Published almost two decades ago, Fridaus Kanga’s semi-autobiographical novel Trying To Grow was unlike anything Indian literature had seen till then. It tells the story of Brit Kotwal, Brit being short for “brittle”, named so because he was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that left him with bones and teeth as fragile as glass. Brit grows up in the heart of Bombay (markedly not Mumbai) as part of a music-loving Parsi family, that learns early on to stop attempting to “fix” the young boy’s condition but to focus instead on letting him live the best life he can, navigating his way through literature, music, love and sex.
The book’s author, Kanga, knew the terrain all too well when he wrote the book, himself having being born with the condition. Heavily inspired by his own life, Kanga imbues the novel with an irreverent and barbed authenticity. As Brit hits puberty, he goes through his own complicated relationship with desire and ambition, his disability not standing in the way of his raging libido. As he goes through the discovery of his own sexuality, his attraction to men, while living with a disability, Brit rejects any attempts to pigeonhole him as a victim or an object of pity. What we get instead is a no-holds-barred, brutally honest and at times, wickedly funny account of a boy’s convoluted journey to manhood, brittle as it often can be.
Published in 1991.