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…”

Cavemen

Author: Divyang Arora

From the day we are born, everything’s fuzzy. It’s like we are surrounded by a layer of haziness and nothing is clear. We are told to live the same life that millions before us lived and billions after us will continue to, and most of us don’t question that. There’s a phase where we all think of rebelling, to go against the norms and challenge something that has stood its ground for years.

In the last few years I have met a lot of people who had a fire in their eyes as they told me that they won’t submit to the society’s expectations, that they would carve their own little niche in the mountain, separate from the cave everybody else has been sitting in. Slowly they all grow tired of carving it and you can see the fire die as they submit to what they sometimes call their pre-written destiny. When there’s already a well-made cave to live in, they say, why should we do all this effort when everybody else is comfortably settling down? Some of those who get close to carving it realise that they would be alone in it and that thought scares them. Maybe people will follow their example and bring their axes to expand that small hole and make another cave, but maybe they wouldn’t. If they don’t, well, nobody’s ready to take that risk. Maybe they realise they can’t build a fire in their hole because it’s too small and doesn’t have enough air for the fire to burn for long. They aren’t ready to stay cold till their hole is big enough. That struggle is more than they can handle and less than what others expect of them.

It’s tough to open your eyes in this cave. Sometimes your eyes are open but you can never be too sure. Is it dark because your eyes are closed or is it because your eyes are open but there’s no light in the cave? Sometimes you are too frightened to open your eyes because God knows what horrible sights wait for you. So you live in your illusions. You refuse to open your eyes and just feel other blind people around you and go wherever they are going because the feeling that you’re not alone gives you comfort. You touch the walls and walk alongside them, failing to acknowledge the idea that there can be paths in other directions.

You walk the tried and tested path, which has led everybody to not exactly a happy, but not horrible either, place. In retrospect they tell you that it’s been a fine journey, forgetting all the sleepless nights and the hopeless ends, because no one remembers bad times when they are gone, and you believe them. You trust their experience and refuse to hover over the idea that maybe what the majority says could be wrong. You live in your cave. You refuse to progress. There will be times when you will try to blame the other blind people that you held onto for the path you followed, but there will be no one to blame because you didn’t see their faces. Maybe then you’ll blame yourself for trusting the wrong person. In the end, though, you’re going to sit around that fire in your cozy cave, telling the newcomers with a sigh what a satisfactory walk it has been, hiding that you wish it had been something more than satisfactory, and they will listen to you, because somethings never change. Because no matter how far we reach, in some ways, we will always be cavemen.

What I Learnt After Taking Three Short Trips in a Month

Author: Aditi Chandrasekar

Warning: This is not, in any way, intended to be a guide or a helpful article for travel. These are probably things that everyone already knows but I only learnt now because I’m quite slow. Enjoy reading!

After arriving from Pondicherry last weekend, drained and dreading the work that was about to inevitably pile up, I felt a sudden itch to write about and summarise what I have learnt after going on 3 very short trips in a period of a month. The trips were to Chennai, Bangalore and Pondicherry and all three were for very different purposes. The first one to Chennai was to conduct a 2-day workshop, over a weekend, in the recently introduced engineering faculty in Sri Ramachandra Institute. We started off from the campus at around 8 PM with heavy bags and an air of nervousness and excitement as none of us had ever taken on the task of organising and conducting a workshop before. One auto ride later, we were at the bus station and I stood and stared at everything around me in awe. This was because, until this year, I have only travelled in trains from Vellore. So the first, wild lesson I learned that day was-

1. Bus & train

For the past 2 years, almost everyone I know has constantly chided my choice of travelling by train instead of bus every time I go home to Chennai, but I always shrugged them off and boy, do I regret it now. Travelling in a bus was comfortable, cheap, and there are at least 5 different buses going to Chennai at any given time so there’s no worry about getting late/missing the bus. A plus was the view from the window. Rows and rows of green and roadside tea stalls made for a surprisingly pleasant sight. Before getting onto the bus, we ordered dinner from a tiny restaurant outside the campus and ate in the bus. One delicious cauliflower roll later, I learnt another lesson-

2. Always carry tissues, and a couple of extra covers/a bag

We Swiggy’d our food, so they were in a cover and after our lip-smackingly tasty dinner, we simply used that cover to dump the trash in, but none of us had anything to wipe our hands with so we used up quite a lot of clean drinking water from our bottles to wash our hands which could’ve been avoided if we had just brought a towel/some tissues with us. The rest of the Chennai trip went more or less smoothly, and we celebrated the successful workshop with a trip to Fun City in a mall. Approximately a week later, I got in a cab to Bangalore. It was a one-day trip to an Assistive Technology Accelerator. Somehow, we underestimated the Bangalore traffic and reached the venue an hour late which was pretty unprofessional, and arriving there annoyed and tired didn’t improve the situation we were in. Obviously, there was one more lesson to be learnt there-

3. Never underestimate traffic

Every time you plan a trip by road transport, it would be useful to remind yourself that the country we live in has an enormous population of 130+ crores and travel is bound to be a pain if you don’t start as early as possible. After we arrived at the venue, we had to sit at a stall and stare at Rahul Dravid having a fireside chat on a stage, which is surprisingly only interesting for about half an hour. Much of the rest of the time was spent mindlessly scrolling through social media, and impatiently waiting for lunch to be served which taught me another lesson-

4. Carry a pack of playing cards

Whoever/whichever group of people you’re travelling with is bound to know at least one card game in common. It’s also amazing how, when your head’s not buried in a screen, there’s some actual conversation and bonding that could take place with the people you’re with, which is one of the primary purposes of travelling with a group. On the bus back from Bangalore, we ate some food and slept a lot as we were pretty tired, but a pack of cards would’ve made for a more enjoyable trip, I’m sure. About a week later, I took off to Pondicherry in a bus and 36 hours of scrubbing off sand from our bodies, an unhealthy amount of pizza consumption, and lots of cringe-worthy tourist photographs later, we got on a bus back to Vellore. At a rest stop, I bought a silver foil container of curd rice, and happily skipped back into the bus, only to realise that my heaven-in-a-box came with a tiny, flimsy plastic spoon that broke in half after the third bite I consumed. While I proceeded to eat my curd rice with half a spoon, I took a mental note-

5. Carry your own cutlery

I am a sucker for the good, old stuffing-food-into-my-mouth-using-hands method. But it is true that it is much less messier and simpler (especially when you’re travelling) to eat using traditional cutlery. Of course, I am pretty sure that these are things that I could’ve easily implemented if I had given my travel choices some rational thought, before I embarked on these trips. But I realise that is a bit much to expect of myself. Better late than never, right?

Breathe

Author: Dhruv Yadav

Breathe in
For this moment isn’t going to repeat itself
Breathe in…
this is the best you’re going to get
This has always been what you’ve been waiting for
Breathe in
As this can be your chance, your escape
Your salvation
Your fears have no place here
Nor does your skepticism
They can’t prevail here
nor can they intervene
For this is your place and this is where you ought to be
Breathe in
As the sun is going to rise
Realize it’s warmth on your visage
And it’s glimmer on your path
For those are the things you have craved for so long
Breathe in
And let this glee sleep into your body
Making its way into the darkest of your corners
The world has never been this way before…
For you ought to live in this moment
Just…breathe in

SOLOING IT

Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

 

Imagine this scenario: you have a long, nice vacation coming up. You have no deadlines to adhere to, no projects you have to work on, no presentations to make; isn’t that the perfect holiday? Just the idea of taking a break from the daily routine, relaxing and not stressing about work is so tempting that we wish that we had more breaks than working days. And that is what gets all of us excited for vacations and long weekends. And when we think vacations, we tend to think about trips and picnics that we have enjoyed or are planning to undertake.

Trips have this very special quality of making us feel nostalgic whenever we revisit them.  It could be those family trips during the summer, the sudden road trips with your siblings and cousins or that one trip with our friends which was planned but never executed; and for the lucky few, was planned and executed. But among all of these, the one that stands out the most to me is a solo trip. Going on a solo trip is like opening portals for yourself which had been invisible before. Solo travelling, for me, represents freedom and independence. There is so much to see out there and so little time. I personally believe that if your dream is to travel the world, then don’t let the fact that you have no one to go with, stop you from doing so.

Taking a solo trip is daring uncertainty to hit us as hard as it can. And once we have undertaken the challenge, it doesn’t seem as terrifying. Solo trips allow us to spend time with ourselves, to get to know ourselves better, to overcome the fears harboring inside, to let go.  You get to test your own limitations, discover your own powers and the entire process makes us accept and love ourselves. It gives the opportunity to feel and express emotions which we normally wouldn’t have, a chance to interact with strangers, grow with their experiences and live the life of the place we are travelling to. By being forced out of your comfort zone and having to deal with unexpected events and unpredictable experiences, you will learn a lot about yourself. You will come to know yourself intimately whether you want to or not. You won’t need to ask yourself what you would do in a tight spot, or what type of person you are when things happen and you have to deal with them, you will know because you will have been there and done it.

I know it is easier said than done and so I decided to test my own beliefs. I went on a solo trek through a trekking association last summer. I was initially scared, not having done this before, skeptical of the people who will be joining me for ten days. But, looking back at it, I would have regretted not going. I learned so much in those ten days about my potentials and boundaries than I have over my lifetime. I bonded with complete strangers with whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I lived their experiences and now have my own to share. Yes, I wanted to give up many times in that duration but no, I wouldn’t allow myself to. The feeling coursing through me at the peak of our summit was unexplainable. Trying to put it into words, I’ll say that I was feeling exhilarated and detached at the same time. At the end of those ten days, I had struck a new friendship with myself.

Taking that solo trip opened a new chapter in my life. I personally believe that everyone should travel solo at least once in their life and rediscover themselves. Travel far enough to meet yourself. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quoted, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

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.

Save Our Seas

Author: Afreen Ahmed

Oceans clearly play an essential role in life on Earth, yet because of their vastness, humans tend to use their waters as dumping grounds for many waste materials. This practice has increased as land areas for such wastes diminish. Oceans also receive all of the pollutants that are fed to them by the rivers of the world. Even when ships are not actively engaged in dumping wastes, they are themselves sources of pollution, most notably, the giant tankers that have caused numerous massive oil spills. 

As a result, by the late 20th century, ocean studies indicate that what had once been thought impossible is now becoming a reality. The oceans as a whole are showing signs of environmental pollution. Even the surface waters of the oceans are increasingly plagued by obvious litter. Some of this litter washes ashore to render beaches unsightly, while other such debris entangles and kills many sea birds and mammals every year.

More insidious than these litter problems are the effects of toxic contaminants from wastes that are dumped in the ocean. These chemicals can upset delicate marine ecosystems as they are absorbed by organisms all along the food chain. Even the paints that are being used on many ships can be hazardous.

The need to address the matter of ocean pollution has been recognized at national and international levels. According to the UN, about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped in the seas annually. It has been discovered at the deepest point of ocean, in Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. Scientists now believe “plastic is literally everywhere.” The reason why it is so difficult to clean the existing plastic from the ocean is because of the sheer amount of trash that currently exists. 

So the idea of attempting to “clean up” the ocean is a quixotic one. Can these projects really make a difference?

The answer is yes, but not as expected.

Smaller technical solutions can make an impact in a localised area. Two rubbish-sucking Seabins were recently installed in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. The devices suck in water, trapping rubbish in a mesh bag, and recirculate the water back into the environment. There are 450 Seabins in 26 countries around the world, in 60 harbours throughout the US, Europe, and now the Asia-Pacific, collecting on average around 4kg of marine litter a day – or about 1.4 tonnes a year.

Another local installation, known as Mr Trash Wheel, is making a difference in Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, on the US’s north-east coast. As the wheel turns, it collects litter from the harbour and stores it in a barge for later removal. These are good examples of small-scale clean-ups that can have a local impact. What these clean-up projects are good at is increasing awareness of the plastic problem. The real goal is to stop plastics from entering the water in the first place.

However, that can’t be extrapolated to the open ocean or the global plastic crisis. What we really need is policy change, and behavioural change, and that’s just starting to happen. 

Things have changed rapidly in the last 12 to 18 months, the announcement of enormous bans on single use plastics and microplastics, with countries banning single-use plastic bags worldwide, and fast-food giants committing to phase out plastic straws in their stores.

No matter how insignificant it seems, the world could see very real impacts for the health of the ocean and the broader health of planet.

Too many mouths

Author – Vignesh

‘So, while I’m here being confessional, I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public. So, a declaration that I’m really nervous about…..Loud and proud, right? So, I’m going to need your support on this….’ It was 2013 Golden Globes awards. A famous Hollywood actor standing on the stage along with fellow actor Robert Downey Jr. as a hall full of famous figures sit and watch her fidgeting ‘I..am…’ she holds the mike as well as her breathing, as the crowd leans to the edge of their seats expectantly. ‘single’ she says and the hall erupts in laughter. This was Jodie Foster trying to explain that she indeed was homosexual, yet shying away from even uttering the word ‘gay’. Today we know that the USA and the rest of the world which includes India has come so far.

TEDx Talks releases a video on Youtube on November 16, 2016, named Homosexuality: It’s about survival-not sex. The speaker: Dr James O’Keefe MD tries to justify that same-sex marriage and being gay was only nature’s response to the overpopulation of humans. He says ‘You all have gay genes in you!’ as the crowd gets really uncomfortable. He goes on to say that homosexuality is not against nature but rather a part of natural selection. A loving couple that doesn’t reproduce but takes care of its herd is exactly what an overpopulated planet like ours needs and that nature knows it.

On 15th March 2019, Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian who the media describes as a white supremacist walks into a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and guns down 51 Muslims. Minutes before his attack, he posted a 74-page declaration text that serves as a “justification” for his act whose details were disturbing and bizarre. He details that all the environmental problems that we face including global warming were a consequence of overpopulation and the world is in a desperate need of population control. The reason why chose a mosque was because, in his own belief, Muslims were the ‘highly fertile’ group. So why is a well thought out and a profound doctor and a terrorist worry about the same thing? Overpopulation is a recent concern that is brought up by endless pop culture releases in different media, from the books like Dan Brown’s The inferno to the movies like Kingsman and of course, Avengers: Infinity war but is it really a problem?

population bomb.jpg

The whole argument that too many mouths to feed equals a problem hinges on the fact that we have limited food. Any resource is professed to be a zero-sum which is the concept that anything that is gained on the consumer’s side is lost by the other side: the source, that is the planet that provides us with the resources. It’s not wrong to think that way. After all, with the water crisis that our country is facing right now and we are told that there is only a constant volume of water existing on our planet and we are running out of it.

It still begs the question: have we really understood the problem though?  Yes, there’s no denying that an increase in demand at a short period of time calls for attention but is population control really the solution? Well, no.

There is another resource that we are running out of. Fossil fuel. We have fuel rates increasing and the government to put the blame on. After all the cold wars and the fight against terrorism paraded by the USA in order to obtain control over oil for years. Now, all that has settled down a bit and now the talk is shifted towards making Electric Vehicles and how to pioneer a way to be oil – independent. Statements that water will be the resource that the countries would be fighting each other for in World War 3, not oil have gained attraction. It is intriguing to think that both oil and water are limited. Yet, the fight for oil has settled down a bit. How did that happen? That is because, while in a technical sense resources are limited, they are really not.

We used lamp oils derived from seeds of canola, sunflower and in extreme cases, by killing whales from the oceans to light our homes. We had our existing populations do the heavy lifting such as moving wheels and machinery, that mined coal which in turn powers up printing machines that would imprint news texts on papers made out of uprooted trees to pass information. Did that lead to an inevitable doom? Did the trees and whales go extinct as the population exploded? The truth is, what we call resources is only limited by our very own imagination. Anything has value only we value them. If we just start to think differently, we may never run out of resources.

In the year 1879, Thomas A. Edison takes credit for inventing the bulb which turns electric energy into that of light. Transistors are invented by American physicists Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley right after World War 2. Now, we have the unlimited source of electromagnetic waves that power up industries and offices letting people work 24/7 through electricity and the transistors revolutionising the same industry with computer electronics and automated machines as well as of course, the smartphones we use to share information. We didn’t stick to the papers or the oil lamps. We innovated. We developed. More population doesn’t mean just more mouths to feed, it also means more minds to think and more hands to work. The real solution to the problem of overpopulation is not genocide or homosexuality, it is, after all, education. Enabling the existing population to think or work is enough to find new resources as we go.

Have you ever heard of the meme that everything in the world is invented by Indians? The invention of diodes followed by that of transistors was by Jagadeesh Chandra Bose. The invention of ‘zero’ of course is credited to Aryabhata. Endless new areas on mathematics unexplored to this day were claimed by Srinivasa Ramanujan. Even the advances in optical fibre technology, on which the today’s internet run on owes the fundamental optics starting scattering effect of light, a phenomenon that was first discovered by Sir C V Raman. Why is it that all the groundbreaking ideas originate from the land that is the second most populated? Countries around the world are making new efforts to eradicate carbon-emitting businesses. India is pushing its automobile industries to make electric vehicles as it is seen to be the future. A future that is independent of oil. Engineers are looking for new ways to produce fresh water every day in labs through researches. The future is not dark. Apocalypse is not nigh as long as there are researches, universities, labs and funds. It’s us, the students who think, create new ideas and innovate!

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.