The Fault In Our Stars

 

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This is a book about dying. It tries, justifiably, very hard not to be, but it is actually a book about dying. I would not denigrate it by labeling it simply as a love story. Love stories are to make you feel good and give you hope, this book promises neither.

‘Fault In Our Stars’ depicts Hazel Grace Lancaster as its protagonist, suffering from grade IV cancer since she was detected at the age of thirteen. A medical marvel called Phalanxifor extends her life(or what can be described as life for a cancer patient) indefinitely. While at just sixteen, Hazel Grace shows a maturity and knowledge, and a depth in human emotions well beyond her age. She’s a terminal; she’s seen it all: the horror of discovery, the pain, the slim chances of recovery, the constant pining for hope from new medicines, the toxins poured into your system (that harm as much as help you) and the never-ending struggle of the parents and other children who suffer along with her.

However, things start to change when a boy called Augustus Waters enters into her life through the Support Group that Hazel is made to attend. Augustus is a cancer survivor himself and has been NEC(No Evidence of Cancer) for over a year. Augustus has a charming, interesting and an easily likable personality. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when Hazel feels a very teenager-y crush on him. Contrarily, Hazel is struck by the fact that despite being good-looking, he is neither pig-headed nor vain(though she does say otherwise) and who likes her in return. Augustus has a very large personality, such, that one might suspect, could tackle cancer by it’s horns.

The book presents itself as being very readable and simple, which is a falsity. While the characters seem like they might actually belong to this world, their ideas are beyond it. You do not end up pitying or being repelled by the characters, for to pity them, you’d have to be distinct from them, and you don’t feel that for a second. Hazel Grace becomes you. You feel her pain, her journey, but more than that, her skepticism towards her condition. During the first half, you have the feeling that the author is trying to sound deep and abstract; by the end, you understand that he actually is. If John Green was going for writing a book which wants to be taken seriously, he couldn’t have chosen a better and bolder topic. This book is a riot: naturally funny without killing it constantly with gallows humour (pun intended), the twists and turns that will make your insides squirm and characters that you genuinely fall in love with (except for one).

I really recommend this book, not just for it’s humour and tragedy, but because it will honestly teach you something. I don’t know if Mr.Green was closely related to someone with this disease, but I have gained a perspective that I lacked before. This was not a book that I would ideally pick out for reading, and didn’t expect to like it, but let’s just say Hazel and Augustus (and the countless others) sort of become a part of you forever.

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Metropolis

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The road is never-ending,

But the halts in-between metro-cities,

With their hulking outlines,

Like the view of the setting sun,

Over the bridge, into the horizon,

Are like fragments of abstract thoughts

That accompany the thoughts of survival,

Of the instinct to live,

Being crowded on all sides,

Encroached upon by urban vultures,

Driving over roadkill,

Alongside heartless beings vibrating with life,

Whose thumping hearts breathe life into the metropolis.

These few moments of calm,

With sun’s reflecting rays,

Illuminating and extinguishing the darkness within,

Resurrect us dreary souls,

Blessing us with the sin of hope.

 

 

Crime And Punishment-A Review

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Dostoevsky was one of the prominent forward-thinking writers of his time. ‘Crime and Punishment’ is a by-product of his time spent in prison and his observations of the criminal psyche through other inmates.

In this book, Dostoevsky wades into the mind of a soon-to-be criminal, Raskolnikov, who then commits an act from which there is no coming back. Raskolnikov is haunted by the constant lack and poverty that surrounds him and the lives of his fellow university students. He is an intellectual and his crime is not motivated by his need for survival, but in fact to test a theory that he has propounded.

Raskolnikov believes that the world consists of two types of men-ordinary and superior men, the latter, who shape the world through their moral or amoral actions and are risen to the social positions of world leaders. According to him, the world has always celebrated the acts of such men as Napolean, whose actions no matter how vile, were validated by this world of followers. When these men were born before their time, they were hanged or imprisoned, but they changed the course of history forever, for instance, Galileo. However, after their deaths they were honoured and praised. He believed that such a man was one in a million and the rules of the society didn’t apply to him. Raskolnikov admits that while they do not have an official stamp of approval, such men have an “inner right” to override superficial laws of society.

Despite it being his foremost crime and suffering from constant reproach by his conscience, the author never denies Raskolnikov’s guilt or intent. The book is a journey through Raskolnikov’s mind and his internal conflicts, sometimes verging on schizophrenia. While this is a thin thread of a plot running across such a large volume, Dostoevsky paints a fixed and definitive portrait of the lead character with extreme descriptions of the horrible nature of poverty. This book has played a major role in changing the perceptions of society towards the ordinary criminal and criminal psyche. At a time when few books were written with a criminal for a protagonist, and absence of television or any criminal tele-dramas, this book was a treasure-trove of resource for criminal psychology.

Dostoevsky also plays with the idea of faith and its restorative qualities for a criminal. Raskolnikov claims to believe in God and has a sense of right and wrong demonstrated by his dreams, which show him trying to save a pony from cruel and painful death. But while he is righteous in thoughts, all the greater injustices he observes in his poverty and stagnant state make him rethink the immorality of his crime.

The end of the book might seem a bit out of place but just like in the Bard’s plays, every character has something to say. After experiencing the agonizing struggles and mind-mazes throughout this book, the ending is like a soothing effect to the soul. This book proves to be, if nothing else, an exceptional study of a brilliant psychological specimen.

We Are All Born Perfect!

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     When we were babies, we weren’t cruel, vile or beastly in any way. Well not least in any way that could cause any damage. But there comes a moment in everyone’s life that changes that. Maybe more than just one moment, but that is the beginning of it anyway. This moment is different for everyone and it changes you. For some it’s more apparent, like parental abuse or violence. But for most of us, it’s that rare, tiny moment when you were treated by others with something other than love. It might be so subtle that you don’t even remember it. But it’s what follows after this moment that will determine most of your life and the shape that it takes. There are two ways that a person reacts to such a circumstance, and that is either with grace, or without grace. In those few, tender moments of a child’s life, that child realizes that something is wrong with this world. Until now it had been living in a perfect, harmonious and safe sanctuary. But now someone has opened a door. Now it is upto that child, whether he will go through that door of superficial weaknesses or whether he will  close the door and giggle away and rejoice in his own safety. He will either choose to believe that a bad thing happened and thankfully it has passed, or believe that he himself is at fault. His belief in his own perfection, his own completeness was never shaken until now, but a contradiction has taken place in his life and he will decide the outcome.

The reason why this outcome is so important is because it will change this child’s life. That one false fault will keep on asking him to compensate for itself his entire life until he discovers its falsity. And where we have lack, we have weaknesses, insecurities. We have a lack of love for some part in ourselves. Love is pure and selfless. But take that away and you will have a world full of fragile, volatile souls. Stop loving your own person and you will find it hard to love anyone in this world. In a world full of people desperate to be loved, nothing will be fulfilling unless you have your own compassion and understanding.

But imagine this, on the other hand, the baby decided that it was perfect. That one incident didn’t make him any less special. That’s right, babies know they are special. Live with them for a few days and you will see how highly they rank in their own opinions: getting fed on time, a peaceful sleep, and sometimes when they think you have done a good job of taking care of them, there will be a breathtaking moment when they will bless you with a brilliantly dazzling smile, one of those rare moments when time stops and the world is filled with the perfection of that one smile. If this infant remains unaffected, untouched by external elements, then at that moment you know that his self-belief cannot be easily shaken and he will grow into a man who will bring willful change into the world.

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The Lost Treasure

   

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   So many self-help books today have the same age-old principles. Many western books on quantum sciences are just repeating what has been taught by most ancient cultures. For instance the Entanglement theory is just another term for the non-duality which is written in the Bhagavad Gita and even taught by the Buddha.
  These books have been there for over a millenia. But if these sacred but scientific texts are actually of value why are they not in use?
     Because they have been ignored and treated as treasures which are stored and not used.  Similarly, we might ask, why are there fewer people who read any book at all? The answer is simple, ignorance. Most self-help books today offer quick fixes which might be used much more easily than say, the teachings of the Buddha. They would have been perfectly okay had they been long-lasting as well.
   The reason why ancient knowledge has been buried and not perused is because most of these books ask for continuous, lifelong dedication, unlike self-help books which focus on materialistic or outward results, these books are more about the inner self. Indian spirituality has always worked on the micro level, because it believes more in spirit than matter. Matter can be easily manipulated, inner change is so much more difficult. Inner change is not futile unlike what most believe; discipline is not a tangible substance, but it’s absence can cause so many problems.
   Similarly, the presence of faith can make man accomplish startling feats, hence religion. Life is not so easy that a simple key will unlock all solutions to our problems. Religion is not mandatory or even irreplaceable. But it is part of our history and history will always teach us to be wiser than our ancestors.
   Experience, wisdom, along with knowledge teach us, but the question is, are we listening?