19 December 2022 | By: Writing Buddha

Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination by Mitra Desai (Book Review: 4.25*/5) !!!

2038th BLOG POST

32nd Book of 2022


I read another book this weekend within few hours named “Shitala” written by Mitra Desai. This 97-pages book also has a tagline which says “How India enabled Vaccination”. Initially I thought that it must be about Covid vaccination drive by its title due to the pandemic times but when I read its synopsis, I understood that this is more about how vaccination actually originated from India in ancient times. So, this is a story about a girl, Tara, who keeps indulging in conversation with her grandfather. In one such conversation, the topic of vaccination comes up. They start talking about smallpox where her grandfather claimed it’s vaccination to have been derived from India. It took Tara only few moments on Internet to search and tell him that it’s not India but a man named Edward Jenners from West. This conversation then takes her towards researching more and finding out facts which not only surprises her but even the readers reading this book.


Talking about Mitra’s writing style- it’s very smooth. You will be able to complete reading this book within a sitting itself. It took me around 4 hours because I was also creating notes. The book has lots of knowledge – not only of ancient Indian techniques but also about how vaccination was worked upon in modern era. I am glad that author didn’t try to sound biased in his narration of story but keeps discussing both the sides like a debate which makes reading this story more interesting. I am glad that author chose this fictional way of telling such important facts which otherwise goes unnoticed due to boring way of representation.


Author has only gone up to the details which was actually required for proving the point for which the story was being told. There is no unwanted or unnecessary detailing. Through Tara, the way whole Edward’s journey of vaccination is detailed is very informative. I liked how Desai revealed Westerners for twisting the facts and removing the important inputs from Indian land which was provided during the treatment of Smallpox. Later on, when Indian way of treatment is explained, it’s such a matter of pride that we were involved in such inventions from as long as 7th century.


The references of Ayurveda help reader understand that it’s not only about what diet to eat and not eat but also about other informative medicinal and medical practices. There is a detailed reference section after the story ends which proves the kind of research author has gone through to write this interesting and informative story which I believe should be made part of every school’s library in India. The narration keeps mentioning the Hindu rituals and praying in the home of protagonists which is a nice way to represent our culture and make the new generation aware of it without being preachy.


The story also teaches that we should keep our ego aside to learn new things in life otherwise we will stick being adamant with our perspective and miss out learning the real facts. There’s also a dream sequence of Bhagavad Gita in the pre-climax. It gave me goosebumps. I just couldn’t stop imagining Lord Krishna in my mind after reading it. I had almost a similar experience 2 years back and I am surprised to see how something similar has been scripted so perfectly. In the last chapter, there’s a segment which gives you immense motivation. The way the character of Tara has been treated enables a lot of possibility for readers to learn not only about our ancient achievements but attitude and approach in life.


Overall, this is an interesting read and I recommend everyone to give it a chance. Take it with you on your next flight or train journey and you’ll never forget that trip ever. I give this book 4.25* out of 5.






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