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Memoir set in Malaysia and on Everest

10th September 2016

Shouting From The Summits by Kala Ramachandran, memoir set in Malaysia and on Everest.

everestI was drawn to the beautiful smiling face on the front of this book. This is a short memoir, just 83 pages, that can be read in an hour so, detailing the life of the author Kala Ramachandran, her background and her goals, dotted with personal photos from her album.

She begins her narrative by setting the scene of her own provenance, both grandfathers hailing from India. She herself grew up in Johore, Malaysia, just north of Singapore. Dad was a teacher and encouraged his children to learn, but there were early signs of his irascibility that culminated in mental health problems for him. It also made, at times, for a difficult childhood for the author.

One day at school – this was in the 1980s – Kala was encouraged to read from one of the Tamil essays, extremely familiar to her yet she stumbled on one word, it would just not form in her mouth. And thus it was that she began to labour over certain consonants and combinations, her stammer becoming entrenched.

Naturally this took a massive toll on her confidence at school. But one day, on a trip out, she discovered the delights and challenges of trekking and more pertinently mountain climbing. A few small ascents gave her the taste for mountaineering  and it was not long before she had her eye set on Everest. Despite various hitches, the last part of the book details her gradual ascent. A terrific feat for a woman in Asia.

In the last chapter she rounds off describing how stress can further encumber fluid speech for someone who stammers – or in her words, someone who suffers from “blocked speech”  – and she offers some pointers, affirming that determination and goals are so valuable in managing the impediment, but also a good prerequisite in life too.

My thoughts on the book?

I think it will be helpful to the author and ultimately to the reader to have an editor go over the narrative once more. Issues around typesetting, grammatical errors like “I walked passed” can all be remedied in a later edition. The writing is simple – at times simplistic –  with quite short sentences, so I don’t really feel the author has found her own writing style yet; the phrasing can be at times curious and casual, for example, she receives a marriage proposal “from this one guy“…then..  “the sunset captures our attention very much“…to … “I decided to break my marriage relationship“, which all left me feeling that I was looking over the author’s shoulder at her own diary entries, where she was writing about her day’s events but not really giving thought to the necessary structure of her narrative for publication. Some of the turns of phrase felt that English perhaps isn’t the author’s (or the translator’s) first language. An editor would also weed out tedious double references: on p2 she mentions that her dad was prevented from marrying his sweetheart, which caused him not to sleep for 2 consecutive weeks, which is again picked up on p24, that he could not sleep nearly for two weeks because he was a not allowed to marry his sweetheart.

I felt privileged to share in the author’s success and see her family photos. The memoir genuinely offers a peak into the world of mountaineering, though it is more a personal story set in print that is perhaps more pertinent for family consumption – a record that future generations of her own family can appreciate and enjoy.

This is a valiant and enthusiastic early draft that needs an eagle-eyed overhaul.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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