if i had to tell it again: a memoir


From the aftermath of a death emerges this pioneering memoir of a daughter’s difficult love for a flawed, passionate, larger-than-life father.

If I had to Tell It Again is a tapestry of conflicting memories of clinical depression, intense togetherness, mourning, healing, and the shattering of spaces between childhood and adulthood. Charting an emotional minefield with delicacy and honesty, this is a haunting story about the sort of suffering that only families can inflict and endure.


Sixty-six years of a lifetime gone.

There would be no funeral. He had donated his body to the local medical college. It was part of his script, his fantasy about death. He would show his hospital donation certificate to anyone who came to our house. No rituals for me, he would announce. To his mind there was some justice in being cut up by medical students. He had wanted to be a doctor.

There is his corpse, lying on the floor, people constantly milling around, talking about his untimely, unfortunate death, while I stare at everyone in dry-eyed annoyance. He had always been a popular man, much loved, generous to a fault to his neighbours, even if angry towards his own family. I just want him gone from the house. When the van from the morgue comes to pick him up, everyone urges us to touch his feet, to ask for his blessings. It is expected from children of dead parents. Everyone watches us.

You first, an old man points to me, my father’s first-born.

I bend down, my fingers touch his feet.

In my mind the words form, loud and distinct – I forgive you.

Click to see book on Amazon.in


“Why Remember Why Tell: Notes from a Reluctant Memoirist”  – an essay on why a public telling matters, published in the Economic and Political Weekly, August 2018 –  postscript-EPW







Scroll: “This deeply personal and unconventional memoir about depression, loss and abuse reinvents the form….[it] shows us how many such stories must be out there and need to see the light of day.” – Apoorva Sripathi:  https://scroll.in/article/868002/this-deeply-personal-and-unconventional-memoir-about-depression-loss-and-abuse-reinvents-the-form

The Wire: “If I Had to Tell it Again is a beautifully written, highly wrought and deeply emotional book. It is a daring and brave challenge to our preconceptions both about writing and about depression” – Madhavi Menon:  https://thewire.in/210801/if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-gayathri-prabhu/

First Post: “The book had me wincing, frequently. I had to put it away twice before I could go back to it and yet, I cannot recommend it enough. It is perhaps exactly why I would recommend it. It needs to be read.” – Krupa Ge: http://www.firstpost.com/living/gayathri-prabhus-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-narrates-a-story-of-extraordinary-suffering-and-love-4288753.html/amp?__twitter_impression=true

Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME):  “If I had to tell it again pushes its reader to ask fundamental questions about parenting, how mentally ill individuals relate to each other and to the larger world, and the human ability to hurt, nurture, love and forgive.” – Rohini Shukla: ijme.in/articles/love-remember-and-write-against-all-odds/?galley=html

Scroll: “Gayathri Prabhu’s memoir of unconventional grieving in the wake of an alcoholic parent’s demise is a book unlike any other we have seen in India.” – Urvashi Bahuguna: https://scroll.in/article/865658/when-you-write-about-a-dead-person-you-loved-you-must-tell-their-version-too

Research and Humanities in Medical Education: “This book is a must-read for all, irrespective of profession and age group” – Trveen Dhillon: https://www.rhime.in/ojs/index.php?journal=rhime&page=issue&op=view&path%5B%5D=10

The News Minute:  “The tone and manner of writing is very threadbare and light but each word is heavy with emotion.” Sandeep Narayanan: https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/if-i-had-tell-it-again-review-memoir-difficult-relationships-and-depression-83106

Indian Express: “[the memoir]shatters this silence [about families] with an intimate examination of the relationship between the author and her late father […] for this reason alone, this book deserves to be read” – Ram Sarangan: Shelf life: Dark Days

The Shrinking Couch: “I would recommend reading it to borrow courage” – Nivida Chandra:  http://theshrinkingcouch.com/if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-re-viewing-a-life/

Deccan Chronicle and Asian Age:” I did not want to sound like a martyr, a victim, or a warrior ” https://www.deccanchronicle.com/lifestyle/books-and-art/190118/a-grieving-space.html


Arundhathi Subramaniam, Poet: [a] book I particularly enjoyed for its mix of candour, poise and urgency in a fiercely loving portrait of a parent.”: https://scroll.in/article/863196/expect-the-unexpected-a-reading-list-from-the-year-gone-by-from-poets

Easterine Kire, author: “This book is so incisive, she writes it so beautifully that one should take it only in small doses.”

Shinie Antony, author: “One of the most honest accounts of childhood trauma”: https://www.cnbctv18.com/buzz/childrens-cheeks-are-not-for-pinching-1929751.htm

Synapsis: A Health Humanities Journal: “…unique in the literary landscape of India for the range of themes it encompasses and its sheer formal inventiveness in the form of a one-act play embedded at the heart of the text” – Amala Poli: https://medicalhealthhumanities.com/2018/12/07/reconciling-grief-and-unfinished-conversations-a-reflection-on-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again

‘Love Letters to My Younger Self’ – Interview and feature in The Hindu by Sweta Akundi:


BLOG REVIEWS of If I Had to Tell It Again

Harini Calmur: “What surprised me most was the honesty with which Prabhu can talk about issues, most people won’t be talking about.” http://calamur.org/gargi/2017/12/25/book-review-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again/

Mithila Reviews Books: “one of the best books I have read this year” https://mithilareviewsbooks.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-by-gayathri-prabhu-bookreview/

The Bookish Bulletin: “Gayathri Prabhu takes language where it hesitates to go” https://thebookishbulletin.wordpress.com/2017/12/25/in-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-author-gayathri-prabhu-takes-language-where-it-hesitates-to-go/

Stuti Ashok Gupta: “Every word, every sentence of this book is extremely literary, you pick up from anywhere and you’d feel like you are reading a poem”: http://www.stutiashokgupta.com/2018/01/18/book-review-gayathri-prabhu-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again/

Dusky Moonlight: “a series of life-events narrated to make the readers understand the importance of sharing, talking, lending a helping hand, and believing” :https://duskymoonlight.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/is-empathy-too-much-to-ask-for-my-thoughts-on-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-by-gayathri-prabhu/

Times of Gee: “Read this book to learn strength and patience ; to understand that it’s important to acknowledge and accept ; and learn how to fail” : https://timesofgee.com/2017/12/27/i-taught-you-to-succeed-i-goaded-you-but-when-things-went-wrong-i-did-not-teach-you-to-fail-my-thoughts-on-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-by-gayathri-prabhu-a-spoiler-free-book-review/amp/

Reviewing Shelf: Flowing over the page, unbidden, unstoppable, like a river in motion” https://reviewingshelf.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-by-gayathri-prabhu

Privy Tirfles: “This book is the guiding light that will help you sail through the most difficult phases with its sheer radiance.” : http://www.privytrifles.co.in/2018/01/book-review-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again.html

Monica Kamath: “It is a slice of  life which will resonate with millions of readers. http://monicakamath.blogspot.in/2017/12/memorabilia-this-winter-season.html?m=0

The Book Collector 32: “Being a first born to a volatile father I could easily identify with many situations”: https://thebookcollector32.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/bookreview-if-i-had-to-tell-it-again-by-gayathriprabhu-bookbloggermemoir/

The Ink Spiller: “A father-daughter relationship will always have more love than words but here the words nor the love was enough to mend it” : http://theinkspiller.com/tell-gayathri-prabhu/

Vidya Thakkar: “This book teaches you to get through the pain with some beautifully described situations.” http://www.vidhyathakkar.com/book-reviewif-i-had-to-tell-it-again-by-gayatri-prabhu/

Sunanda Pati:  “Here was an account that sought closure and exploration in the same breath”: https://methodicallymadme.blogspot.com/2018/11/and-i-remain-eavesdropper-to-dead.html#more

Sid Book Reviewer, author interview: “Writing gives form, makes everything bearable” : https://sidbookreviewer.wordpress.com/2017/12/23/author-interview-gayathri-prabhu/





kiran-cover     by Kiran Joan


Memoir_ReviewAM_2 by Ashvini Menon