Battling

Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

 

We all have heard people around us saying that life is full of struggles or what is life without a few ups and downs in it. Having been told this multiple times throughout our lifetimes, this beautiful quote has become something whose meaning is lost on us now. Yes, we have accepted the fact that one definitely does have to overcome numerous hurdles to achieve their goals. All of us are struggling to survive each day and to get through the difficult times of our lives.

But our own hardships have taken such precedence over others’ that we tend to think that no can have it as bad as me. And so in this situation, we are prone to disregard the hardships of other people. We, knowingly or unknowingly, may be impertinent to others and hurt their sentiments. Not everyone may be sharing or open about their problems. They may put on a smiling mask and pretend that everything is fine. This, however, does not give anyone the right to be inconsiderate towards their battles. Because, visible or not, someone has it worse.

Sometimes it may also go the other way round. Maybe someone you have known well and for a long time might suddenly be acting distant. May be they will yell at you or stop talking to you altogether. The point is, you never know what people are dealing with inside, nor what they’ve had to face in life. People don’t act out towards others in strange, inappropriate, or hurtful ways because they’re doing well in life. They act out towards others because they’re hurting inside, because their pain is getting the better of them, or because they’re on the losing end of their own inner battle.

One of my all time favourite books has been “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. The story revolves around the lives of a young girl named Laila and her neighbour, Mariam. Laila has grown up seeing Mariam in the neighbourhood everyday and has formed a judgement of her own, as has Mariam for Laila. However, circumstances lead to their lives being intertwined. This when they both realise that the pictures that they have painted of each other in their minds were very wrong. Laila sees the reasons behind Mariam’s distant behaviour and the latter realises that Laila’s life is not as perfect as she may have thought.

What the book taught me was that you never have any idea what someone is facing. Some person you see every day, talk to everyday, even a stranger you walk past on the road may be fighting battles that you never could have imagined. Everyone is confronting their own monsters and this made me realise how inconsiderate I might have been towards others’ struggles. As quoted by Shaikh Ruhi, “Everyone is fighting their own battle and maybe their fight is bigger and worse than yours.”

A RANT ABOUT RANT RECEIVERS

Author: Saumyaa Sinha

What is UP with people and their freakin’ annoying, excruciatingly irritating responses to everything ever. Like. Stop. Please, just cease to exist if you do not have the basic human sense to differentiate between the tone of somebody’s voice and realise when to actually open your mouth for words of (not so helpful but still laudable for the attempt) comfort and when to just shut the fuck up and let the aggrieved talk. They have probably come to you with a (stupid, a very stupid) rough idea of you willing to listen to them, because one, you probably have in the past, two you have a magical bond (no) and three they look like they’ve been kissing death, so your usual vain, sugar-coated caked self would have the decency and ‘human’ ability to have some pity on them, perhaps do what most humans are capable of doing: LISTEN.

It’s really not that hard. Okay look, try it now. Just SHUT your mouth, don’t hum, don’t smack you lips and make engine noises like a 5 year old, and don’t even think about clicking your tongue to the inside of your mouth to resemble the ticking of the clock. I believe in you. Shh. It’s okay. Just try, TRY to keep your beautiful, plush, oh so ardent pair of lips in ONE PLACE, meaning don’t move them, meaning JUST SHUT UP. Next, this is the tricky part. OPEN your daft ear to the sufferings of the world *patriotic theme song*. Do you hear it, do you hear it now? Even your conscience is whispering about you being a treacherous listener. Shame. Feel it. Let it burn your soul. The final part, the hardest, if you do this wrong you shall rot in the pit fire of hell. Direct your eyes/head/ATTENTION, to the person TALKING. Not to the pile of unfinished homework/projects/things you know you’re never actually going to do, not to your phone, and DEFINITELY not to any device which tells you the time.

The last bit has some issues. Don’t stare into the soul of the speaker as though you’re pulling an Elsa. Don’t keep scanning their faces, looking for the shame you’ve just lost a paragraph ago. Don’t be on the edge of your seat, salivating eagerly for more info into their sob story, nobody likes a scandalmonger. Just casually cross your arms, or keep them by your sides, even one on your chin for more of an ‘I’m genuinly interested, please keep talking’ look. DO NOT touch them for consolation if they’re not the type to take hugs easily and it has taken a lot of stuff for them to finally open up to a fellow homo sapien. Occasional ‘hmms’ and ‘that must be hard’, or a ‘that’s understandable’ would be a huge YES. However, don’t and I mean this one, please please PLEASE for the love of cheese and barbecue fries, DO NOT jump into your own story about how you’ve had it 574.8890 times harder. Be a devoted listener please. *sighs*.

If you’re on the PHONE and a person decides to rant to you, follow the listening and speaking part to the tea, as for the looking part, you are excused, however please try to stay attentive lest face humiliation, confusion, guilt when they ask ‘what would you have done in this situation?’. They are talking to you, with a cellular device, wholly dependent on the transmission of radio waves from their phone to yours, travelling through the ionosphere, where it could be lost in a million other such rant signals, in the hope that in this galaxy, they are somehow able to connect to you. Don’t screw it up please.

On TEXT, hold your emotions. Don’t send emojis to express your undying care for them, send them heart warming words. Trust me. It is much more effective and changes the mental state of the ranter big time. If you see them sending their rants line by line, DO NOT type something in between, let them complete. If it bugs you to infinity and beyond, tell them to take their time and just type up everything together so you can read it and respond accordingly. Meanwhile, do whatever you need to do to have a meaningful existence. Or watch PewDiePie, it honestly doesn’t matter. After they have completed, and you’re on the type of chat where they have the option of seeing if you’ve read the message or not, then PLEASE don’t just read the message and NOT RESPOND. If you’re suddenly busy, say you’ll respond in a few minutes. But understand, this person has poured out their heart to you, with the flicker of hope that you’ll somehow magically clear their foggy, misted paths of life. At least pretend you have such abilities. You don’t have to be right, you just have to BE there for them.

That’s the guide for you then.

On a more serious note though, and I hate to make it serious, but most of the times I’m not only writing to be funny or for entertainment, but also because I have chosen to address a purposeful topic, really think about the person who has chosen to speak to you about their problems. From personal experience of being a ranter and a receiver, I can positively tell you, if somebody is in a fix, having a really bad day, has been having a grotesque phase of life, whose gravity may seem minute to you, trust me, what will come out of your mouth will mean a lot to them. When I say rants, I mean anything which emotionally charges up a person. While in an emotional high, if somebody possibly with feelings of intense hatred/sadness/hopelessness regarding the stimuli in question, decides they need to speak to you, please don’t ridicule their story. Don’t say it’s in their head. Don’t say they need to get over it, they ONE HUNDRED PERCENT know, for sure, they need to get over it. THIS IS THEM TRYING TO GET OVER IT. If they are TALKING to you about it, they are obviously are failing. Don’t stab their wounds the second time by being insensitive. I’ll tell you why:

They’re emotionally charged up, they decide you’d understand/listen/empathise/’be there for them’, they speak, pour out their heart, talk about the damage. Then you, being the little snubbing King/Queen you are, treat them like a peasant and are extremely insensitive and over do the ‘hmms’ without any actual response, or worse, say ‘lol’ (how do you even have the audacity to use that dammed three letter abbreviation), ‘lol, you need to jam the hype and stop being so dramatic’. No. No. No, no, no, no, no, nonononono. NO. Does your inexplicably, tiny, incapable, mockery of a brain have ANY DAMN CLUE, what kind of impact that can have on a person? You do that, and you’ve done it. You’ve done it honey. You have pushed them so deep into disconnect that they’ll probably stop abruptly, scoop up their feelings and completely forget that they’re still holding it. And this is the UNHEALTHY way of forgetting. You’ve shut them down, tired and drained them out. There will be about 5 seconds of shock, 30 seconds of sadness and then? No feelings at all. They’ll be so worn out (because they’ve given their 100% trying to explain), that they’re probably not going to share their story with anybody else right away, with the fear of similar rejection or because they’re simply incapable of being expressive anymore. Don’t be one of those people please.

All humans ever do is experience, share, experience and repeat. You, as a part of the human race, can make the sharing bit of the whole cycle, either shitty or spiffing. Do the latter. It’s easier being nice, trust me. I can understand if you genuinely don’t care. Be polite, use that thing in the inside of your skull to say ‘hey, I appreciate what you’ve been through, it’ll all be okay’. This gives out the message that you think their problem isn’t shitty. They’ll get the message to leave you alone and probably say something like ‘hmm, hope it works out’. If you genuinely care, ask them questions, get them to repeat the not so painful parts (hey, all this is coming from two years of psych and well, LOGIC, I’m sure you can do it too), let them know you care. If they’re the frivolous kind who will peel down their 9 layers of sadness in front of you and wake up tomorrow with sparkles and fairy dust, then ignore this bullshit of an article thingy, and just RUN as fast as your feet shall allow. They don’t deserve your time if they’re going to fake 3 hours of heart break. The other kind though. The kind who look tough on the outside, but you see them break down, and you know it’s killing them to be so vulnerable, respect them, commend their bravery for accepting their feelings and ACTUALLY letting another living soul in on them. Be the ideal listener for them. I assure you, a considerable, serious amount of mayhem is making them do this.

Out For A Walk

The breeze is cold, with no identifiable smells, it’s pleasuring. The city looks beautiful, calm and the major intersections are the only places with lights. These huge flood-lights look like mere toothpicks from where I stand. The city looks like a collection of a kid’s building blocks, organized as on a circuit board of some complex electronic device. I have seen this view multiple times, probably in every lighting condition that the eyes can perceive, yet, it looks especially mesmerizing right now. I stand on the visibly largest bridge crossing the Ganga river, marking the start of this holy city. The oldest bridge was replaced by the latest one. The double-decker bridge is barely visible which identified the city in films like Raanjhna. A train chugs through the bottom and some two-three people walk by on the top every few minutes. Dawn will break soon.

 

I stand here, after hours of trying to sleep. The breeze keeps pushing me back, tailwinds of trucks passing on the highway behind me keep thrusting me forward, and I keep swinging like a disoriented pendulum. I came here to see the end. Option 1: Fall on the bottom of the pillar, crack your skull, instant, and certain death.  Option 2: Fall in the water, I’m high enough for the surface tension to shatter my bones, I writhe in pain and eventually drown. Another possibility is I enter the water safe and sound, the cold water and strong current give me a long, slow and agonizing death, my body is found somewhere downstream. 

This is it, my dream of twelve years is finally becoming a reality. I climb and sit on the edge, anytime now.

“Hey, why are you here? What are you planning to do now?”

“I have seen it all, I have reached the tipping point of my life, it cannot get any better. I will jump and end it all.”
“Yes, that’s the best you can do, I mean, you being here or just disappearing, wouldn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Your existence is known to a maximum of a thousand people. About 500 remember that they met you. About a hundred remember you regularly. Some fifteen-twenty people care about your existence, only to eventually benefit from you. NO ONE ADORES YOU. It would be for the best for you and everyone around you if you died.”

“Wait. You have so much to live for, didn’t you want to go Bungee Jumping? You could do it if you didn’t jump now.”

“This isn’t much different though.”

All three of us laughed as a tear rolled down my face.

“Yeah, that’s true but you wanted to buy a car, raise a kid, live a happy life?”

“But isn’t that inviting more trouble down the line? Every change brings discomfort.”
“Exactly, right from choosing the pursuit of engineering. No, from choosing science. No, wait, from the first time I ever spoke, I have only invited trouble to myself and the people around me. My words, my actions, never solved anything, but definitely sprouted seeds for trouble.”

“Yeah, and you were also responsible for 9/11, don’t listen to him. You’re doing good. You’ve got a healthy lifestyle, a stable job. You are who many aspire to be. You can do anything you want to.”

“Haha, as if you’ve ever had anything in control.”

“That’s true, I have never had anything in my control. Isn’t that the truth of the world? No matter what decision I make, it always has consequences beyond my control. What am I doing, where am I headed? I will never have the life I wanted. It is all pointless. I will never know what’s next and uncertainty is never good. I can count the major events left in my life on the fingers of just one of my hands and most of them aren’t happy ones.”

“You can’t end here. People look up to you. They tell their kids your story. Wouldn’t you want that story to get better every time you meet them? Or do you want it to become a foreshadowing?”

“That is a part of the problem. I very much hate the life I have lived till now, I do not want anyone to follow my footsteps of all people.”

“The underachiever, the meta of our generation. You are spitting on the greats by calling yourself one. You idiot, people your age are running corporations, changing the world and whatnot. You are the worst example to follow. You yourself don’t want to be you. You are everything that’s wrong with you.”

“True, nothing I ever did has made a difference. My whole life has been a compromise. I have never had what I wanted. I was and never will be satisfied with what I have, and will live my entire life hustling for something better trying to unsuccessfully satiate myself. I do not want this. This is the worst part: I will never know what I truly want. What will make me full? A woman? A big home? Many big homes? Kids? Grandkids? Supercars? I guess I dreamed too big, haha. You get the gist.” 

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Not opening the box could be the biggest mistake you make. Walk back, and you can set a better example than the one you would if you jumped.”

“Haha, a box of chocolates can’t have ice creams or potato chips. I know where my life is headed, the last time I got a surprise gift was in sixth grade when my parents got me a digital camera for my birthday. There haven’t been any welcomed surprises after that. My life is not a movie, if I jump down and swim to the next town, they wouldn’t cover me in papers. They would put me in an asylum.”

“That reminds me, your birthday is coming up. Let’s postpone this ordeal until that day, the sun is up too. You do not deserve a release so soon, you should suffer more. Wouldn’t it be poetic to do it that day?”

“Yeah, not knowing what to do when they sing happy birthday would be the best torture. How bothersome, I loathe that day. I have to pick my own gift, sometimes I pick it months before or after, depending on when I need something. I have to plan a party for a bunch of ungrateful nobodies, who would dissolve in the crowd as soon as the party’s over. Leaving a debt to be fulfilled only on their birthdays.”

“Hey, you came here to celebrate that. A birthday with your parents after 4, maybe 5 years.”

“Yeah, let’s call today a trial run for what we will do on that day. Everyone will be tired from the party, it would be easier to escape.”

“Yeah, let’s head back.”

 

The sun shines from way above the horizon. People have started their days. Cattle owners, taking their herds of buffaloes to pasture. Milkmen cycling with huge tin containers on either side of the bicycle, headed to deliver or sell it at the “Satti”. Dust flows as school buses and vans rush on the roads to force start the dozy kids’ day. “You coward.” 

I put my head down. My cheeks keep getting wet, my breath keeps pacing and I blame it all on the dust. No one turns their head, ever. “They all have their problems to deal with, not everyone is as weak or has the time to lament over such issues.” The same sound keeps screaming at me on my way back. “You coward, you’ll never have the courage to do what you want. You can’t even JUST DIE. People work very hard to live and your puny, pathetic self can’t even do that. You can never be happy for you will NEVER BE SATISFIED.”

I reach home, wipe the mix of dew, dust, sweat, and tears off my face. Maa sips her daily tea while watching the headlines. Advertisements start, and she changes to some religious channel as I walk in. 

“Where were you?” She asks.

I don’t have an answer, I stay silent for a moment, it always makes me look like an intellectual who knows what he is going to say. I answer, “I was just…”

Risking the Chance

Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

 

Chances. A bucket full of chances. Showered on us all throughout our life. It all depends on whether you grab them or not. Maybe you’d like to call it opportunities or open doors, but they are all the same. You never know when life may give you a chance to do something, to be someone. Maybe the lemons we keep talking about life throwing at us are the sour chances that we need to add a little tanginess to our life. But how will know until we take that risk?

Everyone has done at least one thing in their lives that is not familiar to their personality. We have all taken the big risks at some point. But most of life’s greatest achievements require going outside of our comfort zones. Life is a series of calculated risks – nothing more. Everything that you decide to do has a margin of risk. No outcome is ever 100 percent certain and, therefore, any attempt at anything has a chance of complete failure. We risk everything, every day of our lives without knowing it. There is always a chance that walking outside will kill us. There’s a chance that we’ll never make it to our destination, a chance we won’t get to see our loved ones again, a chance that tomorrow will never come. Then why not step out of the box and live while you can.

I know that not all the steps we take end up with a happily ever after. Some things might go wrong. The finale may not turn out as you expected it to be. And when we calculate these consequences, we may let go of the decision of taking that risk. Except how will we know what the results would have been? Our mind exaggerates the consequences of what might happen if it does go wrong. We come up with dire and dramatic worst-case scenario images in our mind’s eye. Maybe things will become a disaster, maybe not. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. We always do.

That is what risks are about-you take some and you avoid others. The life you live depends on the choices you make, the chances you take. Take the risk of choosing the road less traveled by, of failing, of being turned down, of going on that solo trip, of confronting your fears, of breaking the rules, of putting it all on the line. Fear regret more than failure – history has shown that we fail far more from timidity than we do from over daring. So let’s dare, dare to do something unusual because as Jim Rohn says, “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you have to settle for the ordinary”.

Cooking And Compilations

“Maa! Tell me this. Why is it that I can put in the right amount of salt almost every time? I have never cooked, never been taught about it, then how can I be so accurate with it?” I asked as I sprinkled salt over the pan to caramelize the onions. I must have been cooking some paneer dish, since I cannot cook non-vegetarian food at home. I made dinner that night and everyone felt fulfilled. It was the first time that the biggest food critique, my dad, passed my cooking. I had only cooked Maggi before this, which according to him, is not worth calling food.

“Shivam, you’ve been called to the staff room.” I had been at my best behavior, so I was pretty sure it was not about something I had done. I walked to the staff room and saw a bunch of other kids surrounding Nivedita Ma’am. She was my class teacher in sixth class and she taught English. She called me close and said, “You have a decent pronunciation. If I give you something, will you be able to read it on stage for the morning assembly?” I was excited; it was going to be my first time on stage if you ignore the Bangla play I did in the third standard where the teachers had to feed me my lines by the end. I had to recite the English translation of our national anthem, my first gig.

I was in the fifth standard. Until now, my computer lab was only about presentations but today was going to change my life. “Today we are going to learn about QBASIC: Quick Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. It is a programming language; you can make calculations and even draw with this. It is a lot like LOGO, but it can do a lot more.” I learned the most fundamental program that day. The “Hello World” program. I learned a lot of QBASIC that year, all of which I have now forgotten.

“Before performing in front of everyone, I would want you to take part in the debate. I have written something you can use.” She handed me a two-page long speech. It was perfect. Never have I been able to recreate a speech of that caliber, even though it has been ten years since then. It started and ended with a quote, it even had a poem in between. It was perhaps too good for me. On the day of the competition, I choked. Nevertheless, my assembly presentation went nicely.

“I have always noticed that people with sharper minds have very accurate assumptions when it comes to cooking. They add the right amount of salt, spices, tomatoes, etc.” my mother replied. The conversation ended, but I will be honest, it was not the first time I was cooking. I had made Maggi many times before this. Sometimes I would add a lot of vinegar or soy sauce. However, I had never had difficulty adding ingredients I had tasted. I would add anything I found in the kitchen: Pickles, Garam Masala, raw spices, Chat Masala, absolutely anything! Except for the aforementioned mistakes, I was always proud of my creations. It tasted different every time and Maa would always look forward to my new experiments. 

I cannot continue this without mentioning Dhananjay sir. He hammered down the basics of programming into his students, especially the interested ones. It was the only class I looked forward to, in my last two years of school.  Eventually, I realized, anything that a human can do, can be programmed. Some decisions and repetition of certain steps, a permutation of these could describe anything our human mind can comprehend. He would never tell us the shortcuts until we mastered the basics. We would print patterns, sort numbers. Arranging numbers in ascending order can be done in one line. Nevertheless, he made us develop our own way to do it, after which he told us about the existence of the shortcut.

 

These three hobbies influenced me greatly. It was not until recently that I realized how similar they are.

 

A good dish needs a good recipe. There are hundreds of ways to cook but it all starts with choosing the right ingredients. They must be fresh, their taste and textures should complement each other and the spices. The way they are prepared can make a huge difference. Dicing, fine chopping, grating, Julienne cutting, blending, etc. can give a wide spectrum of flavors and taste to the same ingredients. Roasting, shallow frying, deep-frying, steam cooking, etc. are all possible ways and each of them can highlight a different aspect of the same ingredient. The taste should make the person hungrier with every bite while eating half the time and make them feel fuller with every next bite for the next half.

A good speech is always less than 5 minutes long. A good lecture should not have more than 15 minutes of explanation. You need roughly 5 minutes to change the opinion of a person or to implant an idea in the crowd’s mind. A rhetorical question or a statement, preferably a joke, with a deeper meaning is always good to start with. The type of language you use, how formal you are and how you present controversial statements could make or break your speech. You should divide it into sections with interconnected topics. The most crucial step is to connect with the hearts of the crowd. I have never won any prizes for my public speaking, but I have always received a better response from my crowd than my competitors have.

A good program must have comments. After some experience, one can always tell a good code apart from a bad one. When reading a good code, you can visualize what is happening in each step. There are varieties of ways to solve a problem and optimization is the key. Choosing the right language for the right problems is a lot like choosing the right weapon to hunt. You cannot hunt birds with spears. For a problem with strings you would choose Python or JavaScript, for a numerical problem C and for a problem where you need copies of similar items, you would want to use Java.

My best code would be the menu-driven attendance management system I made, using a 2-Dimensional linked list. It was an absolute beauty. All the functions well connected, no bugs, extremely fluid and highly interactive. My masterpiece. I have come all the way from QBASIC and I still have miles to go.

From choking up in my first speech, I gave a monologue for my school farewell. It was filled with witty remarks and anecdotes from my final couple of years at school. Everyone found it relatable and had a great time. I had left my final mark, spoken my final words at school. Another good speech I gave was the one where I prepared to go for a competition but it turned out to be just an exhibition performance. I spoke crystal clear, everything went perfect and the audience was left spellbound. Once, when I had to deliver a poem written by our school’s late great director, my mic malfunctioned and every “sh” came out as an “s” and it came out as a detestable rustic accent. I now write my own scripts, they are nowhere near the first script I got, but the audience always loves it. My dream is to pull off something like Mark Antony from Julius Caesar. I can never speak well during my practice presentations, but I absolutely nail it when it matters.

I am still improving my cooking. I can follow recettes but I cannot combine non-powdered spices to create the real magic of food yet. My best dish would be the Shahi Paneer I made before coming back from my summer vacation. I can also not forget how I once messed up Anchari Paneer by using twice the amount of spices than necessary. If the first were a swim in a lake on a sunny summer day, the latter felt like walking bare feet in the desert and licking sand out of thirst.

Once you light the stove, introduce yourself on the podium or submit the code for checking test cases, there is no turning back. You have to prepare and keep all the ingredients handy; you cannot chop onions while frying your spices. They need care, five extra seconds of frying and you have vaporized their flavors. You have to ensure you are speaking in a flow, every expression, direct or indirect is visible on stage. You might think you covered it up, but a long enough pause, a slight fumble that you correct by repeating the words, it’s all noticed and you lose all the recognition from your audience. Every time you build and compile your code, the entire CPU, all of the hardware engages to comprehend what you have instructed the computer to do. Even if you asked it to do a never-ending job, it will do it until stopped. This could crash the system; damage the hardware, this small bug is enough to destroy the entire motherboard. One lazy person created the Y2K problem, which could have ended up with us losing all our digital data as we entered the new century.

All three of them, are the same. It is all about living in the moment, enjoying what you are doing and not thinking about anything else in the world. Every time I put on the frying pan, step on a stage or compile my code, time stops. My mind clears out, and all I can think of is what I am doing. My senses become sharper than a doe in an unknown part of the forest. A slight change of smell and my dish might be ruined, a short hum and my speech is gone, and a missing semicolon is like a murder amidst a crowd. I cannot afford to make a mistake, if I make one; I have to live with it. Every hobby is an escape from the daily life, where you live the moment with no pain from the past or worry about the future. “A hobby might not define who you are, but it definitely affects some aspects of your personality.” I leave you with this statement to ponder upon and the fact that Adolf Hitler made great paintings (like the one above), to support the above statement.

The Minor Majority

I am a nationalist.
There. I said it.

And I’m not ashamed of being dubbed one. I’m just sick and tired of how this concept has become one associated with rebels and radicals.
With the rise of the so called ‘pseudo-liberal’ junta in our country, nationalists being compared to terrorists is not uncommon.
Our country has just recently passed 3 landmark judgements. The abolishment of Triple Talaq, removal of Article 377 and allowing women to visit the Sabarimala Temple.
Now these judgments are instrumental, and they have given relief and happiness to millions of Indians.

However, our so called ‘Liberals’ don’t seem satisfied.
Rehana Fathima recently raised furore all over the state of Kerala after breaking into the Sabarimala Temple without permission and causing nuisance.

In doing so, she instantly made headlines all over the country, in a bid to revive her dead modelling career. But did she ‘really’ need to do it?
Fathima doesn’t really care about Lord Ayyapa, the main deity at the Sabarimala. She just wanted to prove a point. In the midst of that, she created nuisance at the temple and hurt the sentiments of thousands of ‘true’ devotees. Did she really need the publicity so bad?

Such stunts are quite prevalent in our country now. They seem hidden to the public eye. But after some observation, I’ve seen that these stunts are quietly ubiquitous.
‘Sanju’: A biopic on Sanjay Dutt, released to much fanfare this July. While the movie was enjoyable, the hidden assault on Hinduism was in very bad taste. While it is well known that Dutt was friends with Dawood Ibrahim, the film decided to portray underworld via a Tilak-clad Ganpati devotee. Now this is not a one off instance. Who can forget the ‘Shiva’ scene in P.K?

Even during festivals, there is sudden increase in news articles about the harms that firecrackers pose towards animals and how Idol immersion is bad for water bodies.

I do agree that these practices are harmful but the way our media portrays Hindu festivals is obnoxious and cynical. Where are they when Bakri-Eid or Moharram is on?

Similarly, why didn’t Rehana Fathima chose one of a thousand mosques where women aren’t allowed?
Why didn’t she hesitate to do the same at a place considered sacred by people of another faith?

‘Oppression’.

This is the word which would’ve been in the headlines if Sanju included Dawood. If articles got published on Bakri-Eid. If Fathima trespassed a mosque. If a person from the minority community is asked to stand up for the national anthem.
Why can’t we call a spade a spade and drop the victim mentality?
It’s high time facts stop being twisted to suit one community and target another.
It’s high time we start treating others as equal.
It’s high time we stop disgracing nationalism.

We are all responsible.

2017

It was a partially sunny day. The wind was strong but there was no rain yet. Joshua was waiting in the queue with his KTM RC 390 in a petrol bunk somewhere on the East Coast Road twenty kilometres away from Chennai.

‘Last year, around this time, it was sixty-six rupees per litre! I remember it very distinctly’ Joshua said frustratedly.

Vicky, sitting behind him, replied ‘Now it’s eighty-one per litre. I know’

‘Greedy rich shareholders and spineless government’ Joshua cursed.

‘If the fuel was cheaper, what would have happened? ‘Vicky asked.

‘We would’ve visited Pondicherry more often, have fun more often’, Joshua replied.

Vicky sighed with a smile, ‘Yeah, but you would have turned more fuel into greenhouse gases. You will be contributing more to the climate change that’s happening. Any commodity that is harmful to the environment should be costly. That’s the only way you would use it less’, he explained

Joshua moved the vehicle forward as the queue moved and then he turned to Vicky ‘I agree Mister Civil Engineer. Enough with your environmental advice’ he jested.

 

It was unusually a sunny day in a developing locality somewhere in Ernakulam district, Kerala. Mohan Raj was looking around the construction site for the Senior Engineer. ‘Engineer Sir!!’ He greeted him outside the construction site.

The Engineer came walking through the busy site among the brick workers and cement heaps all over the place. ‘Hello sir!’ he greeted back ‘How are you sir? How is Chechi?’

‘All are doing well! My wife also came to the town with me, actually!’ Mohan replied as the both walked towards the nearby tea spot ‘Now she is in her brother’s house here’.

‘Oh, okay sir’ The engineer replied ‘Two glass tea! Both strong!’ he ordered as the both sat down on the old wooden bench painted blue.

Mohan Raj took out a bunch of affidavit papers from the file holder he carried. ‘I have brought all the originals and xerox of the approval certificates sir! All the approval work is done and I brought it as you asked.’

The Engineer checked the papers ‘Okay sir. The work will be complete within two months. Your Resort will be ready!’ he promised

‘Two glasses of strong tea!’ The chai maker called.

The Engineer took the glasses and gave one to Mohan ‘So, are you leaving Bangalore after the Resort is opened sir?’  he asked.

‘No, no’ Mohan laughed ‘I work in public sector sir! I can’t just leave the job. My wife’s side of the family will take care of the resort. Her brother will oversee the hotel’

‘Oh, okay’ The engineer sipped the tea

‘Sir, the materials used in foundation are effective, no? The final cost is less than estimated which is good, but still’, Mohan asked.

‘Sir, there are no land slides reported in this locality for the past fifty years. It’s just one floor building, there nothing to worry!’ The Engineer sounded confident

‘What about the drain?’ Mohan asked

‘I suggested typical Kerala style roof, but you wanted flat roofs. All the rain will reach the ground as per my design and moreover your hotel is built in a land area that is slightly higher compared to the neighborhood, and the rainfall is getting lesser every year, there will be no flooding problem even if you ask for it!’ The Engineer replied with a laugh

‘You can’t be sure about the rainfall with all the Climate change and global warming sir’ Mohan said worried.

 

2018

Vicky focused his phone camera. The pottery wheel spun round and round as his grandmother pressed her four fingers tightly on the clay to bring the pot into shape. He was finally spending his vacation in his native as he wanted.

‘Throw the phone away!’ she said annoyed

Vicky pressed the ‘add to story’ button and slipped the phone in his pocket.

His grandmother held his hand and pulled it towards the clay. ‘Wet your hands with the clay! Don’t assume it’s dirty. Clay is not dirty!’

‘I know Aachi, I study Civil Engineering!’ Vicky said smiling as he pressed the edge of the clay.

‘We have to bring it to shape as fast as we can. Soon the sun will dry the clay, and when it dries it will be strong as a stone!’ she exclaimed

‘So, then wet it more. If you add more water, it will take longer time to dry’ told Vicky’s little sister sitting next to them painting dried out pots.

Vicky was curious what answer his grandmother would give.

‘It doesn’t work like that! The soil is strong without water, it is weak, out of shape and can be molded when you add a little water, the more water you pour the clay itself will become watery and flow away’ she replied

‘That’s exactly what my Soil Mechanics sir told!  So it applies to all soil.Not just clay!’ Vicky said stunned.

‘So, if you pour more water, all the soil will erode like water? Even all the sand in my school ground?’ Vicky’s sister asked

Vicky was lost in thoughts ‘All you need is to pour more water’ he thought.

 

Mohan Raj was standing there not knowing how to answer his wife. He kept on calling to the phone number of the Engineer, but the number was unreachable. He was nowhere to be seen.

His wife was sitting in the corner along with her mother in the corner of her native house crying out loud, mourning in the pain of loss. In the middle of the all the crowd of relatives that surrounded, was the body of her brother wrapped up and ready to be taken

The unusually heavy flood that hit Kerala didn’t exempt Mohan’s brother-in-law. The ground level of the Resort building which was higher than the neighborhood dissolved into eroding soil and moved the Resort building along with its shallow foundation causing the single floor building to collapse. There were no guests at that time. Only two servants and Mohan’s brother in law.

If the authorities didn’t approve the construction, if the Engineer wasn’t that dumb, would the dead be alive?

If there was no climate change, if there was no such unusually record-breaking rainfall this year, would all the built-up structures that have collapsed be saved? Can we even blame anyone in particular?

The severe rainfall was two and half times the usual rainfall and it’s the highest recorded in the last hundred and eleven years. The Indian government was formed only seventy-two years ago while the state of Kerala was formed sixty-three years ago. Although the causality was not dangerously high, the property damage is about twenty thousand crore which the people of Kerala cannot recover from for years to come. This year’s flood is one of the obvious phenomena that happened as the direct result of Climate change, the human induced climate change. We are all equally responsible to take care of our planet and all of its changes and challenges.
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Cutting a Sorry Figure

Poverty is one of the most monumental yet overlooked issues of our country. Money is the end and the means of our existence. It is not bad to have an urge to earn more money, the lesson of acquiring more and more resources is embedded in the most primal parts of our brain. We want more money than the person next to us, and the urge to earn is what drives any economy forward. There is no surprise that our economy is growing by leaps and bounds. The question that rises is why are the poor so poor in our country? In a country with a predicted GDP growth rate stands at a huge 7.3 percent, why haven’t the poor already become rich?

This sudden bolt of inspiration came into my mind when I was at a market near my place, and a balloon vendor, all dressed in scraps, came to me asking if I wanted a balloon. My stature does not serve justice to my age, but then the both of us knew that I wouldn’t have bought the balloon, I am too old for that. The desperation on the face of the man made me give him a 20 rupee note. We do know that desperation makes men scale the unscalable, and the will of the man who is ready to offer a balloon to every grown up at a market really shook the workings of my inner mind to the core. The face of that man has occupied my mind ever since, and this article is a result of the many hours I have put in to research what it is like being poor in the developing nation we call ours.

According to the Census of 2010, the number of people below the poverty line in India stands at 32.7 percent, or almost 43 crore Indians. The count stood at 49.4 percent in 1994, and on paper, it could be seen as a great achievement when you reduce the poverty rate of such a huge country by almost 17 percent over 16 years. Our regional rival, China has brought down the percentage of its poor from 60 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2010, just to keep things in perspective.

This achievement is quite hollow though. According to the latest report presented by the C Rangarajan (the ex RBI governor) expert panel, the minimum daily wage stood in urban areas for qualifying above the poverty line stood at 47 rupees, which was brought up from 33 rupees per day in 2011-12 as recommended by the Suresh Tendulkar expert panel. The World Bank has set the standard at US$ 1.9 per day. Adjusted for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity, or in simple terms, the amount a local currency can buy what US$ 1.9 could buy in the US), it amounts to about 54 rupees, a little more than what our seemingly efficient (pun intended) Finance Ministry thinks is okay. The simple conclusion is, the number of poor people in India is more what the reports show.

I am not an economist or a statistician, but as an engineer, I can crunch some numbers for you.

Two young economists, Abhijit V Banerjee and Esther Duflo, studied numbers from many cities throughout the globe, and Udaipur, a huge city in the Indian state of Rajasthan was one of them. I am using their data and observations to put my points forth to the reader. Udaipur has people from both ends of the economic rainbow living peacefully among its beautiful blue walls for many years now. It is an ideal place to do an economic study, because like all rainbows, the rich found the pot of gold first.

Consider this. 65 percent of the poor in Udaipur are underweight. In a country where obesity is looked on to as a sign of healthy well-being, this data is clear enough to show that the poor in India have troubles even while trying to procure food. 55 percent of the people have some form of anaemia (deficiency of red blood cells), and 46 percent of them have been seeing a doctor because of the issue. 45 percent of the adults reported they cut down the size of their meal quite often to have enough for their children. This actually hinders the healthy development of the brain, and coupled with anaemia, we are looking a way lesser number of IQ points available for poor children to use. The rich may not be born clever, but they certainly win over the poor during childhood.

So, what do the poor people eat?

In Udaipur, the cheapest cereal is millet. 68 percent said that they depended the most on millet, 20 percent said that they had rice (which costs twice as much per calorie), 10 percent depended on wheat (70 percent more expensive than millet per calorie) and the rest resorted to sugar (which is the most expensive per calorie and has no nutritional benefits). The poor are great at managing their food budgets though. A person in the middle-class income bracket will go through weeks without even touching millet, only complaining about how quickly the prices of other staples have increased. The poor learn to manage their money better than the rich, giving up on satisfaction and taste to save a little more money.

On studying their expenses, we find that only about 2 percent is spent on their children’s education, which is quite understandable as almost 72 percent of the children in the city attend schools run by the state government, which offer free education and mid-day meals. Poor children still continue to underperform at the higher education level, a proof of the fact that our public schooling system is functioning way below par.

Almost 8 percent of their income is spent on alcohol or tobacco, and this is where the knowledge of keeping one’s body healthy comes in. A well to do, educated person has some degree of concern for his health, while a poor uneducated guy revels in the momentary pleasure his cigarette gives, not giving much thought to how great is the damage to his life expectancy. Life expectancy is a farce for a poor Indian though. Less than 5 percent of our poor have access to clean water and toilets, and you don’t expect people to live very long in those conditions anyway, which equals lesser time to earn money.

It is true that the poor are always at a disadvantage in the money game, they face a difficult childhood, coupled with mismanaged, and often missing government funds, thoughtless economic policies which have no real economic benefit to the poor. They do learn to save money, the do not take care of their health, or even if they do, their surroundings are way too unhygienic to prevent disease. At this juncture, it is quite easy to understand why only a small proportion of poor people do manage to rise up the economic ladder. The government might show that they are helping the needy, but then there is no such thing as free lunch, or a mid-day meal (pun intended).

The poor in our country are seen as scum, as people who do not belong to our country, the ones pushing our economy downwards. Yet, at the same time, they clean our houses daily, they stand in the heat to sell fruits and vegetables, they take us place to place in their rickshaws and contribute a significant 27 percent to our GDP (Gross Domestic Product, and I’m not explaining this) while doing so. It is high time that we start helping these people on our own, instead of blaming the two ineffective political parties who are always in power in our country.

We, as the people of this country can turn things around, and we should.

Though I still do wonder what would have happened if I had bought that balloon.

 

Dag Nul

It was a typical spring morning in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The monotonous routines of the residents began pretty early in this area. The early morning struggle to fetch water for their day-to-day use had become a staple for them over the years. The plumbing was inefficient in the major parts of this community and the only source of water for the residents were public taps which were generally rationed.

On this rather humdrum day, Thato was getting ready for school. He was a generally large kid for his age and spent most of his time indoors. He didn’t like going out and playing basketball with the other kids when he could very well be reading a nice book. He was a smart kid and studied in one of the best schools in Cape Town. His hard work had paid off as a scholarship and he was getting quality education at Pinelands High School. It was pretty far away from his house and his neighbours ridiculed him for going to a “White” school.

His father had already left for work at the factory and his mother was packing his lunch. She worked as a waitress at a nearby diner and hence her job needed her a little later in the day. Thato filled a bowl with cereal, poured some milk into it and let it soak for a while.

He was scrolling through his newsfeed while eating. “Day Zero is here”, the news articles said. “10 things YOU do that actually waste a lot of water. Number 7 will surprise you!”, the magazines said. “0 day is a government conspiracy… man #woke”, said Darren, his classmate. The posts had been the same since the official announcement was made, over a month ago.

Thato finished his breakfast, kissed his mother bye and walked over to the bus stop. Pinelands’ school buses didn’t come all the way down to the Flats, so he had to use public transport. The bus took around 45 minutes to reach his school. The bus to Pinelands rarely had any people from Khayelitsha and the conversation and feel of the bus was more like the rest of Cape Town.

“How am I gonna wash ma’ dog man? There isn’t ‘nuff water for meself!”

The Day Zero ruling had shaken the entire city. Last year, when the threat of Day Zero was looming in, the government had upgraded the water security to level 6B after gradually increasing it in the years prior to that. Reports came out stating that 6B restrictions were sufficient and Day Zero can be pushed indefinitely. This was around the time when Cape Town came under the world’s media spotlight. Many researchers worked on ways to improve conditions, desalinate the seawater and “cure the drought”, but the rains never came. The reservoirs were almost dry and Cape Town was forced to go to level 7 restrictions.

The bus stopped a few meters away from Thato’s school. Public buses weren’t allowed to go through the school zone, so Thato had to walk the last stretch. Johnathan and Nancy were waiting for him right outside the entrance.

“Bro we’ve been out here for 50 years! Hurry up next time, would you?”

“Yeah! Johnny here has been telling me awful things about what will happen after tomorrow, I just can’t listen to anymore of his BS!”

“Oh please, a year later, when the war starts you’ll remember this day and realize I was right all along!”

Thato just grinned at them. His daily entertainment quota was filled by their non-stop bickering. The three friends walked into the main gate and shuffled through the crowd, into their classroom. Mrs. Moodley was already addressing the class when they arrived.

“…and so, the school will be closed tomorrow. Ah! I see the three of you decided to grace the class with your presence after all. Take your seats quickly, I’ll be giving out holiday assignments in a while.”

The school was abuzz with gossip about Day Zero, and so was the entire city. The majority of the population were about to face the biggest water shortage of their lives. It was the closest that they had ever been to a water apocalypse. Laws would change, and so would lawmakers. Priorities and requirements would also change.

Despite all of this, the lives of Thato and the other residents of Khayelitsha would be devoid of change. What the rest of the city was about to face has been their constant for many years. The water problem was evident for many years, but only when the rich started facing the problem did the world look at Cape Town. The situation could be compared to that of a rare disease brought into limelight when contacted by a member of the higher classes. Cape Town’s Day Zero was Khayelitsha’s Day Twelve Thousand Four Hundred and Nineteen.

Happy World Water Day.

– NSVR

CLUMSY

img_4124While all the girls walked with grace,

I spent my time falling on my face

And when I landed in the muck,

I would blame my stupid luck

Slipping and sliding, I was a mess

Always the damsel in distress

Because I didn’t know left from my right,

Sports would give me such a fright

Walking into poles seemed like an obsession,

Maybe there was something wrong with my vision?

I would always laugh it all away and

Secretly hoped I would grow up to be okay

Been a few years, I’m still the same

I have a few more mishaps to my name

Now I look into the mirror and smile

I know I’m clumsy and that’s just fine.

 

– Sonal Mahanta