As a celebrated paediatrician, Dr. Anupam Sibal has few peers in India. He enjoys the unique distinction of having been part of the team that had performed in 1988 the first paediatric liver transplant in India at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital; he has not since then looked back. Over all these years, he has written numerous highly appreciative treatises on subjects medical, but it is his latest book “Is your child ready to face the world?” that has received critical acclaim and rave reviews. The book is a virtual primer on the fine art of parenting and is a must for all young and not so young parents. It is equally a worthwhile read for children who have stepped into their teenage years.

Sibal makes a telling point when he says that a father is a father irrespective of the fact whether he is a CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation or a sports celebrity, or even the President of the United States; he is a father first and father last as for as his child is concerned. He concedes nevertheless that “the very thought of shouldering the huge responsibility of fatherhood can be daunting”. The bare task of providing the material needs of their children is challenging enough a task for many fathers. And beyond this, there is also “a deep-rooted worry of failing as a father”.

The main theme that runs through the book is “how does one prepare his child to face the world?”. “Talking to one’s child about the good and the bad is one way. However, most conversations end up being perceived as sermons. How does then one communicate with a generation that just does not have the time to hear anyone, leave alone listen to them? Why children, especially teenagers, just don’t want to talk to their parents,” wonders Sibal. The book’s USP is that it does not sermonize or lecture. Sibal tellingly cites instances from the lives of extraordinary and even ordinary men in order to underscore the importance of being a father or underscore a particular virtue or highlight a point. His prose is simple without verbosity and easily understood.

An unusual feature of the book is that Sibal uses his young son Devaang as a springboard to elucidate his ideas and philosophy about the diverse dimensions of the art of parenting. Happily, Sibal shared a few interests and pastimes with his son and made it a point to daily get at least 15 minutes of Devaang’s ‘undivided attention’ that has had to be impromptu. The internet helped a lot in such discourses with Devaang taking the initiative and quite often spending as much as an hour on internet.

The father in Sibal sincerely wished his son to inculcate such values that would reasonably turn ordinary individuals into extraordinary men and women. In each of the 18 chapters, Sibal talks about virtues that a child must acquire as he grows up. Scores of well-known writers before Sibal have dwelt on these subjects in their own characteristic way, but this authors approach has been refreshingly different and endearing, as if he is conversing with the reader, a la Dastangoi – that was the fine art of storytelling in city squares and other public places in ancient times. The conversational mode of his book is very much like a fireside chat.

It is amazing how Sibal could find time or even inclination to acquire a storehouse of knowledge about celebrity authors and philosophers of the past centuries what with his preoccupation as a renowned paediatrician and the Group Director of the Apollo Hospitals Group. In each chapter, he quotes famous authors and politicians to underscore a particular virtue. In the chapter on “Beating the Odds”, he cites Orison Swett Marden, the famous American author of motivational books, as saying that “Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” In the same vein, Dr. Sibal quotes Maria Robinson in “It’s Never Too Late” chapter, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending”.

Every chapter is replete with examples from the lives of people who started life small and went on to become great men and women. In the chapter on “Courage”, Sibal gives the example of Dr. Christiaan Barnard – the legendary South African surgeon who had performed the first human-to-human heart transplant – in showing infinite courage by undertaking a procedure that had never been undertaken before; yet he had gone ahead and performed the world’s first transplant of its kind. Likewise, Sibal gives the example of another doctor Thomas Starzl who pioneered the first successful liver transplant in a human after repeated experiments on animals and humans; he failed on a few occasions yet never gave up. Likewise, other chapters such as on “Handling Pressure”, “Be a Dreamer”, “Compassion”, “Making others Happy”, “Find your Calling”, “Never give up Hope”, “Determination”, “GIVING”, “Be the Change” have been written with great passion with examples that touch one’s heart. Some of the examples even bring tears to those like me with fragile emotions.

What is ‘parenting’ then? It essentially means the act of bringing up of a child from infancy to adulthood in such a way that his emotional and intellectual development is properly nurtured. However, it is easier said than done. Many parents find themselves inadequate in discharging such an onerous responsibility. In the process, they not only fail as parents but also leave the child to its own devices. Not everyone is as happily placed in this respect as Sibal was. He is the only child of his parents and they had bestowed upon him much care and love while bringing him up. Similarly, Devaang is the only son of Anupam and Nandini, and he too has been brought up tenderly and affectionately. More importantly, Sibal as a paediatrician has had the rare opportunity of interacting every day with children and teenagers over a period of 20 years. He had carefully observed how those children behaved with their parents and developed an effective method or technique to communicate with his own son.

In the Chapter on “Honesty”, Sibal talks about Hippocratic Oath that every doctor takes on graduating. Here he underlines the importance of honesty in professional relationships with colleagues and honesty in the doctor-patient relationship. How Sibal has been able to develop a lifelong relationship not only with his patients but also with their parents is something to be marvelled at. He treats his patients with utmost compassion and empathy. How many of his fellow professionals who have taken the same Hippocratic Oath can say with a clear conscience that they strictly observed their Oath? It is a book that every doctor should also read.

In the FOREWORD to the book, Amitabh Bachchan is all praise for the manner in which Prof. Anupam Sibal has created with great wisdom, compassion and experience a comprehensive and practical Guide that farsighted parents could practice. He calls the book timeless. Several cricketers and celebrities such like Kapil Dev, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Gautam Gambhir and others have also showered praise on the author for this book.

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (8 December 2015)
Language: English
Price: Rs. 250/- (Raj Kanwar is a Dehra Dun-based writer. )