Sudhir gets back to Europe to complete his doctorate and then heads to Harvard to be with Erik. That completes the formative years of Sudhir and his first book gets published during that time and puts him on the path where his passion is, to be a writer and a psycho-analyst. After his return to India, his associations got extended to many reputed organizations IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Delhi and others and his books also earned him name and fame, made him a mild celebrity. He was also summoned to provide services to Government which brought him closure to the inner circles of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

In the midst of all his professional life and bizarre experiences, he got married to Apeksha against the wishes of both of their families and had two children, a son and a daughter. But after 25 years into marriage, marriage ran into trouble and they were separated. He then found Katharina, his second wife and made Goa his home. He currently lives there and the count of books he wrote are increasing and his contribution of the field psycho-analysis is being noticed all around the world.

This book is more than the account of author’s life as the author analyses many of the personalities he gets associated with in his growing up years and aftermath. While reading this, any reader can be put into melancholy, made to look back into his past life and analyze what made him/her or who were the greatest influences at important junctures of one's life.