Today we have an inspiration for Meet the @uthor … S Nilakanta Siva, author of When Thoughts Invade the Cancer Conqueror…


  • Tell us about yourself.
    • I was born in Mumbai, in 1944. My initial education was in Delhi where my father was then with the Ministry of Defence. My final years in school were in Mumbai. I graduated with Physics and Mathematics and then went to IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) in Chennai for post-graduate studies.  I started working with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre’s Nuclear Physics Division. With my immaculate command of the English language, I preferred to lead public awareness programs to highlight the benefits of atomic energy.


  • That is a very enviable study and work history. What about life after retirement?
    • On retirement, I ran a medical transcription company in Hyderabad for a couple of years. But the frequent power shutdowns made it difficult to cope; so shut it on and came to Thanjavur. Then I had to face a tsunami of sorts, had to battle hard to win the war against bladder cancer which had caught up with me in spite of my having kicked the habit decades ago. I shared this tale, together with my wife, RAJALAKSHMI, of how we conquered it in our book entitled, “When Thoughts Invade the Cancer Conqueror.”


  • We have read several books written by cancer survivors. So what is different here?
    • While the others concentrate only on the emotional aspects looking for sympathy, or the financial burdens, this one concentrates on the details of the surgeries and medical interventions, and follow-up monitoring that bladder cancer treatment involves. These details are of use to the medical fraternity as well.

Several quotes and poems in the middle of some chapters and at the end of some others serve to break the monotony and the somber heaviness of the hospital and disease environment. This is also a unique


  • Other than work and study what engaged your attention?
    • Value education more than all else as an enduring asset. Not only I but also my brother and both our children are IIT alumni. Both, my wife and I are the eldest children of our parents. We are lovers of Carnatic music. Three of my cousins are professional Carnatic musicians.


  • What was your state of mind when you got to know about this disease?
    • Shock and awe. But not really surprised. Didn’t ask, “why me?” But needed a lot of discussions to make up our mind from the various options for treatment. Felt sad that so many years of abstention were not enough to keep cancer at bay. Understood that this entertains no mercy petitions.  You committed the crime of smoking and you have to pay for it now.


  • What is your main aim behind writing this book?
    • The need to increase the level of awareness of the masses in general and the cancer community, in particular, was the driving force. The suffering we saw in our fellow patients at the hospitals each time we visited and the twinge at the sight of anyone smoking away.

The message of our book is two-fold:
~Don’t smoke ever, and if you already do, quit smoking immediately; or else cancer is going to catch up with you.
~If you have got cancer, it is not the end of the world; if diagnosed early, cancer is curable; so please follow up quickly.


  • Do you think this book can motivate people to stop smoking?
    • We are hoping that reading in detail all our sufferings and the trouble we put all our relatives and friends to with our disease will make most people think seriously about it and help one another in quitting.


  • Who was the person who suggested you to write this as a novel or any incident behind it?
    • Really there was no intention at any time of embarking on serious writing. My surgeon would refer his new patients to us for counseling on the management of bladder cancer. We would speak telephonically to both the patient and his/her caregivers and raise their confidence levels to deal with the situation. The anonymity was a great help for a free exchange of doubts and their clarification. This made us wonder why we should not write a small monograph of about 24 or 32 pages. Then, on the advice of friends who read the draft manuscript, it slowly developed into a story encompassing basically our battles with the crab.


  • How was the journey from writing to getting this book published?
    • I guess it is much the same for all debutants. It was just submitted and the wait was for what seemed like an eternity. We needed to get our feelings and thoughts across as we felt them without much delay. So took the rapidly publishing self-pub route and this was smooth and enjoyable. A very nice team of young, energetic and zestful boys and girls brought it all out in record time: 30 working days as they said they would. And the ceremonial book launch on World Health Day (April 7) and the physical release on International Book Day (April 23) were like a fruition of all our efforts. And after all this, a couple of publishers now keep calling repeatedly wanting to publish my next book!!!!!


  • Which was the best moment you experienced during this journey?
    • The journey with the disease had its best moment when that stoma care nurse said: “When the eyes dim with age, spectacles come into the picture. When one gets hard of hearing, the hearing aids take control. When the teeth refuse to mash and grind, dentures come to the rescue. When the hands or the legs get disfigured, prosthetic legs from Jaipur lend support. Then why should urostomy bags, used when the urinary system malfunctions, make you feel like an odd one out?”

The best experience in the journey of building the book was when almost forty doctors contributed, on a continuing basis, with comments, criticisms and encouragements as the book grew week on week via status updates on Facebook as and when it happened in the hospital and OP clinics.


  • Who is your favourite character in the novel?
    • This is a question the authors ask of readers. In a biographic fiction, the author is the hero; hence, it is not fair to try to answer. But please do tell us who is your favorite. Or who you think will stick in the minds of most readers. In real life, my favorite was that four-year-old who said something like if Dadaji has no kidney he won’t ever need a bathroom again.


  • Any special message to public?
    • The same that runs all through the book. Make every day a “No Tobacco Day” and if you see blood in the urine go tell the doctor immediately.


Our Review on the book :