Dr. Biju Mathew, a psychiatrist at Ridge Meadows Hospital, can add best-selling-author to his list of many titles.
The director of the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation, clinical associate professor at UBC, president of the Ridge Meadows South Asian Cultural Society and president-elect of the British Columbia Psychiatric Association, has just launched his first book, in India.
And now the book is one of the top sellers in the country. It made the list of the top selling books in Business Today magazine, published twice a month and part of the India Today Group of publications.
The book, titled Super 30: Changing The World 30 Students At A Time, is about a man named Anand Kumar and his work with children from some of the most deprived areas of Bihar, one of the poorest states in the north eastern part of India.
Kumar coaches students who would not otherwise have this opportunity, to get into the India Institutes of Technology, which has one of the toughest entry exams in the world. These are the most prestigious institutes in India. They offer programs in engineering and technological education that are internationally recognized. In 2012, around 660,000 took the joint entrance exams, vying for one of only 10,000 available spots.
Kumar coaches around 30 students every year, providing them with a place to stay, clothing and food. He has been doing this for 14 years now and has sent more than 340 to IIT.
His story has been covered by news media from around the world, including Time magazine and Newsweek, while the Discovery Channel made a documentary about him. But nobody has written a book until now.
Mathew wanted to write a book about someone who has done good for humanity and in 2011 started collecting names. He was amazed by Kumar’s story after reading an article about him in the Globe and Mail and reached out to him to come to Canada, where he got to know him further.
He learned that Kumar had come from poverty himself and had a chance to go to the University of Cambridge in England, but had to turn it down.
Keeping the story to himself, Mathew travelled to Bihar to interview, with the help of Hindustan Times journalist Arum Kumar (no relation), the family, students, neighbours and others who are associated with Super 30.
Then in April 2015, after Kumar showed examples of Mathew’s writing to various people, he was signed by Penguin Random House.
“It was a huge break. I am a nondescript writer from Maple Ridge suddenly breaking into the big league. It was a huge surprise,” said Mathew.
“I didn’t know he was showing it to the people there. I had only finished about four chapters at that time, but they liked the way that I wrote and my style,” he said.
This past June, the book was officially released by the chief minister of Bihar at an event in the capital of Patna. Over 2,000 people crowded the hall for the release. Two days later, it was also released in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, by the chief minister there.
On June 10, Mathew also got to meet India’s president, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, at the presidential palace in New Delhi.
“Our book was presented to him there. That was a huge moment in my life, probably the best moment of my writing career. It is very hard to meet the president of India,” said Mathew.
The book is also forming the basis for a new movie directed by Indian film producer, screenwriter and director Vikas Bahl, best known for the Hindi film Queen.
Right now the book is only available in India, but Mathew is hoping to eventually sell it in North America.
He is also giving all profits made from the sale of the book back to Anand Kumar for the development and expansion of Super 30.
As for another project, the new author says he is going to take a break.
“My wife told me not to do anything for two years. She told me she lost me to the book.”
But when he decides to write again, be sure he will write about another topic that is close to his heart.