Monday, 13 October 2014

The World is Not a Wish Granting Factory (And Other Depressing Facts)

Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace
Over the weekend I got this amazing app from my sister where I was able to download every imaginable e-book for free: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie; The complete Divergent Series by Veronica Roth; Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange; There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe; The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason; I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; The Railway Man by Eric Lomax; The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; among others.

I was ecstatic. This was heaven to a poor person like me who loves books way above her budget. I immediately started on The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) because I really wanted to read it before watching the movie. From everyone’s tweets I already knew that it was a sad and depressing story so I vowed not to get attached to the characters from the very beginning. I tried to keep Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters, Isaac and even Patrick-who-was-in-the-literal-heart-of-Jesus at arm’s length. I sympathised rather than empathised with them. At some point I unknowingly let myself care. I became invested in the lives of these teenagers with cancer… despite having described themselves as grenades waiting to blow up. I let myself care despite knowing that they would break my heart and I have been inconsolably depressed since then.

You see, for people who are dying, Hazel Grace and Augustus have more life than a lot more people. I suppose it comes from realising that you are living on borrowed time. It forces one to live intensely. They accept their lot in life gracefully and shame the rest of us with fully functioning vitals and intact limbs who can’t even pause to appreciate beauty. Halfway through the book I felt as if it the most important thing to me was that these two kids would be okay… as okay as a terminally ill person can be.

 I wanted them to continue being brave and smart and to go on reading weird books, quoting poetry to each other and loving each other. I wanted the world to give them that, at the very least. Even when I sensed that the book would have a tragic, Shakespearean ending I still prayed that all that suffering would have some purpose in the end. I hoped that when (not if) Augustus died it would be from some freak accident that would leave his lungs intact so that he could donate them to Hazel Grace. Then at least one of them would be okay. But the world is not a wish granting factory. We do not get what we deserve. What doesn’t kill you definitely doesn’t make you stronger, it only comes back to finish the job that it had originally begun.
I was moody for 18 hours after reading this book (at the very least). Almost as moody as I got after reading Anne Frank: The Diary of Young Girl. Definitely less moody than I was after reading The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. But in the midst of all that gloom I remembered an excerpt from Paulo Coelho’s “The Warrior of Light”, a poem by Mitsuo Aida:
Because it has lived life intensely
The dry grass grabs the passer-by’s attention
Flowers merely blossom,
And so do the best they can.
The white lily of the valley, which no one sees
Explains itself to no one;
It lives only for beauty.
Men, however, cannot live with “only”.

This month is breast cancer awareness month. As we create awareness we ought also to remember the afflicted. Those afflicted by all types of cancer. According to a reliable source (Augustus Waters) for every living person, there are at least 14 dead people. While a lot of them will go unremembered, we can learn from them. Again, to quote Augustus, “The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.”
Take the time to appreciate beauty… live intensely.

PS: Due to popular demand, I have included a download link to the apk file of the amazing app I mentioned. Google has been my friend today!
Download Ebook App 

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