PEOPLE T. Rajesh’s comeback is a salute to the human spirit, not only his own but of those around him

T. Rajesh is learning to live again. A devastating bike accident in Coimbatore in 1999 wiped out his memory, ate away his vocabulary and left him partly paralysed.

At a time when colours ebbed away from this artist/photographer’s canvas, Rajesh fought back, enabled by his will and the love and determination of his family, friends and villagers.

Over the phone from Iritty, Rajesh speaks enthusiastically, yet haltingly. Often he needs a sympathetic listener to fill in his sentences. But he is steadily putting the pieces together.

Assisted by well-wishers, for the past year or so he has been running an enterprise called Rhea Graphics. “I do wedding albums, stamp-size photographs and also some flex board work,” he says. Rajesh’s remarkable return to life, after doctors gave him a two per cent chance of survival, is captured in a recently released book Thirikke Vanna Nirangal ( Colours That Returned ) written by K. Jayaprakash Babu and published by Litmus, an imprint of DC Books.

The book recounts extensively how a promising creative career was cut short. It also details Rajesh’s days at the hospital watched over by siblings and relatives and so too his baby steps back to life. For the journalist-author Babu, Rajesh was a different kind of story. “Here the narrator was mostly silent as Rajesh did not remember anything about the accident or afterwards,” says Babu. So he relied on the accounts of people who took care of Rajesh at various points, the doctors at the hospital, his brothers and sisters-in-law, friends and villagers, then he jotted down points and incidents, cross-checked and created again.

“There were many emotional moments like those when his sister-in-law Beena, barely a few years older than Rajesh, taught him to walk again. Rajesh did not have a child’s natural inclination to walk,” recollects Babu.

The triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity is integral to Thirikke Vanna Nirangal , but so is the spirit and triumph of a community in getting one of its own back to life. From the young boys who taught Rajesh alphabets, to friends who constantly spoke to him about their childhood together, to well-wishers who gave money from their retirement fund to aid his treatment, the principal characters were many in the script of Rajesh’s re-birth.

About Rs. 14 lakh was spent on his treatment, raised by people who knew and didn’t know him. “Often money came without asking,” says Babu.

Rajesh, now a husband and a father, is determined to look ahead. Most of his past might be a blur, but he has definitely moved on from the time he failed to recognise his mother and addressed her with a “Hello.” He is back to taking photographs of his favorite Theyyam and snapshots of village life. “My hands tend to shiver a little when I paint. But people tell me it doesn’t matter,” says Rajesh. He dreams of holding exhibitions of his paintings and photographs.

On the book that will tell him chapters of his life that he is unaware of, he says, “I haven’t read it much. I can read the headlines. My wife is reading out the book to me. But with the child around, it is tough.”