Measure of a Man: The Story of My Pain, Suffering and Torture: All for two more inches of height
Akash and Rahul Shukla
Llumina Press (2009)
Reviewed by Rachael Stein (age 15) for Reader Views (2/09)
Imagine always being short for your age, so short that others often mistake you for being much younger than you actually are. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing for those who no longer count how many birthdays pass, but for sixteen-year-old Akash Shukla his short stature of four-feet, eleven-inches was frankly embarrassing and reduced his self-confidence. Luckily for Akash, the scientific world has modernized so much that shortness can be remedied through a surgical limb lengthening procedure. Unfortunately, this process is extremely painful as it essentially breaks the tibia bone and gradually widens the gap between the fracture so new bone can form. Akash and his parents had to make this difficult decision, to remain uncomfortably short or experience all the physical and emotional agony of limb lengthening, and they chose the more satisfying, if more painful, option to go ahead with the surgery, a choice that would forever change Akash’s life, particularly his height.
I don’t normally read memoirs or nonfiction in general, but “Measure of a Man” proved to be an interesting story. I was drawn to Akash’s tale not because I could directly relate to it, but because of a close (and short) friend’s consideration of such a surgery and a family member’s desire to write a memoir of her medical experiences. Akash’s predicament, his short stature, is presented rather melodramatically at the beginning and it continues to be somewhat so, but it adds humor to a serious and horribly painful situation. I can’t even begin to imagine what Akash had to go through to add about two inches to his height, especially in the area of pain, but the detailed and somewhat graphic descriptions helped to bring this almost unbelievable procedure into reality.
The plot is mildly entertaining and none too exciting despite the many trials Akash had to endure, but it is still nonetheless a unique experience to read about. I enjoyed the various approaches to Akash’s situation, especially his father’s clinical assessment. But the best part by far was Akash’s close relationship with his loving parents; they have their share of frustrations, but at the end of the day, they are there for each other. This is extremely evident through how carefully Akash’s parents evaluated the problem of Akash’s height and supported him continually through his pain. This love as well as Akash’s extreme strength in sticking with the painful procedure is a huge inspiration to all who read or hear about this experience.
Reading “Measure of a Man” by Akash and Rahul Shukla really makes one thankful for all the good things in life and provides inspiration to those in seemingly unfixable situations. This memoir will likely gain a larger audience among older readers.