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When “Death” brings meaning!

Sometime back, I read Paul Kalanithi’s article in New York Times How Long have I got Left? 

I remember reading his Stanford article “Before I go also on the same day. 

I must have reached through the entangled world wide web. 

I registered somewhere in my mind that I need to read this book. 

Articles were piercing, thoughtful, and show a delicate balance of scholar and crafted writing. 

In the drudgery of daily toil, the book slipped my mind. 

And one fine day, a fellow book club member and voracious reader Neelkanth posted the book cover, signaling he ordered the book. 

Memories kindled, and I, too, ordered it immediately. 


[Image from Amazon]

Book arrived sometime.  

I reached home in the evening, opened the packet, and was playing around. 

I looked at the front cover. I looked at the back cover. 

Generally, I refrain from books that don’t have indexes and references. Such non-fiction books may be questionable (I feel so). This book doesn’t have one. A doubt slipped in mind, is this worth my time! 

Then we had dinner. 

That day, I was attending to my ailing mother. 

I had to attend to her frequently. 

I started going through the book forward. 

I think it was 1100 PM or 1130 PM. 

Through forward, I moved on. 

I was attending mother and going through the book. 

Slowly, I was involved in the book. I continued reading. 

Sitting on the bed, and I was going through pages one after another. 

I did not have a pen or pencil to mark the book—something rare in my book reading.

I continued reading page after page. 

Then sometime at night, I had to remove spectacle. My eyes were moist! 

I cleaned it and continued reading. [Incidentally, today morning, my daughter asked, have you ever cried while reading a book, I told her about the popular Marathi book “Shaymchi Aai” (Shyam’s mother). And how everyone cries. I marked in mind; I can say to her about this book too]. 

I continued and completed the book. It was almost night 0230! 

After a long period, I read the book end-to-end in one sitting at a stretch without deciding so! 

That’s my experience of reading this book. 

Do you need a review, summary to start reading it now? 

Isn’t this enough to pick up and read it! 

Off-course it is not something easy to read too. 

It talks about the broad reading that the author has – a clear indicator of how good reading leads to good writing! His study of literature, philosophy, and the quest to understand DEATH

His quest to understand death and life. The border between meaning and life took him to pick up neurosurgery!

He toiled hard for a decade to reach the pinnacle of neurosurgery, studied neuroscience too.

He has published award-winning papers! 

The bulk of the book is packed with medical jargon. Something similar to The Emperor of Maladies

What is great about the book is his encounter with death with the theory that he studied. A pure sign of scholar! Something similar you find in Victor Frankl’s “Man’s search of Meaning.”

His way of conveying why neurosurgery is not for the weak-hearted. Neurosurgeon deals with the questions of life and death every instant. He deals with the more critical question of whether to allow this person to die or save him! How it separates the doctor’s JOB from the doctor’s CALLING

It very delicately navigates the meaning of work and life.  

It navigates the questions of identity, the patient’s identity, and the doctor’s identity. 

The work of Paul Kalanithi of “When breath becomes air” is a pure gem in the league Victor Frankl’s “Man’s search of meaning”!  

If you want to understand this thread of “meaning” in the literature, you can’t ignore this book! 

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