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Too many things happened over this weekend. Not all of it productive though. I spent quite a bit of time in hospital, we had to rush an ailing aunt who is old and lives alone and had scared the shit out of us. 3 days later all the docs came up with was that milk does not agree with her. To make it look like a less expensive diagnosis, they also informed us of a newly detected hypothyroidism which they had proactively tested, possibly because they were too embarrassed to not find any more substantial ailment that we did not know of, in a 70 year old. Getting her home anyhow, was such a relief, getting out of a hospital always feels like freedom.

I was, complete coincidence, also reading a book that deals with more cancer patients than physically fit people. A tad bit late in picking up a copy of John Green’s ‘The Fault in our Stars’ but better late than later when the movie releases in Indian cinemas. There can be nothing worse than ruining a book by watching the movie first. Anyhow. The book was written by a young guy in first person from the PoV of a teenage girl with a sense of humour I cannot imagine in a girlie girl (GG) who frets about how her hair looks. Maybe it was easier for a guy to write about Hazel Grace than to write from a GG perspective.

The only GG character in the book, Hazel’s friend Katylin, was understandably, a bit over the top GG type, swishing her hips, flaunting a faux accent and all that jazz. Perhaps though, she is a representation of what guys think or see GGs as (which is a slightly more animated version than my imagination of GGs). Probably they just bundle them all up and concoct this fictitious OTT image – and paint her either too hot and sexy and all feminine, or a slutty bitch, depending on their individual choices. Because on the whole I find there are two types of guys – those who like over-feminity, and those who get turned on by intelligence, sense of humour, a bit of nerdyness and other stuff they find in themselves. Of course there is a third kind who look for both in the same person. I dub them, with all due respect, as dumb fools.

Augustus Waters, Hazel’s hunky boyfriend, was the second kinds, as it turns out. Which probably also says the same about the author. Beyond doubt. Although he hasn’t discounted beauty, through countless references of Waters’ hotness, and its decline over time.

There are some more improbable characters such as the author of their favorite book, Peter Van Houten, an old bitter fart of an author, supposed literary genius yet a complete asshole when it comes to interpersonal communication with real people. His assholism I felt though, was a bit forced to deliberately make the reader first hate and then pity the guy. Potential spice for a Hollywood Masala flick maybe.

Despite the OTTism of it all, the book has touched my heart with the narrative being so relatable. Hazel talks and thinks like a normal, witty person, and it does make one imagine life on the other side, how chronic pain, like chronic anything else), becomes business-as-usual for the people experiencing it, and those who choose to, try to focus on other aspects of their life instead of, in the author’s words, ‘themselves becoming the disease’. It does leave a strong message for a lot of us who at oft times complain about our lives, and bloat minor health issues out of proportion. In my mother’s words, the city where we live in houses the most clinically depressed people – you greet someone in say, Gujarat with a ‘How are you?’ and they’ll tell you ‘Majaa maa’ (never been better), Delhi they say ‘badhiya jee’ (great). You don’t dare ask that question in Kolkata because what follows would make your head spin and you may need to sit down and sip some water while you go through the medical history of an entire family frequently interspersed with references to frequency of bowel movements and sour burps, as if to validate the medical claims. This is not because they are all sicker than the rest of the nation, but because they are constantly competing among themselves for the top spot in human misery. If only there was a crown for the King and Queen Miserable, there would be a stampede in Kolkata – ironically called the ‘City of Joy’.

And while TFIOS is hugely quotable with light phrases with profound meanings, the one line that hit me the most was ‘I lit up like a Christmas Tree’. By and large the most tragic line in this book which is full with humour in a tragic story. Big feat to achieve, do drop in your views if you’ve read it already.