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…”

Geometric Progression: A Procrastinator’s Story

Author: Saumyaa Sinha

Let me tell you, a simple life is a fool’s paradise. It doesn’t exist. Things, in general, when have to be done are as annoying as ‘that aunt’ calling while you’re in the middle of a T.V show. Like, why? Why now, why ever? But like the persistent pesky flies they are (the work I mean, not the aunts- well them too, but that’s not the point) they just don’t go away. So what do you do? You hand over the phone to your poor Mum. Or in this case, avoid the work. And no, you’re not even badass. Oh no. You’re super sincere, and you’ll tell yourself, I know what I have to do, I’ll finish it by five o clock evening. Later you go on to realise that the five o clock evening you planned for was destined to come at the end of the month.

And then starts the verbal assaults and threat glares. You realise you wasted the month planning to plan to get your work done, and suddenly, its due date. Like how? ‘You’re so unorganised, you don’t pay attention, you don’t take things seriously blah blah blah’. And you’re devastated. It’s tragic really, as tragic as when you’ve been studying the whole day, but the second you touch your phone, PRESENTING THE PARENTS. Complacency is another thing which happens to most of us. When we begin, we’re pumped up with manic-energy which surges through our veins, thus end up doing half of whatever work we were to do, in half the time others would take. But that is the burnout point of our vigour. We (well I) get so puffed up, so self-satisfied, that you fawn upon the glory of having done *spreads arms as wide as possible* SO MUCH WORK…that…well, the other half never really gets done.

And that’s when you realise. You started with one pile, which ‘magically’ doubles and ‘magically’ yet quadruples and you’re going crazy, hair sticking out at odd angles, lips trembling, trying to do a thousand things at once, ink marked hands and thumbs sore with paper cuts, *mother in the background goes “clean up that goddamn table of yours, it should look like it exists”*, you’re trying to complete bits of everything, papers strewn across the floor, your buzzing mind too occupied to pick them up, wishing you were living around a black hole so time could be at its slowest and you push your brain harder, but it can’t process any faster and you’re holding on to too many things at once and you look there, you see the piles rising, you look back here and you’ve lost track, you don’t know what to do, everything becomes nothing…and it finally sinks in. In the blizzard of all your paperwork and mental anxieties you realise you’re trapped. Trapped in a geometric progression of all the things you had to do.

BUTT. I’m kidding, I meant BUT. Procrastination isn’t all that bad. For instance, you have a project submission. You spent your time thinking about how you should make the front cover. You start thinking about what folder you’re going to put it all in. So you go down to the shop, have a look at all them folders, but the procrastinator in you goes to the next level and starts gawking at the stationary. When you come back home you’ve spent your money on things you didn’t really need. Next, you take a bunch of white papers and stack them inside the folder, deciding how you want things to look. You make a list of things you need to write down and start putting pretty colors together. By the end of it you realise you haven’t collected any substance for your project so you write down random shit. You’re also super smart because you know your teacher isn’t going to read every word. When you turn it in, you have an amazing grade! Why? Main points caught the teacher’s eye AND it looked as pretty as Regina Gorge’s Burn Book. And your friends be like, ‘how did you EVER find time to do all that’. *Smirks and bows to the Lord Of Procrastination*.

To delay things we don’t want to do isn’t flatly irrational. Most of the time you find your passion in doing things you do to avoid the things you don’t want to do (I found writing). If you ever have the task of cleaning your room (courtesy: repeated insults thrown at you by Mum, who for one, can not thing of a single reason of your existence to be productive), you start organising things and compartmentalising stuff. Then you think you perhaps need a glass of water, so you go to the kitchen and realise how messy the shelves are, you quickly straighten things out and proceed to your room. On your way, you pass your living room, and the tables all have newspapers thrown across them, so you being such an awesome child, stack them up in a neat pile and place them at the center of the table. You go back to your room and finish cleaning it up. You have hairbands and clips and nail polishes on your table so you take those and head to your dressing table which is a total mess. You quickly put things in drawers and put away your hair brushes into their holders and come back to your room, now as clean as clean can be.

Stop for a second.

You just ended up making the entire house look so much neater. Told you procrastination isn’t so bad.

If you’re the type of person who loves accomplishing things and putting a huge cross on things on your to-do list then here’s what John Perry, Author of DON’T BUY THIS BOOK NOW: Art of Procrastination (no kidding that’s the real name, go buy that book now, its absolutely spiffing) has to say, “Morning To-Do List: 1. Turn off the alarm. 2. Don’t hit the snooze button. 3. Get out of bed. 4. Go to the bathroom. 5. Don’t get back into bed” – five achievements before you’ve made coffee!”. Couldn’t have said it better…

Come on people of Procrasti-Nation! WE CAN DO IT (tomorrow). Let’s change the universal idea of productivity and infuse it with our Art of Procrastination. Because Thomas Edison’s lab burnt down and that’s when he saw the beauty of fire, Archimedes was having a lazy bath with a deadline looming over him (in his case- death) when he shouted Eureka and gave us the Archimedes Principle. And believe me, it is amidst this chaos that some of the world’s masterpieces are created.

Check Your Emotions Before They Checkmate.

It is that time of the year again when almost everyone under 20 is free. Free to walk under the sun, swim in the ocean, sleep under a roof, under a tree, work for some more pocket-money, explore hobbies and interests, to make the most of all the time they have. It is the time to meet your parents, your family, go to your grandparents’ home and enjoy with your cousins, for this is among the last few opportunities to do so. Everyone is going to grow and leave the nest someday.

For me, it is the time just as any other that I spend thinking of a better world. I keep wondering what the human mind can accomplish, given its creative capabilities and destructive tendencies.

Humans are social creatures. We have evolved to create communities. An urge to be in the good books of people around us is instinctive. Such behaviour is a result of the idea that weaklings can be victors as well, using the strength of unity. Unfortunately, this urge has taken away the angelic side from most of the people. We lie, cheat, and betray to be on the side preferred by the stronger person. This led me to think, what if we lost all our emotions altogether. This mental experiment can take many forms. There are plethora of films and other forms of art that have experimented with the concept.

PK, the Bollywood film, where we see a humanoid alien coming from a similar type of planet. He is naïve, always misunderstood, and pays a hefty price learning our twisted methods of living. We can also think of “The Purge” concept, where humans live peacefully except one night a year, when they murder and rape each other. The “Saw” series takes its audience through a journey that teaches how life can be lived with our moral values intact but with big stakes.

There are many ways to tell a story, and not all of them have to imply to the lesson directly. In “A town without me”, popularly known as “Erased”, we learn directly that fighting alone might not solve your problems. However, if you muster up enough courage, it resonates with others. Another lesson I saw in it, is speaking up can solve problems right in their roots. “Your Lie in April” and “Anohana” explore these concepts as well, where just speaking or accepting the truth, when and where it mattered, could have solved everything. Obviously, truth is the bitter pill to swallow most of the times but is always better than living diseased with a pretentious personality, separately for each individual you encounter in your life.

In a world where humans are always honest, we would still encounter the seven sins. In that world, even petty criminals would need severe punishments to keep the latent criminals in check. This somehow paints a picture of a communist dictatorship, where everyone is equal, and crime is crime. Honesty is honesty and not hate speech.

A robotic society, where there is no leader, no religion and people follow their will based on logic alone for instance, a society where you pull the lever and let one die to save five. Heaven in its true senses. There is no bond or relationship and we go by our lives in an orderly fashion, doing what we must do to survive. When trivial situations, mishaps and accidents happen, only logic solves them finding optimal solution for the future. This would deny human rights and would be highly apathetic. On the contrary, it compels me all the way more to make and live in a world like that.

Our world is plagued with problems; women do not get equal treatment. It will be different in my world; a human would be a human. Pay grades would exist; however, there would be no discrimination based on gender, race, cast or other reasons. There will be no poor because job requirements will control population, using brutal ways if need be. Road rage in that world would be consigned to oblivion; people will follow rules, understanding the gravity of the consequences of breaking them and not in their fear.

A world of that type would take away the humane part of us. It only seems fair to run it as an experiment and apply partial results to our real lives. This makes us realise that honesty and a life of high morale comes with a cost. You have to like others less to have a favourite. Equality is a tool mostly used by people for their own comfort just like concepts of feminism and right to live. Hope is just a boost of adrenaline that makes us jump into fire.  Nevertheless, these parts of us make us human. Life finds its meaning in between survival and ensuring longevity of its species, but is definitely not constricted merely by these concepts. We are the masters of our own life. Masquerading as the good guy would definitely be tough, consequently, you will get angry, feel hurt, and get envious. However, you must bear it alone and be the stronger person. Fight for all you deserve but not get greedy or proud of it. You define your life. Will you make it a good one?

Insanity.

Subject CC475 is one of many examples that not all disorders are painful and frightening. To them, it’s a way of life. To them, an everyday work routine could be a disorder; a forty-hour work week could be one too. In their eyes, they’re the normal, unhindered beings. In their eyes, we’re the ones that are abnormal – we’re the ones that suffer from insanity.

Trans. of Interview with Subject #CC475:

“Ironically, it was called the utility room – if anything inside could be considered a utility in the room, it was the blank whiteboard hanging right above my head. I always arrived first; I had always assumed that the place where I stood was the most sought after. For the amount of time we had planned to have the meeting, it was a disorienting experience on a daily basis; and the only way to avoid it was to take my place. Not that the board was filled with information that would take your head for a spin; in fact, it was quite the opposite. The board was blank – like the one behind me, here. Completely white, yet staring at it for sometime led to some … undesirable experiences.

“I had always asked them the reason for me hanging the board in an otherwise perfectly symmetrical room. Not that I knew it myself, but just to listen to them scamper for ideas. That was the core idea of this organization – to run helter-skelter for ideas, collect them all, and try to build a fortress, or a maze – or a dungeon. No, we don’t focus on building palaces or relationships – there are a lot of real-world people doing that already. We try to do something different; something unique, like ruining our world’s progress to utopia by introducing our world into it. Why? Well, there’s a reason why it is called utopia – it’s supposed to remain imaginary; a driving force that keeps this world up and running. We never run out of ideas to collect – quite an ideal driving force to keep anything working.
“Also, utopia’s boring. Honestly, anything that’s ideal is. Would I like to rephrase my statement? Well, why would I have second thoughts on such a blatant and one-sided opinion? Do you even have an opinion on that matter?
“Who’re they, you ask? Well, they’re … different. They’re all different people; they change every day. They’re from different walks of life, too – janitors, cooks, bartenders, businessmen, coolies, porters, stationmasters, drivers, guardsmen, soldiers, students, homeless, hawkers, vendors, managers, organizers, employers, employees, retired people, pensioners, family, friends, love interests, fantasies, animals – what? What do you mean “did you say animals”? Of course I did – has six months of isolation in a mental asylum made you forget so much about the outside world? Sigh, it must be pretty hard for you to be out here in nowhere.
“When do we have our meetings? They happen all the time. Yes, I mean they happen all the time! Why do you keep questioning my statements? Now please, if you’ll answer my ques- what? Is the meeting happening now? Well of course it is! They’re all here, right in this room; with you and me, listening to every single word we’ve talked about. Yes now, this room is quite small to fit them all here, so I only have all the important ones waiting outside; now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go meet them now. I hope you get better soon. What? Why are you talking to a remote? Are you insane? WHY AM I BEING DIAGNOSED WITH SCHIZOPH –“.
End of transcript.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand reality. Many believe the victims to be mad, but we fail to see their perspective and understand them. This is our attempt to give you a glimpse into this misjudged condition.

Also, Subject CC475 does not exist.

~ vikram

Train of Thought

I sit in my AI class
On a dull Tuesday noon
My mind is lost
in Byzantine thought
So I write this poem,
‘cuz why the heck not.

I notice this reddish stain
Under my teacher’s collar
You know what else is red?
My mind started to figure
The Nazi flag with the swastika
That reminds me of Hitler!

Stalin was Hitler’s coeval
He domineered Soviet Russia,
The home of icy vodka.
Vodka in any form
Will make your vision blurred
Might as well suit up and ask
For it to be shaken and not stirred.

007 is British
And so was Captain Russell
The ball that he caught
Was declared a six.
He was deported to Africa!
What unfortunate politics!

Politics in the real world
Is all about the moolah
If I had all that money
Instead of the crooks, they murky
I’d get something so very cool
Like a sweet-ass dune buggy.

Dubai has extensive dunes
And also no income tax
Just like booze in modern Pondi,
Where VITians go to relax.

Pondi is in Tamil Nadu
Famous for Dosa and sambar
Looks like we’ve reached the destination,
That stain was probably sambar.

– NSVR

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.

 

The Stranger With The Light

A world so deeply pained,
And all efforts went in vain.
Yes, the light had gone missing somewhere,
And you brought it back again.

I thought that I had changed,
Indeed, this thought was insane.
Now learned that that was me who led the change,
I left those thoughts to search new lanes.

I then resolved to follow,
the good words thy had sent,
In your face, I learnt lessons,
Till yesterday, I hadn’t.

You wiped the picture clear,
How my steps should I steer.
Like a blessing you had come,
A stranger, who is no more one.                                                                                  –

-Sakshi Ragini