Book Title and Cover

25 Jul 2022

Book Review: Shitala. How India Enabled Vaccination

Tiny Book. Huge Import.

As part of the series for the #Indica1000ReviewersClub2022, one of the books that landed off the post one fine day was Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination.

The timing could not be better. Considering that we are just going through the tail-end of a pandemic, with vaccination (two doses, a booster and yet another booster) being a key topic, this becomes an even more interesting read. And although, in the line-up of books from #Indica, it had come last, I found myself wanting wanting to read it first. And I was very pleasantly surprised with how well the subject had been handled.

Title: Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination

What’s the book about

In an engaging story that takes place in a very relatable Indian family, a grandfather and a teenaged grand-daughter playfully wrestle between the tacit knowledge and wisdom that age possesses and the arrogance that technology bestows on the younger generation. It’s that very arrogance, but also the desire to know more coupled with the ability to find out even more that propels the young girl to find out more about how India battled with the smallpox pandemic and over years, possibly decades, completely eradicated this life-threatening disease.

What works with this book


I loved the storyline, the credible characterization, the banter and the relationship between the young girl and her grandfather. He could have preached from the pulpit but didn’t. Of course, to make this even more relatable was the research that has obviously gone into the book. And this brings me to point number TWO.


In-depth research, even at a time when there is possibly not much documentation, earns this little book even more respect. Everything is properly documented, referenced and clearly annotated. It brings two aspects out clearly – the quality of the research and documentation as well as the hard yards put in by the author to support a story that can make an Indian proud.


The story itself is short, succinct and to the point.

What I could have been better

First and foremost, simply better proof checking. There are many errors and omissions, typos, missed spaces and tiny (and you may call insignificant) errors that take away (IMHO) from the import and the seriousness of the book.

But that is a transactional issue. What was more upsetting or rather disturbing is that neither in the preface, foreword, back cover or inside cover has it been mentioned what the work is all about. Most of it goes on and on about the capabilities of the author and the work done – which respectfully, I agree with – but how about taking it a step further and telling the random reader who has chanced upon the book, what the book is all about. It would help.

Finally I feel there is too much ‘around’ the story and not enough story. So much of the book is preface, intro, foreword and then the appendices that the crux of the story seems like an afterthought. If that had come first, maybe…

Let me not undermine the fine effort that has gone into a book that could be a work that makes us proud in our achievements past and the potential in the future.

Facts at a Glance

Title: Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination
Author: Mitra Desai
Cover Design: Falguni Gokhale
Type: Paperback

Reviewed thanks to Indica’s 1000 Reviewers Club 2022

And my final verdict for Shitala: How India Enabled Vaccination

Three Stars ***
Get the book if the subject and research interests you.