Published: 23rd July 2018
MCC grad Charu Mathi just wrote a book that shows us what it's like to live with Selective Mutism
Selective mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterised by a child's inability to speak in select social settings
Summer is a young girl who suffers from Selective Mutism, a condition that renders her literally speechless in the company of others. Battling this psychological condition for almost seventeen years, Summer is unable to make any friends, until she meets Aphro, a virtual friend. But will she ever be able to overcome her fear of meeting him in person? In essence, Charu Mathi A V's debut novel Summer is a story about courage and facing one's fears when life demands it.
Charu, an English Literature student from Madras Christian College believes that Summer's story is in a way, her own. "When I was young, I used to be an introvert. I would rarely talk to people. But I used to write a lot in my diary. Whatever I was feeling, happy or sad, I would write it down. I used to write poetry too and took part in various school and college-level competitions. I started writing this book because I wanted to create characters through which I could not only tell people how I feel but also the stories of many others like me," she says.
For this 20-year-old, this novel is her way of telling people that emotions matter too. "This book is about the matters of the mind and heart. We live in a fast-paced world with a lot of materialistic importance. We care about too many things, but we often forget about taking care of our mind and finding peace," she adds.
Self expression: Charu believes that Summer's story is in a way, her own
But why Selective Mutism, we wonder. With the rise in virtual communication, people like Summer have become more comfortable talking virtually and have forgotten how to socialise in the real world. "I have met a lot of people who are suffering from depression and anxiety. It is actually more widespread than we think and needs to be talked about," says Charu, who started socialising only after joining college. "I got a lot of exposure in college. Having responsibilities, taking part in competitions, living with others — all this helped me overcome my fear of socialising," she adds.
Despite being a full-time student, Charu took only two months to complete the whole script, as she already had the story in mind for a long time. "I sent it to Notion Press and the next day I got the news that they had accepted it," she says cheerfully. Now, a book about a rarely heard of condition would surely require a lot of research, we reckon. "I came across this term online and was really intrigued. I started reading more books about it and spoke to experts on the topic. People often mistake Selective Mutism for Mutism, especially in India, and they don't have proper awareness about the condition," says Charu.
When asked to state one thing that's unique about her book, she says, "People can recognise transgressive elements in my novel. Transgressive personalities are often people who are outside the norms of the society and this book is a window into their world." Let's hope this book makes us all a little bit more sensitive.