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'Body Betrayed Beauty': a poignant tale of fight against cancer

Body Betrayed Beauty: a poignant tale of fight against cancer
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Highlights

When S K Ghai, the chairman of the Sterling Group of Publications, received a call from a woman for publishing the last notes left by her daughter who succumbed to cancer, he knew it would not be a usual book.

When S K Ghai, the chairman of the Sterling Group of Publications, received a call from a woman for publishing the last notes left by her daughter who succumbed to cancer, he knew it would not be a usual book.

For the next one year, he was tasked with bringing the author - Neha Ganju Tanna - back to life through the book. "Her mother wanted to breathe life in every word written by her daughter, and she wanted to keep it for her granddaughter who was three years old when Neha died," Ghai said.

"We knew the book was not a commercial venture. It was an affectionate story, and a tragic one too," he said. When 33-year-old Neha was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer in 2015, one of her first realisations was that she will not be there to hold her daughter's hand through the challenges that life may throw at her, Neha's father Deepak Ganju said.

This thought led Neha to spend her last days penning notes for her daughter, born in 2013, sharing lessons from her life. After Neha died on October 23, 2016, her family stumbled upon the notes she had written for the last 15 months of her life and decided to publish them as a book.

A compilation of these messages from a mother to her daughter - "Body Betrayed Beauty - A Young Mother's Journey with Cancer" - was released at the India International Centre here last Tuesday.

"Neha refused to let her diagnosis define her. Rather, she lived and fought valiantly till the last, teaching her loved ones how to face adversity. The book, 'Body Betrayed Beauty', is a compilation of her writings near the end of her life," Deepak Ganju said at the launch.

In the book, Neha, who was an engineer by profession, shares how she was able to enjoy life despite knowing that her end was near and recounts the moments she cherished with her baby daughter.

Ganju said Neha did her masters in crisis management from Washington University, but little did she know that she would be doing crisis management with her life.

Neha tells her daughter how to deal with challenges that she may be faced with while growing up and delves into her idea of nature of God, family and identity.

"This is not only the story of Neha and her family, but of millions of families who fight this dreaded disease. I hope and pray a film is adapted from this book.

The world should experience the bounden love and joyous spirit of a girl called Neha," Kusum Noor Saifullah, an author and a speaker at the launch event said.

Agni Shakher, author, writer and founder of Panun Kashmir, urged people to read the book since it would change one's perception of life.

Stating that the title of the book was apt, he remarked that beauty is in each moment of an ever-changing life. Even in her last moments, she continued to live this beauty ultimately betrayed by the body, Shakher said.

Neha was born in India but migrated to the United States with her family when she was 11-years old. She returned to India in 2013-14 for work.

However, soon after she headed back to the United States, she was diagnosed with cancer. She is survived by her husband and daughter, who is six years old now.

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