Siblings.

Some of the greatest rivalries that the world has ever seen have been sibling rivalries. From Elizabeth and Mary’s family feud as to who should govern England, to the fictional passive-aggressive relationship shared by Sherlock and his brother Mycroft Holmes, such pseudo-enmity is usually the result of ideological differences which in turn rise from different (life) experiences. Now, while these differences don’t always snowball into massive vendettas, it’s pretty useful to know the most common causes, and the subsequent effects (arranging for a sibling’s death while he/she is in the forest, hunting, has not been included).

Causes. “Time” takes the throne here. Siblings are usually born somewhere between one to twenty years after one another (unless we’re talking about twins, in which case, please skip this paragraph). Now. Think. How many things change in a year? Let’s consider the year that just got over. Several regime changes, a whole lot of democratic elections, Mangalaayan, the landing of a probe on a comet, the release of “Interstellar” and Apple Inc. finally releasing a large-screen iPhone! So look. If so much can happen in a year, the experiences of two growing siblings separated by three-four years are quite obviously going to be different. Henceforth, there’s a difference in ideology, and the inevitable quarrels happen.

That said, there are a large number of secondary reasons. Primary among them: genes. Heredity is determined by genes. Now, there are over 70000 genes, and therefore a massive number of possible permutations. This ensures that the possibility of having two exactly identical kids is near zero. Other than that, we have differences arising from gender differences, different schools, different friends, and, in short, different (almost) everything.

Effects. The effects aren’t as flowery as you may think. Most siblings learn to live with each other’s differences, with the occasional fight that’s soon forgotten amidst all the laughter that follows. In fact, real disputes often rise out of issues totally unrelated to the overall experiences of life, instead taking root in a single issue; like matters of inheritance. However, there is the odd childhood enmity, usually seen in “power households” or families which have a lot of power. Case(s) in point: Tudors, Mughals, Ambanis.

As you may have guessed, I do have a sibling myself. No, the ten-year age gap, different genders, and genes haven’t driven us apart. Therefore, you’ll never see any sibling rivalry in our family. I love my books and toys and gifts way too much to destroy the supply.

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Reading is the only Habit worth cultivating- Opposition

A person whose only cultivated habit is reading is like a gardener who only grows vegetables. Both books and vegetables are excellent specimens of knowledge and food respectively (with books scoring over vegetables when it comes to the taste), but they aren’t enough. It’s like saying that one can bullshit their way through an essay in the English Language Board examination by focusing solely on the theory behind writing and never really practicing. I don’t know why, but that sounds a lot like me.

Now, get this clear: I am not, in any way, demeaning the habit of reading (my comparison to vegetables should have made that pretty obvious. Both are healthy and unpopular). Reading is probably one of the best habits that a person could cultivate. However, it’s not the only habit worth developing. There is no single habit that is worthy of bearing that hallowed crown; because human development requires a multi-faceted approach and there is no single habit which can provide all of this.

What’s the big deal if we take a one-dimensional approach? Let’s enter the hypothetical situation world. Our protagonist, Mr. X, reads books (we choose a specific gender to make the pronouns easier). Let’s rephrase that: the only thing he does is read books. He does breathe, eat, go to school and so on and so forth, but he does not play games, or watch television and the like. What happens to X? Let’s divide it the effects into multiple “aspects”. First, the physical aspect. X does not play games, or engage in any form of physical exercise. Therefore, his physical state is understandably in tatters. Then comes the General Knowledge aspect. X reads books, but exists in a dream world. Since he does not read or watch anything else, his knowledge of the world is nil. Now, say: would you want to be X?

Now, you may argue that reading is the only habit that needs to be perfected. No. To continue with the gardener analogy, there’s no point in growing many beautiful vegetables and keeping a one square metre patch for fruits, because the fruits won’t grow well. The results are pretty much the same.

Reading is definitely a great habit to develop and culture. Such a habit needs to be developed in order to read boring essays like the one you’re reading right now. However, remember this: there’s a life outside of reading. There exists a world out there – an imperfect one, but it’s the real one. Unless some of those conspiracy theories I read about recently are true.

Studying Fiction is not about whether it is real; it is about whether it tells the truth

“Go not to the elves for advice, for they will say both yes and no”. Elves don’t exist. They aren’t real. Then why on (middle) earth should anyone study The Lord of The Rings (which is the source of the above quote) if it isn’t real (if one follows the logic of the proposition here)?

Let us revisit the title “Fiction”. Can fiction be real? Well, the circumstances may be so; but the plot has to be of the author’s creation for the work to be accorded with that title. So a work of fiction is not – and by definition, can not – be 100 percent realistic. There will be non-real elements, situations, and whatever else floats the author’s boat. So the “real” aspect of the proposition’s argument is null and void.

Does fiction tell the truth, then? Let’s reconsider Frodo’s statement. Okay, so elves don’t exist. Which other creature behaves that way? Well, humans do so. Taking this into consideration, we observe one thing: both humans and elves advise in the same manner, but for totally different reasons: elves do so for the abundance of knowledge that they possess, and humans advise in a conflicting manner for lack of the same. Tolkien has, in one line attributed to elves, effectively demonstrated how little humans really know. So he is telling the truth; and that is what really matters.

Now the third (and pretty insignificant) part: do we really need to study fiction? Aren’t we just supposed to sit back and live through whatever world the author has created for us? As the previous example shows – yes. Many authors have this (mildly annoying) habit of not explicitly specifying what they really want to say, choosing instead to hide their opinion in a maze of ciphers and symbols (which are often deciphered to “yield” a story that the author had absolutely no intention of expressing, but that’s art for you). So yes, as long as these authors continue with their symbols and non-cryptographic ciphers, it is necessary to study fiction to understand what the author wanted to (or did not want to) say.

As Wadsworth said “Life is real…”. Now, however beautiful a fictional world may be, it is not life. Therefore, it is not real. I do know of many who would love to get the “One ring to rule them all” for its magical invisibility properties, but they’re the ones who don’t see the truth – that with great power comes (the) great responsibility (of going all the way to Mordor and casting the ring into the fire).

My definition of Success

Let me ask you a question. Was Julius Caesar a successful person? Well, he did remark “Veni, vidi, vici”- “I came, I saw, I conquered” – a phrase that show his supreme self-confidence in himself, but does this make him successful?

In order to decide as to whether a person is truly successful or not, the first thing we need to do is arrive at a comprehensive definition of success. Success can be defined as the personal milestones that one passes by as one walks along the infinitely long treadmill that is life. Didn’t get it yet? Okay, now visualize. Think of life as a very long road – a road that is constantly pushing you backwards. In order to move forward in life one needs to walk at a constant speed. Along the road are various milestones in the shape of goals. These are the goals set by the person who’s walking. When the person reaches the goal, he/she can be said to be successful, by his/her own standards.

Now, stop for a moment. Think. Think of someone you know. Someone who, say, is not as well-off in life as you are. Would you consider that person to be a successful person? Now, on the whole, you may be more successful, but, right now, focus on individual events. Events where that other person succeeded, and you did not. Done? Now, the whole point of this exercise was to emphasize on one point: success is a personal measure. Earning billions a year may be trifle for Bill Gates, but it is definitely a big deal for you (Unless you’re Warren Buffet. If you are, what happened, Mr Buffet? I thought that you adhered to a strict work discipline. Stop reading this essay and get back to work).

Remember what I said about the treadmill of life? The thing about this treadmill (about how it was actually a road constantly pushing you back?) is that it’s actually like a real treadmill. Let’s take a hypothetical situation in which a person just stops walking. What happens then? All those people who have (don’t try this home) tried to stop moving on a moving treadmill without slowing down first know. First, you momentarily move back. Then, the pause. After that, comes the fall-forward-with-a-splat-and-break-teeth moment. If you’re very unlucky, you’ll die. Now, the point I’m trying to make here is, if you want to leave life as a successful person, you’ll have to stop at one “milestone” and not go any further. However, you can’t just “stop”. You’ll fall back and crash. What you really need to do is continue moving, only at a slower pace, so as to stay in the same position. For example, look at Steve Jobs. He forms Apple Inc., gets fired, forms Pixar, and gets hired back to Apple as CEO. After that, he started stealing ideas, but that just kept him at the pinnacle.

So there you are. Success. That famed creature that eludes the halls of those who desire it most. That powerful drug that makes people strive harder to achieve something. That intangible desire that always makes people want more. The reason I’m writing this essay (Success in examinations is mandatory in our country).

It is better to be born Intelligent than to be born wealthy

Scrolling through YouTube in search of new music, I realized that there are thousands of songs pertaining to love, depression, wealth, and the like. However, no (popular) song deals with “Intelligence”.Think of it. Have you ever heard a song that goes “Intelligence can come at birth-time, and last for,a lifetime…”? Probably not (though if you have, one must marvel at your ability to find such esoteric music).But why is this the case? Isn’t intelligence far more relevant than wealth, especially in the modern world? Bill Gates did say something to that effect.

Taking this into account, one begins to wonder as to whether it is better to be born wealthy than to be born intelligent. After all, it is the rich people who are named in songs, and who doesn’t want to be immortalized in music? Now, this is where the catch lies. There’s no point in being born rich with absolutely no intelligence. Why? It’s pretty simple. As the proverb goes, anybody can earn money; it takes a wise person to keep it. A rich person with no brains is a Bassanio in the making. On the other hand, a person born of poverty may earn enough to be classified as “wealthy”, if they apply their brain-power to this purpose. Then again, there’s also the argument that such people are possessors of “Intellectual Wealth” which is far greater than “Materialistic Wealth”, but that is essentially the same argument put forward in alternative wording.

That said, it cannot be denied that being born rich has its benefits. First of all, rich kids get to go to posh, “refined” schools where the quality of education is often very high (once again, this is of no avail if the kid has absolutely no intelligence). Second, it’s easier to expand a capitalistic empire than it is to create one; so the intelligent one who is born wealthy has a clear advantage here. Last, and the most important point- those who are born rich get to play video games, as and when they wish. What, that isn’t a valid point? Okay, then there are only two significant conditional advantages. Not enough to tilt the balance in favour of being born rich, to be honest.

Enough of theory, a real-life example is in order. Case Study: Steve Jobs. Born poor, he went to university, dropped out due to financial troubles, started marketing a computer that his friend had made, and within a year had founded Apple Incorporated, which went on to become the most influential tech company in the history of technology, and recently declared a profit of $18 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014. He died before the $18 billion came, though. How very inconsiderate of the cancer that killed him.

Jobs is just one in thousands of such people. Okay, not everyone makes $18 billion in three months, but what they do earn is well above average. Admitted, there are a few who die poor (for example, Nikolai Tesla) but that does not make them and their intelligence worthless. Tesla’s inventions and ideas help power a vast majority of the electronic gadgets that are probably all around you right now. That said, I really don’t expect to hear his name in a song on YouTube.

Internet communication is more of a blessing, not a curse

A two-frame comic strip has been doing the rounds of the Internet recently. The first frame depicts 2004. A person carrying a stack of letters is seen exclaiming with delight at an email that he has just received. The next frame depicts 2014. This person is seen in front of a computer, delighted – he has just received a letter. There are over 100 unread emails in his inbox.

The purpose of this comic was to highlight the change communication has undergone in these ten years. This, however, is not the only message that it conveys. It shows that the novelty of receiving letters – which is often cited as a reason as to why letters trump over email and other forms of online communication – was not always existent. Yes, people did wait for days, even weeks, to receive mail from their loved ones; but this romanticism is also the weak point of paper mail. Mail took (and still takes) anywhere from days to weeks to go from one place to another, and critical information, like news of deaths or births, were transferred by telegram, which is significantly slower and costlier than Internet communications. Besides, the letters that one received were often promotional messages and spam – which is the same case as with email. In fact, the advent of the Internet has brought with it varying forms of communication, for specific purposes- Email for business, Facebook/Twitter for socializing,WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and Snapchat for personal communication.

Now, there may still be detractors. Some may claim that these very forms of communication lead to miscommunication. Words can’t always express feelings, they may say. The emails sent can’t convey emotions and expressions the way letters can; the receivers don’t see the tears that the sender shed while writing out heartfelt messages and responses. Emoticons are poorly used, abbreviations like LOL and ROFL are typed out without feeling. A hastily sent email may break a business deal or a relationship. Yes, this is true – to an extent. The claims of miscommunication break down when factoring Video Call services like Microsoft’s Skype and Google’s Hangouts. Hastily sent emails are no longer an issue, because of services provided by major Cloud-based mailing services, like Gmail, which allow one to undo a sent email.

This isn’t to say that Internet communication is without its deficiencies. The quality of English – both Grammar and punctuation – has taken a turn for the worse. “Emojis”, Emoticons, and the like are misused. Abbreviations have reduced the significance of what one is trying to say. Miscommunication is definitely an issue – though it’s extent and effects are overblown by the detractors of Internet Communication; but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

The explosion of the World Wide Web has changed communication forever. We have now reached a point of no return. The only way this will change is when there is further evolution, spawning newer means of communication, like 3D holographic Video calling, or other means which are beyond our wildest dreams. Will it be for better or worse? One wonders.

What is more important- A Healthy Mind, or a Healthy Body?

Take a hypothetical situation. You’re walking down a road, hands in pockets. A turning comes up. You take it, and are immediately greeted by a huge building, with flashy signs and neon lights. On top of the gate, on a board, is written the words – “Brain Gym- Working towards a Healthy Mind”.

This is an unrealistic situation, isn’t it? The question before us is, why exactly is this unrealistic? Is it too much to expect the existence of a concrete institution which trains people to keep their minds fresh and healthy? The answer is, sadly, yes. The world, as it is, is obsessed with physical health, with a variety of gyms, diets, and lifestyles geared to that purpose. There is no discernible effort to develop “Brain Gyms”, which keep a person’s mind fresh and healthy – because there is no commercial value in such an effort. (One may argue that schools exist to accomplish this very purpose, but there is a difference between an “Educated Mind”, which schools aim at, and a “Healthy Mind”, which is a superset of the former. A Healthy mind can be said to include education, an optimistic approach to the trials and tribulations of life, a sense of morality, and a general feeling of satisfaction.)

Now it remains to be discussed the importance of a Healthy Mind. So why do we need a Healthy Mind? What benefits does it provide to us? Do we obtain anything useful from mental health? To answer the last question, yes. A person with a healthy mind has (as aforementioned) an optimistic outlook. This, on its own, ensures a few things – one, the person starts every day with a fresh mind, ready to challenge the challenges life throws at him/ her, and two, the person does not suffer from depression. The effect? A general feeling of satisfaction towards life; and the optimist exudes a positivity which induces in others’ minds optimism and happiness.

There lies the matter of a Healthy Body, or physical health. There is no doubt as to its importance, but physical health without mental health is like The Lord of the Rings trilogy without the Ring in it. A person lacking in physical health but endowed with a strong, healthy mind can exist at peace with himself/ herself(just like the ring in The Lord of the Rings also exists in The Hobbit); but a physically strong person whose mental health is frail suffers from the risk of depression or pessimism, or the absence of morality. This may be manifested in self-harm, thoughts of suicide, or a desire to cause harm to others. An example is in order. Say, you are very sick, bedridden. The clinical thermometer stuck to your tongue reads a hundred and two Fahrenheit. In this situation, what would you do? Bemoan your bad luck all day long and curse anything and everything that may or may not, directly or indirectly pertain to your present condition? Or would you rather snuggle comfortably in bed with a pillow, enjoying this unscheduled break from the monotony of your daily life, and plan for when you become better? The latter is an indication of an optimistic, Healthy mind (While it would be wrong to say that all persons of Healthy mind are optimistic, it is for certain that they aren’t pure pessimists. They may be opportunistic or realistic as well).

So the long and short of it is that mental health scores over physical health. A person possessing only mental health may be like a weak duck hiding from the bullets of the shotgun, but a one who has only physical strength is like a human being who exposes himself to those very bullets. Where is the athlete who wins a race, expecting to lose it? If Bilbo Baggins could steal from Ogres with the slight frame of his, it was because he possessed mental strength.