Four Seasons

Four Seasons

A ‘season’ can sometimes refer to a time in life instead of the weather. But does that mean everyone experiences it differently?

Arya ran to class, not just through the shaded walk but also in the sun and up the stairs. Not because her professor was firm about his students keeping the right time, but because she wanted to. Her new red top stood out and her ID tag was shiny. Her perfect hair fell over her shoulders with ease. She carried a full bag to all her classes and didn’t mind climbing six floors with it. Of course, she still had to look at her schedule on her phone after each lecture, it had just been a week. And since it had been just a week, she ended up being in some wrong classes too. But that didn’t bother her; no one was looking or judging and she loved hearing from other teachers.

It was either silly games with her new classmates during the breaks or strolling around trying to get the college map imprinted onto her mind. And the sun or the time didn’t matter. The boys did. The food and her room did but only a little. There was the occasional guilt of not ending up at a better college stemming from comparison with old school friends but she didn’t want that on her mind that day.

After a midday call with her parents on her yet-to-be-ported sim, she decided to spend the afternoon in the library and so began her seemingly long walk to the library, across the campus. She went through the shelves as though she knew all the subjects being taught in the college. She noticed an empty spot and pulled out some heavy books she thought were interesting and walked towards the seat. On her way, she bumped into a weary-looking girl. She gave Arya a judgemental look for carrying the books. A scanning glance, bottom to top, and she walked away.

 

“These freshers are such dorks”, Asmi thought to herself as she walked away from a girl carrying, what she could only label as tomes, in one of the aisles of the library. She had been there the past hour juggling adroitly between a group project and some work for her club. However, her willingness to spend a perfectly good hour during midday in the still library stemmed from her frustration due to her boisterous roommates. And now, her frizzy pony bobbed as she walked briskly towards her first class of the day. It had been three weeks but she was always late to class. Fearing her professor might ask her to turn back and leave, she started running.

She walked in and skirted along the twisted aisle right to the last bench where she expected her bunch to be, but it was empty. She wondered where they were as she sat down. Her eyes weren’t on the board, they were on her phone. She scrolled through group chats and memes while also wondering how she needed to get her laundry done soon. After a while, the professor started the roll call and Asmi’s eyes went up only to realize that she had spent the past forty minutes in the wrong class.

Disappointed, she left the class and walked a few steps before bumping into her friends. They judged her, but more importantly, they understood her. “You should cut yourself some slack and slow down. The semester just started. Isn’t that the same shirt you wore yesterday? Maybe I should hook you up with someone. That’ll make you dress better”, said one of them. And suddenly, her troubles faded. They all went out for their routine milkshakes after the remaining classes and it always helped Asmi to unwind with friends and food. But the day was far from over, she had yet to finish up on her assignment and make the daily pilgrimage at night to her club meeting. She attended them religiously. The peaceful walk back to her hostel, alone in the dark, was the best part of her day. That night, however, she walked beside her trusted senior and friend.

 

Aastha was contemplating if the club and her position there was worth her time anymore as she gave her junior some advice on college life. She had just started dating a boy and between a relationship and academics, she felt the need for more personal time. Returning to her room, she sank into her bed knowing tomorrow would be another chance at being productive. No texting, no calling, just some much-needed rest. She woke up early the next day and walked to class in her worn out denims, with one notebook and her hair tied in a bun. The classes rolled by, after all, it had been two years now and she knew what it took to get by five of them continuously – don’t look at the watch frequently and now there was someone with her who made it easy. She was secretly proud of the fact that she had not yet sat through a wrong class this year.

She didn’t exactly have free time, for hobby or even friends. It all went into her meetings with teachers to chalk out plans of execution for her research project and of course, improving her grades and skills. She had applied for and was awaiting a research grant. While most others still hung out often, the uncertainty of the impending future hung heavily on Aastha’s shoulders. It seemed to affect her more than it affected her friends. She couldn’t remember the last time she had lunch or dinner with them but sitting on her laptop and working for hours peculiarly filled the void. The good part was that it had made her humble and understanding. She didn’t mind now if her friends couldn’t make time for her; she had learned to live by herself and do things that truly mattered.

After giving it a lot of thought through the day, she typed a long and hard goodbye message to the club members, choosing the project over them. The people had grown to be a part of her through three long semesters but somehow, she felt happier that evening. More time for herself. She called her mentor to thank her for her guiding light.

 

Aradhya was in the middle of ironing her formals late in the evening when she got a call. It was a lost yet determined soul she had given some insight and knowledge to, a year back. “My investment paid off!” she figured as Aastha thanked her and wished her luck for her interview the next day. “I’ll buy you a milkshake if I land the job”, she promised Aastha. She was ready is all she had heard from her friends, her roommate, and her parents but for the first time in a long while, she had trouble sleeping that night. It was understandable.

She got up early the next day before the alarm went off. While getting ready, her phone rang. She knew it was her parents, calling to wish her luck perhaps. Her roommate always eaves-dropped on her call but this time around, there was nothing to hear as Aradhya was dead silent. “Her parents shouldn’t let her know that the university rejected her application right before the interview. She was preparing herself to lie to the panel about not pursuing higher studies to get an offer, but now, the very question will shake her up. How the tables have turned! Poor girl!” she thought.

Aradhya had a stern expression on her face after the call. Afraid to ask her more about it and throw off her focus from the interview, her roommate just wished her luck. She got ready silently and walked out with her files. There was nothing more to lose now and she had a certain poise in her walk. You’ve got to believe me when I say that she was the most confident person among the lot that got interviewed that day.

A year later, Aastha and Asmi walked into the milkshake joint. As Astha reminisced how she and Aradhya had celebrated there, she wondered if the milkshake would symbolize a tradition. Little did she know that Asmi was going to walk back with Arya that night.

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Breaking the silence

Hollywood – a world of fame, is often seen as an explicit and exposed dimension. Like the glitzy and skimpy fashion, there’s very little that’s not out there in the open to discuss or caught by the paparazzi’s cameras. A world where everyone has a mind and voice of their own and has a weight commensurate to their worth.

With most of us having bred these thoughts, the sexual misconduct allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein that came out last October and catalysed the #MeToo campaign came to many of us as a shock. Not as much for the fact that sexual harassment is still rampant in one of the most frank and progressive industries of the world, as for the fact that no one spoke about it for this long and that this movement only paced in 2017.

From famous TV artists like Kevin Spacey and Ed Westwick to 2017’s Golden Globe winner, James Franco, many unexpected names and encounters have come forth since the Weinstein fallout which is both disheartening and alarming. The victims include as many people outside the industry as within with Ashley Judd, Reese Witherspoon, and Lady Gaga being the prominent ones to speak of the ugly truth.

There are many interpretations from all that has transpired in the past few months, but the one I see in red, underlined, is the fact that even an industry that boasts to be one of the most liberal ones, set up in the most modern country, is grappling with pervasive sexual harassment. This shows that it’s not the progressiveness of the place or the country, but the individual mindset that makes all the difference and can change the game.

In my opinion, sexual predators are defined solely by their mentality, not by the situation or the environment. Whether you choose to respect another person’s being is solely dependent on your thinking. In the case of Hollywood, it is worsened by fame and misleading reputations that help offenders cover their misdoings. So the question really is “What is the solution to this age-old problem?”

Boycott and isolation.

Punishment post investigation is only intuitive, but what truly makes a difference is making the offender realize the wrong they did by shunning them. As friends, as supporters, as co-workers or just as humans, we should unitedly boycott and isolate anyone who has misbehaved sexually, as was done in the case of Harvey Weinstein. A joint opposition stand, like the elegant one headed by the women in Hollywood, goes a long way. Social media is a convenient tool that helps do this and has only brought force to the MeToo campaign. Hollywood did right this time around and other trades should learn from this.

The big takeaway is that fighting sexual harassment in any industry shouldn’t be only the victims’ concern or the women’s concern. It should be the entire industry’s concern and every member should join hands and speak out or help others speak out, adding fuel to a cleansing fire. The activism in the past few months is a testimony to this. Your words, your stand, and even your silence speaks volumes. To wrap up, I emphasize we all be silence breakers when the time comes, like those featured on Time magazine’s Person of the Year feature for 2017. And like I mentioned before, you can even do it in silence.

 

Uncertainty

I don’t know if my eyes will meet the dawn
Tomorrow morning, when the sun gleams.
I don’t know if life will be the same,
Whether tomorrow night, I’ll see more dreams.

I don’t know if my shoulders will feel light,
Or my smile less arduous.
I don’t know if I’ll do better tomorrow
And be more wise and virtuous.

But as I leave for tomorrow on this golden night,
Staring at the stars and wondering,
I just hope you have all my answers
And are with me, gladly coming.

-Ananya Bal

I didn’t use Facebook for 6 months and here’s what happened…..

I didn’t use Facebook for 6 months and here’s what happened…..
Like most of my millennial peers, I find it hard to stick to something for long and by saying that I don’t imply I can’t stick with my parents any longer (or maybe I do) ; I imply that I find it hard to stick to a particular phone model or a subject book the night before the exam. Having said that, I’ve probably established in your mind that I am fickle. Fickle, not enough to ruin my exam tomorrow, but surely enough to jeopardize my social life and image by letting go of the most trustworthy ledger of my conscious life – Facebook.
I joined Facebook when I was a few months shy of twelve and ever since, my social life has been recorded on it, although I was an introvert throughout the school. It was the only portal to connect with friends and show them where I was traveling with my folks through pictures. It served me well for long but something drove me to quit this public digital diary. At the peak of my social life -engineering, where I meet new people every semester, meet with friends every weekend and am a part of a dozen student groups, it was a chaos.

socialmedia

As if having 700+ plus socially hyper active friends who post about anything and everything from shoes to hair to bikes isn’t enough, one is plagued by over-the-top cheesy birthday wishes. What’s worse than the wishes is the hype that’s built with countdowns and you’re in for extra cringing if you are single and these posts in your circles are mostly for people’s significant others. Even if I could keep up with this, I lost when people around me start stalking exes, ex-crushes, ex-friends, ex-schoolmates and oh, of course, current crushes, current friends, current unknowns and blah blah blah.
Last December, my New Year resolution was the same, exercise often and do better at exams but suddenly in January, it was “stay off of that” and voila, I erased myself from my circles by deactivating my Facebook account. How did I last 6 months you ask? Well let’s just say I was that fed up with the drama and smaller circles on WhatsApp, snapchat and Instagram helped (they really are small!).

So what happened in the past six months? Something astronomical (OMG! She quit FB!?) or something atomic (She quit FB! Bleh!)? Well, I won’t act old and say I saved time or say this has indirect health benefits. I would rather call the change in me, sagacious.
Firstly, the realization that I don’t need Facebook to validate my social life along with the absence of the chaotic super flow of irrelevant media and information has helped me rebuild my image and concentration. Not that they were very broken before, not that they’re perfect now but I do feel better when I look in the mirror. I feel relieved sans the constant dumping of posts into my brain.

Secondly, I connected better with friends and family and talked more with them since I didn’t have prior knowledge of what they were already doing and where they already were. I finally was no longer an introvert. Ironically, although I connected with everyone I knew on Facebook, I was still an introvert.

Thirdly and most importantly, pulling off something as random and crazy in public opinion as this for this long gave me confidence that I had the willpower to do anything and the reassurance that I still have a social life, actually with the closer ones now.
In a nutshell, it did me better than harm but hold on there if you think I’m prescribing you abstinence from this virus. You are your own doctor here and need to judge your own medicine. Think twice before you quit because Facebook without glamorous socialites is very dull (laughs) also where will you get that many memes?

By- Ananya Bal