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"Grads Pen Books on World Issues" 
by Claudine Carlton
Oberlin News-Tribune
September 10, 2002

Congratulations to the three Oberlin High School graduates who have had books published this summer. Karen Merrill, who teaches history at Williams College, wrote "Public Lands and Political Meaning: Ranchers, the Government, and the Property between Them." It was published by the University of California Press. The book explores why the political relationship between western ranchers who used the public lands and the federal government became so embattled before modern environmentalists were involved in the issue. It argues that different and opposing ideas about private property stood at the center of this conflict.

Nelson Moe, who teaches in the Italian Department at Barnard, is the author of "The View from Vesuvius: Italian Culture and the Southern Question," published by University of California Press. It shows how in the 18th and 19th centuries the south of Italy came to regarded as different from the rest of Italy.

I do not particularly care for poetry, but I was charmed by Margaret Young's book "Willow from the Willow." It won an Ohio contest and is published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Among the topics are Oberlin, nature and the loss of her mother. "Mole" gives a recipe including onions, garlic, sesame seeds, almonds, three kinds of chilis, and chocolate. One poem talks about a squirrel and a candy cane. If the animal holds it vertically then the cane becomes a clarinet or a microphone. If the cane is held horizontally then it is a flute. Margaret is an arts educator at the Oberlin Early Childhood Center.

In 1969 Manohar Devadoss came from Madras to work on a master's degree in chemistry at Oberlin College. A year later his wife Mahema and daughter Suja joined him, and Mahema became director of Asia House. During her tenure Asia House "throbbed with life, and there was magic in the air."

Two years later they went home to India. Shortly thereafter a truck driver and a passenger, who thought it unusual for a woman to be driving, forced the Devadosses' car off the road. Mahema's neck was broken and she has been a quadriplegic ever since. Mano's eyesight started to deteriorate because he has retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease. He had intended to become a chemistry professor but decided to remain in industrial chemistry because it provided more money for their mounting expenses.

The biographical novel "A Poem to Courage" chronicles the couple's love and devotion and their confronting of adversity.

Just a few days after the accident Mano declared, "Her spirit and her beautiful personality are indomitable."

She did regain control of her shoulders. To prevent bed sores, Mahema had to be turned every three hours. When she lay on one side, she could see visitors and view a special oil painting. On the opposite wall Mano had hung favorite poems and cartoons, which he had drawn. When she lay on her back, he would project slides on the ceiling.

Five months after the accident Mahema was moved to a rehabilitation facility closer to their home. There many women had been deserted by their husbands, but Mano was devoted to Mahema. During her six months there, one of the most valuable tools she learned to use was a leather and aluminum splint between her hand and elbow. Her shoulder muscle enabled her to learn to write. Because of her personality, young doctors and students were drawn to her.

Eventually she was permitted to go home to another part of the same house from which he had left. Mahema's sweat glands did not function below her shoulders, so air temperatures affected her considerably. A friend gave them an air conditioner.

Though many activities were not open to them, they continued to enjoy good music, books (Mahema could read to Mano), food, and humor.

Mano continued in his industrial job and also made pen and ink drawings.

A friend of theirs from the U.S. consulate came to see the Devadosses with the news that another American who worked at the consulate would like to marry Suja. After much soul searching plus consultation with Suja, the young man Michael Pelletier, and his family, the parents gave their consent.

Mano with his pen and ink drawings, Mahema with her watercolors and Suja with her photographs gave an art show and presented its proceeds to Sankara Nethralaya, an eye
institute in Madras, as a way of thanking the doctors for their many kindnesses to them.

The book ends with a celebration of Mahema's survival for 25 years after the accident.

The novel is accompanied by a volume of drawings and photos done by Mano in  1963-73, "Dreams, Seasons and Promises."



Keep your news coming to
Claudine Carlton
143 Kendal, Oberlin,
(440) 774-6542.
claudinecarlton@oberlin.net


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