Pratheesh, who has gone through two kidney transplants and needs a third, started making the bookshelves during the COVID-19 pandemic when work was meagre.

Collage of NP Pratheesh, bearded and wearing a shirt, and on the right a tree-shaped book shelf with books on it
Features Human Interest Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 15:50
Written by  Cris

If it weren’t for the lack of anything green, Pratheesh NP’s bookshelves might look like peculiar little trees with a whole lot of branches sticking out of them. The kind of tree you’d draw in your class 2 picture book. The racks are almost like little beds for books, minus the pillows. Fifty to sixty medium-sized books can rest comfortably on one bookshelf.

Pratheesh made the first one on a whim. He needed a shelf for the many books he had collected over the years, but the ones he found on the internet were a tad too pricey. He gathered some old plywood lying around the house and called up his friends to help him piece together his first tree-shaped bookshelf. A picture of his handiwork got out and spread around the internet. Demands began coming in from friends and strangers. Everyone wanted his branched bookshelves. That Pratheesh had gone through two kidney transplants and needed a third perhaps added to their desire to acquire his handiwork.

“I have for long been working as a goldsmith, like my father before me. Perhaps that helped me create these shelves,” says the 39-year-old. He started working as a young lad, just as his health problems began, initially as headaches and short bouts of fever. When the pain became too much to bear, Pratheesh saw a doctor at the nearby Jubilee Mission.

“I live in a place called Anchery in Thrissur and Jubilee is very near my home. It was Dr John, from Nephrology, who diagnosed my kidney problem. By then I had swelling in my hands and legs, and urinary trouble. We began dialysis, I had to go to the hospital twice a week. Fifty to 60 such visits happened in the weeks that followed. By 2006, I needed my first transplant,” Pratheesh says.

It was his father who became the donor then. “It went well for a while, but in a few years I needed dialysis again. I remember being in the ICU taking medicines when my sister’s wedding was just around the corner. By 2013, my doctor said that I could have another transplant, as I was still young enough.”

The second transplant happened at Aster MIMS Hospital in Kozhikode. This time the donor was his mother. Both surgeries happened with the help of friends who collected funds in Pratheesh’s name.

For six years after the second transplant, Pratheesh had been healthy, doing his goldsmith work and reading his books – a habit that began in childhood. “I dropped out of school in Class 8 or 9. To make up for it, I began reading a lot. Anand, VKN and Uroob became my favourite authors. Friends who know about this habit bring me books when they come to see me. I have a 70-year-old friend called Anto who brings a bundle of books every time he comes to see me. I’d then write about the books I read on social media and make more friends.”

Through all the friends he made, the story about his bookshelves also grew popular. All of them would share pictures of it and that would bring even more orders. Pratheesh, with the help of his friends, makes them in bulk and sends them across the state. A teacher in Kasaragod ordered 140 of them. A doctor in Kannur wanted 60. Bookshelves got sent to Kozhikode and Wayanad, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram.

Each bookshelf is about 3.5 feet high with four racks on either side and can hold about 50 to 60 books of 250 to 300 pages, Pratheesh reckons. He used to sell them at Rs 1,800 each with a delivery charge of Rs 200. Now with the cost of raw materials going up, Pratheesh is thinking of selling them at Rs 2,000 a piece. “It’s become a source of income for me when I lost work during COVID-19 and I could also pay for my dialysis treatment during this time.”

The dialysis had restarted in 2019, six years after the second transplant. Now it’s come to a stage where he might need a third kidney transplant. “I’m a little concerned this time because my younger brother will be my donor. He too does goldsmithing and operates an autorickshaw. Once again, we’d need help with funds for the transplant.”

Those who’d like to order Pratheesh’s bookshelf can send their queries via WhatsApp on 9847143435.

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