We are a composite of things we take away from the things life throws at us

Greetings to those of you that remain. Indeed, I have been away so long in a world that moves so fast, that I may as well abscond this little corner of the Internet and retreat into whatever cavernous dwelling I have been inhabiting. Where have I been, you might be wondering (if you are of the predisposition to bother about the text displayed here), and I wish I had the answer. Answers, I have found, are few and far between in this age of questioning, and the answers that do dare to make themselves apparent are mediocre, dissatisfying, and, really, just a gateway to more questions.

Curiosity is the ill-begotten favour of a vacant existence, as it has always been. It resurfaces at moments where curiosity is most inopportune and has a way of driving sensibility from the mind. It delivers us into the hands of doubt and anxiety and takes away from us the surety that is essential for survival. Yet, curiosity is the device which allows us to ask questions, explore avenues that we may have otherwise shunned in our need to retain complacency. Somewhere between a murdered cat and the snug bed, then, lies the secret to life.

But life holds its secrets better guarded than merely an appropriate grade of curiosity. I once heard the line “the best place to hide is in plain sight” and have been caught with the sentiment of it ever since. To this end, I believe, life has bared all its secrets before us and is smugly waiting for us to take away from it what we will. While we grovel and claw through reality looking for that one crux that unifies our identity, life is standing right before us like some majestic oak with acorns ripe for the picking. And oh my, what acorns! Acorns ranging from the bitter almonds of cyanide to the sweet bite of honey, spread in equal measure, uniformly awaiting their fate at our hands.

So why don’t we pick the acorns, my dear reader? Why do we walk past oak after oak, intent upon scurrying through underground pipes we have fashioned for ourselves in an attempt to come face to face with a sunlight brighter than our own; a sunlight that simply doesn’t exist? Why are we so averse to letting ourselves be defined by our choices, by the decisions we make, by the acorns we pick? Why must our definition of ourselves be something that we’ve created from scratch, and not something that we’ve extracted from the world around us by the virtue of choice?

It just so happens that the mighty oaks bearing acorns aren’t sidelined. They aren’t mere spectators of our journey onwards, waiting at the edges of reality and sniggering at us, mocking our frailty and idiocy. These oaks are part of our journey, poised erectly on our path, set to repeat again and again like the gentle slap of a mother trying to wake her child from slumber. It is unfortunate that we have rather mastered the art of sleeping. We are entitled, nay required, to pick acorns from this tree, for they are supposed to provide us with nourishment on our journey. Instead, we choose to dig into the earth and survive on dirt and insects.

We are a composite of things we take away from the things that life throws at us, and life is throwing bitter and mealy acorns at us willy-nilly. We could avoid the acorns altogether for fear of bitter acorns, and live cautiously in the security of dirt and insects. Or, and this is the course of action that I would personally recommend, we could eat the damn acorn!

This is a realisation that struck me while having a conversation with someone I find myself irreparably attached to. Then, it was advice that I offered as it struck me, but only later did I realise the true consequence of these words, the extent of their meaning, the full impact that the simplicity of weaving a life out of existence has. I realised, then, that that is the shining beacon of knowledge that had been missing from my own life thus far. That we are a composite of things we take away seems, to me, a simple, unavoidable truth; one which I had apparently spent my entire life avoiding.

Recently, I consumed two vastly different forms of media, one soothing to the soul and the other infuriating (rest assured, dear reader; you shall, of course, be exposed to my unnecessarily verbose reviews of the two very soon). I realised, more while indulging in the abomination, that there was something to be learnt from every second that I was exposed to anything. This wasn’t a new realisation, of course, but one that reaffirmed my need to pen this post down.

We are a composite of things we take away from the things that life hurls at us. We are defined by the scars we sustain from the falling acorn. We are monuments of the acorns husks and oak leaves that stuck onto our clothing as we walked onwards and ever onwards. We are remembered by the birds perched on the oak trees that we slept under after eating our fill. We are a composite of what we take away, and not what we leave behind.

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One step at a time

Dear 2017,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health, perhaps just settling into your cushioned armchair for yet another day in office. I am, I realise well, by no means the first person to send you this letter, and I certainly won’t be the last. We know for a certainty that twelve months from now, you’ll have a barrage of letters either thanking you for all you’ve done during your term or chiding you for the things you got wrong.

By today, I hope, you are done with your celebrations. It seems like you got ahead of yourself a little there during your victory gala, what with Istanbul and Bangalore, but that was before you were officially sworn in, so I guess we can let that slide. Maybe you even made some rather hasty decisions in your first two days here, but, again, we can get past that. After today, though, I hope you have gotten serious. You have had plenty of time to learn the ropes, and I hope you have gotten the hang of it.

On your desk sits a red folder labelled “Catastrophe”, which chronicles the events which occurred during the reign of your predecessor, 2016. The folder also contains a list of deaths which came too soon, or too suddenly, or just at a wrong time. You will notice that towards the end of 2016’s term, things got violently out of hand. Perhaps due to the constant berating that it had gotten throughout the year, or because it was eager to leave office with a bang, or maybe it just wasn’t ready to leave yet, 2016 lost control of what was happening. I hope, and trust, that the same will not be the case with you.

We all learn from our mistakes. Some things, of course, are beyond your control. Anyone who has ever held an office of any sort will realise that tough decisions need to be made. We will try to not begrudge you your hard, and seemingly cruel, decisions, but we are creatures of hope after all. The good thing is that your predecessor set a very low standard of how a year should progress, so there is a lot of room for you to shine. My only advice to you, and I realise that I may be overstepping my welcome here, is that you take it one step at a time.

Your office, at this moment, is probably cluttered with documents detailing the events that took place in 2016, both good and bad, large and small. All I ask of you is to not be alarmed. Glance periodically at the “Catastrophe” folder and remember that most of those events haven’t gone down in history as the best of times. Do not feel the need to catch up to 2016. Remember, fires that burn bright usually burn for a short time. Be the steadily flame that we need; give us light when we need it, and warmth when we want it. You do not need to follow in the footsteps of 2016. You are your own entity, and it is up to you to create a name for yourself.

Though, this may just be the same advice that 2016 was given when it took office. Maybe everything that 2016 has done has been its way of making a name for itself. If that is the case, then you have to be careful. It is better to go down in history as careful than fiery. Making a name for yourself doesn’t mean that you outrage against the people, for we are the reason you exist. We have defined you and brought you into existence and have chosen you to carry us through the next trip around the sun. Do not ever forget that. Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

A hundred years ago, your predecessors decided that they would like to make a name for themselves, too. 1914-1918 were bad examples of how this office should be run. Learn from them, as 1918 eventually did, but do not get inspired by them, as 1939 probably did. Do not worry about oblivion, though. Just because you haven’t been exploding all over the place doesn’t mean we won’t remember you. Yours will be the term when hundreds of people are born, close ones die, great things are invented, and many discoveries made. And even if it were not so, you become a part of a chronology when you swear yourself in, and chronologies don’t exclude one of their own. You will not fade out, I promise you.

Knowing how much you have seen, you would already know this, but I feel it is my duty to remind you nonetheless: there is no such thing as universal popularity. There has not been a single year which has been liked by everyone, and, conversely, no one year has been completely hated. The best example of that is 2016. Amongst the hate mail which was sent towards 2016, a large part of it was my own, I saw a lot of fan letters. I was astounded at how many people held 2016 in a positive regard. One of 2016’s earliest judgements was the death of Alan Rickman, so my affection for it had never picked up to start with, but for millions, it was a year of self-discovery.

So you see? You can do everything right, and still be hated for it, and you can mess up on colossal scales and still have people who love you. Remember, though, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Do not let the affection of the few deter you from the path of what is right and, what is infinitely more important, what is sensible. There is no rush to prove yourself. You have been given a fixed time and no one can take this time away from you. Use it well. It just so happens that you have taken office when we have to give you one less day than we did 2016. Please don’t take that personally; it’s just the way things are done around here.

We have faith in you, 2017, please do not let us down. One step at a time, my dear, and you should be just fine. The world is caught in a maddening race, and you need to be the one who provides us with the stillness of surety. Do not get roped into the race yourself. Do not try to outrun your people, because we will keep going on even if we lose, but this is your only shot at it, and you cannot waste it running races.

One step at a time, my love, and you should be just fine.

Yours,

Anirudh

Je serai poète et toi poésie

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Ah, yes. No one says it like the French. This post attempts to defy the cliché of a “Valentine’s Day post” by becoming part of another one: the “end of Valentine’s Day post”. However, the contents of this post are not meant to stir up deep, thoughtful emotions about love. No, this post is more or less a tribute to the lovely lady whose picture is shown above, whose recent adventures in the world of relationships I have had the pleasure to understand.

You see, caught in the spirit of the Valentine month, I was unable to keep myself from wondering what exactly it was that made relationships work. What was it which held couples together? What was it that brought two people, no matter how unlikely, together in one of the strongest bond which exists between people? My search for the answers to these questions led me to a potential well of information, which turned out to be surprisingly cooperative. It is due to her willingness to share with me her emotions regarding the relationship that I am able to write this post today.

Her relationship seemed to me to be, for lack of a better word, perplexing, and I sought to understand what made this particular relationship work, more than I did what made relationships in general work. What followed was an interview of sorts, the details of which are best left to the imagination. However, the subject of interest here is the inference which we can draw from her responses.

Upon careful and rather extensive questioning, I came to some conclusions, which I care to voice here, for no other reason than because, well, I can. As a reward for satiating my curiosity, I had promised my friend that her time would not be spent in vain, and that something productive would come out of this interview.

The highlight of the interview was undoubtedly the discovery of the motive behind the existence of this relationship. The ten minute long session yielded this result: my friend is in this relationship because it offers her hope, a sense of a greater purpose, if you will. It gives her hope that there is something bigger and better out there, something bigger than any of us, and something better than anything which we have at the moment. I found that gesture to be particularly endearing: that a person could be hopeful due to another person is very endearing.

Another important discovery I made as a result of my unimpeded questioning was that it wasn’t so much about the person itself in a relationship, but about what they offered. According to my friend, her partner offered her a constant to hold on to, something which she could fall back upon when everything seemed to be going up in smoke. To this, the question which naturally followed was: what was your constant before this person came into your life. Her answer itself to this question is, again, immaterial. What we concern ourselves with is the fact that whatever it was that was her constant before, it hadn’t left her. Her partner had merely added on to her sense of stability, which fascinated me to no end.

However, there were some things which confuse me now, as they did at the start of the interview. Needless to say, each of those things merits a post on its own, and so the scope for mention of those qualms is beyond that of this one particular post. The one thing which I would like to shed some light upon, though, is something which I have frequently been accused of. People say that I am too dismissive, that I take away people’s faith where it is not my business to interfere. My friend made me think along those lines: what right do I have to tell her what to do with her relationship, or cast my scepticism towards relationships, on her?

None whatsoever. Which is precisely why this is not a post where I preach, or talk about my beliefs or opinions. This is a post destined to show how a simple girl, who admitted that she considered herself to be on the selfish side of things, decided to share the most valuable possession in her bonnet: her life. For she made it clear that she sees no end to this relationship, at least not in the near future.

The interview, which I can only assume was nothing short of an ordeal for her, showed me many things, particularly the one which is mentioned hence. The ability to see greatness in people who seem to be the worst of the litter is one which can be found even with the most unpredictable of people, and that in that greatness can lie the definition of one’s existence.

This isn’t a claim to, as mentioned above, deep and soulful love. This is an allusion to how even the most perplexing of relationships, and even the most unlikely of couples, can show how things are done. Happiness is the key here, as it is everywhere else, and the key is best found when a pair is on the lookout.

Does this mean that my stance on relationships and commitments has changes? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t like to admit anything just yet, in case the Valentine hangover passes, and I find myself under a mountain of promises which I had no intent of making in the first place.

So good luck to my dear friend, her partner, and their relationship. I wish them all the very best in life, and will attempt to keep my cynicism away from their blossoming relationship.

Happy End Of Valentine’s Day to all.

A for Austen, B for Byron, C for Christie

I have been reading for as long as I can remember, and reading everything in sight. Reading, for me, went from an activity I could not let go of to an activity which just wouldn’t let go of me. I like to think at times that I, due to the, humbly put, vast experience I have with reading, can provide with apt advice to people who wish to enter the enigmatic world of literature.

The idea actually came to me when a friend of mine expressed the desire to soak in all which the literary world has to offer. In my goal of providing assistance to this particular individual realised that I could do this for multiple individuals, people who are missing out on the greatest possible activity. I don’t believe I exaggerate when I say that nothing causes me greater pain than witnessing those around me losing their footing around literature.

This is the first of many posts where I will attempt to provide assistance using whatever little knowledge I have. This week, I have decided to take on the noble objective of familiarising the unlearned with books, or the ABCs of literature if you will. The rest of this post is aimed at those willing to start the habit of reading, yet cannot due to the sheer amount of content available.

It is important to understand that reading starts at different ages. For people of a younger age, reading children’s books is a great way to start any literary pursuit. However, for the older audiences and for when the children wish to enter serious reading, I would strongly recommend starting with books which are more focussed on the story than the language.

I would strongly suggest starting with books in the Percy Jackson series. It provides a gripping story in a language which is easy to read and understand, allowing an inexperienced reader to get into the habit of reading books. The fact that is a series of books compels the reader to move onto a second book after completing the first. It’s obvious yet I feel it necessary to mention that you should start with the first book in the series, which is The Lightning Thief and follow the order as shown below.

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Logically, the next book to read should be the first book of the Heroes of Olympus series, which is the complimentary series to the one above written by the same writer. However, I would strongly suggest moving on to the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins both to avoid the monotony of reading two similar series consecutively and to gain an experience with a series written in a very different way. Following is the order of the books:

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The idea that I am generally trying to suggest here is that for new readers, the best route is to begin reading contemporary fantasy. The important thing to realise here is that even in contemporary fantasy, there is a sequential way to approach reading. I wouldn’t suggest reading, say, A Song of Ice and Fire this early on, but I wouldn’t say no to something along the lines of Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix, though I wouldn’t recommend it much due to its complicated storyline and slightly complex presentation. Do read through if you’d like, but don’t get spooked by it.

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Irrespective of whether you go ahead and read the aforementioned series, you should definitely gear up for one of the best contemporary fantasy series I have read. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is great for its story, and it’s creative value. It also has been written exceptionally well with increasing depth as the series progresses. However, I wouldn’t recommend jumping straight to the Harry Potter series after the Hunger Games series. In fact, this may be a good place to complete the set of Rick Riordan’s work which we left before. Starting with The Kane Chronicles series, the next and final series before the Harry Potter series should be The Heroes of Olympus. The series are presented in order of reading below:

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Considering my target audience is new readers, I don’t expect you to be done with all these before my next post, however, if you do then I suggest that you absolutely DON’T read any fiction and continue with fantasy series such as Inkheart, Eragon or The Mortal Instruments. This is extremely important because entering the world of fiction can be tricky and it is very easy to mess up. I’d hate to see you start off with the wrong book at the wrong time or the right book at the wrong time.

I hope this post has helped and that there will be many, many more people reading books after this. Also, I do not own any of the images in this post. They have all been pulled off of Google Images. Please do get back to me with any questions or comments. Until next time, then:

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
— Neil Gaiman