neelam kumar author

I am Invincible by Neelam Kumar

Life was far from easy for these thirteen warriors, whose stories are featured in the book - the stories that make for “true tales of courage, grit and survival”.
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Nothing says I am invincible louder than the stories of those who defeat adversity and overcome pain and hopelessness in life. Such people, or as author Neelam Kumar calls them, ’Warriors of Life‘, are proof of the indomitable spirit humans hold within themselves, which, once awakened, can conquer anything.

The author might be the perfect writer for the book, given her own victorious life story. Kumar defeated cancer not once but twice and at a time when she lost her beloved husband. Her own story is so inspiring that it became her life mission to inspire others by writing her first book To Cancer, with Love. The book turned out to be a beacon of hope for those going through illness and trying times. Since then, Kumar who is a practising Buddhist member has given TEDx talks, been a motivational mentor to many organisations among others. Her second book, I am Invincible is further testimony to her commitment to making stories of real grit and determination known to the world.

Life was far from easy for these thirteen warriors who Kumar interviewed for her recent book. Their stories make for “true tales of courage, grit and survival”. They tell us about the fragility of life, the pursuit of happiness and the strongest force in our universe, love.

The book was published on 1st February 2021, a year in which quite a few books were published on healing, self-discovery and becoming stronger. Kumar’s I am Invincible however stands out from the rest as it goes beyond a book and is akin to a lantern in the dark paths of life for many.

I am Invincible is thoughtfully divided into two sections—Cancer Stories and Adversity Fighters. Although all the stories are vastly varied and narrate different scenarios, one thing that echoes across each tale is the spirit of not giving up.

From where do regular people gather such indescribable courage to weather the darkest storms in their lives? For the author herself, the mantra was ‘one beats cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live’. Her rock-solid confidence also reflects in this book, where she explains how everyone possesses such strength but it remains dormant until a tragedy strikes.

For instance, one such catastrophe struck Bengaluru based Nalini Satyanarayan like a lightning bolt when her doctor announced she had throat cancer, probably due to her late husband’s habit of smoking who had died from a massive cardiac arrest at the age of 45. Treatment? Removal of her voice box.

Living one’s autumn years with no voice can leave anyone broken and defeated. But not Nalini. “Instead of breaking down, she looked forward to getting well again and to bouncing back into action,” Kumar writes in her book. In 2010, she was declared cancer-free but her fight didn’t end there.

Nalini had lost her voice box but not her voice. So she began to help other cancer patients who were living the same nightmare as her. Nalini also volunteered for campaigns on tobacco control to prevent lives from turning into literal ashes.

In the city of Ahmedabad, another life was about to capsize. Urvi Sabnis was visiting her doctor for a regular check-up. It was January 2015 and a cheerful Urvi was reduced to tears, anger, sadness and disbelief when her doctor broke the news. She had breast cancer, a disease that had entered the lives of 2.3 million women in 2020 and caused 685,000 deaths.

But Urvi was not ready to give up. Her family was her life and she wanted to live for them. “I have a beautiful family. How can I desert them? I just cannot give up,” she remembered thinking. It is choices like these that make us who we are and what we become. Urvi wanted to be cancer-free so she could see her teenage daughter Anjali grow into a strong woman, just like her.

So the bout was set. On one side was the deadly disease and on the other, a family that was not ready to give up. In the next few weeks, Urvi lost weight and her physical strength. She had to make tough decisions and undergo long surgeries. But she wasn’t alone. Her husband Rajesh was with her every step of the way. Together, they not only weathered the tragedy but also “counselled hundreds of patients and brought a smile to their faces.”

Although Jhumar Mathrani didn’t have a fatal disease threatening her life, she had Achondroplasia, a disorder of bone growth that causes dwarfism. It doesn’t kill a person but it can easily destroy their spirit to live. In a world riddled with stereotypes, indifference and inequality, dwarfism is a battle one fights against the entire world. First at school, then in college, later at work—it chases one like a shadow on a sunny day. The only way to deal with this disorder is to accept it, keep one’s head high and one’s attitude positive. This is exactly what Jhumar did, through her confidence and philosophy of KISS, i.e Keep It Short and Simple.

Life gave her lemons but she made lemonade cheerfully. Despite her condition, Jhumar never stopped living life to the fullest. When Neelam asked where she drew her strength from, Jhumar said, “My carefree attitude, confidence and immense encouragement from family, friends and loved ones. All this helped me create a beautiful life for myself.”

Through her book of survival and grit, Kumar has given two strong messages, albeit subtly. First and foremost is the universal thought that one’s loved ones are the biggest source of strength. When they are with you, nothing in this world is too scary or impossible to conquer.

Secondly, one can overcome anything once they set their minds to, be it a life-threatening disease, a rare disorder or any other crisis. It may look frightening at first but once you draw strength from within and from friends and loved ones, the nightmare ends and the healing starts.

Kumar’s I am Invincible is for everyone going through a rough patch, who can’t seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel. Through this book, she has aspired to reach out to people, to give them hope and assurance that the dark night does end and the sun indeed rises again.

So keep fighting and reminding yourself, you are invincible! That is what these powerful warriors are telling you through their victorious lives.

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