Profanity: why we need it

It was Friday, I was visiting my home as I do every three weeks or so. It was my bad luck that this time I didn’t get a window seat but the train journey was only two hours. As I didn’t get a window to look outside at, I was peeking at the person sitting next to me as one does. She was watching Game of Thrones on her phone. I cursed myself for not charging my mobile beforehand. With twenty-three percent, I can only listen to songs. Soon enough, my eyes went back to her phone screen shamelessly. It was the Battle of Black-water episode, a brilliant one yet my instincts went alarming. ‘This one has nudity in it! Like a lot of it!’ I remembered immediately and looked around.

Naturally, the person sitting next to her, a man in his forties was peeking just like me. As expected, the scene came up and I was curious what she would do. She kept watching not minding the next person.  I observed that man who noticed a college girl watching nude scenes in a public place and he gave the most judgmental look I’ve ever seen. The awkwardness went away as soon as the episode moved on to the action scene.

Smiling at the situation I put on my headphones. I was listening to Eminem, a rap singer who curses a lot to express emotions. My parents used to give a similar look when I listen to him on loudspeaker, so I had to switch to headphones. Grown ups were always hypocritical about youngster’s line of interests.

The train reached the destination and I took a rickshaw, got down at the edge of my street and walked home.

Usually the street looks alive filled with children playing hide and seek or badminton. I was one among those children a few years back until studies became a priority. Although, this Friday the street was unusually dead. There were no playing kids, no one was around.

After entering my place, having some food and rest, passing some time, I looked at the street again. It was still deserted. I asked my mother as to why there were no children playing. ‘Oh, you didn’t know? Lakshmi, from the next building died yesterday. It was a suicide’ she broke the news

‘What?! How?!’ I asked shaken

‘She had to write Quarterly exam the next day. Her parents were in the AC room while she was studying in the hall or at least that’s what they thought she was doing.  The next morning, they woke up, they saw her hanging by her mother’s….’ My mother went on to explain the details

‘Yeah, okay I get it. Stop’ I stopped her as I felt the back of my neck thinning and filling with uneasiness. ‘I used to play with her’

‘She studied Eleventh standard, in your school only. Your school is infamous for students ending up like this under stress, you have no idea how concerned I was when you were there’ my mother explained but I had to disagree immediately ‘My teachers are nothing like that! I mean, there was stress, anxiety and problems but…’ I wanted to argue but I couldn’t finish the sentence. I wasn’t able to tell her exactly how I didn’t end up killing myself even though I too had my fair share of dark days.

That night I couldn’t sleep but think and wonder, what would’ve happened to her to make her take that decision and why something like that didn’t occur to me.  I remember my first day in eleventh standard, my new maths teacher gave an introductory class of maths in general and he took an example sum of infinite series. He explained how one could easily get the answer for nine plus ninety-nine plus nine hundred and ninety-nine and so on. When I walked out of the class after it ended on my way to home, I looked at a BMW car and it’s hot engine, I looked at beautiful house where a gardener was watering the plants that had roses of different colors and all of them melted into the number nines, the infinite nines all crowded and standing in my way like a giant spider made of nine’s.

‘All of this? That car, that house, that garden. I can get all of this only if I go through this complicated maths?’ I thought, confused, stressed. ‘Did my mother and father go through this so that they can feed me? Is there no other way?’ I asked myself as the thought of finishing the assignment before the deadline was killing me. It was almost like Math was choking me and telling me I am the weakest person in the world.

I grew up in the same school for the first ten years with the same set of friends but I had to join the bigger school because the IIT coaching there was better. Being the new fish for the first time in my life didn’t help either. I had to face bullies for the whole first year and deal with them.

Thinking back about all of this in my bed that night made me wonder how, how did I get through all of that?

The age of 16 is very confusing. You are not an adult yet but you’re not a child anymore either. You use curse words or talk about sex, it’s inappropriate. You talk about free things that come along with Kellogg’s Chocos or dolls you wanted to have, that’s inappropriate too.  I remember seeing a video of a baby when given a candy or a favorite toy, the baby would stand up and clap its hands in excitement while jumping up and down. The same baby would cry aloud spitting everywhere and agitate in frustration if the same toy or candy is taken away. There is no shame is saying that adults come across similar situation all the time but crying or jumping as you clap is seen as straight up bad behavior. Well, for a person who’s sixteen and has been treated as a child up until that point, he or she have been expressing their emotions one way all this time, now they’re expected to express it another way but are never shown or taught how. Continue reading

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Up in smoke

The first lesson environmental sciences gives us is the fact that the earth is lent to us by the future generations. An alternate angle could be the fact that the earth we leave for them is our ultimate gift to them, and it certainly does not look good. The world we live in is so filled with stress that it has become a suffering to live a long life.

Stress leads to a plethora of mental and physical disorders, which eventually leads to shortened life-spans, loss of happiness, a decrease in productivity and many more problems. It only increases as people grow older. To rid themselves of this stress, people use a variety of methods which include but are not limited to alcohol, nicotine, and psycho-stimulants like sleeping pills, cocaine etc. All these ostensibly help reduce stress but in fact, give rise to an addiction. People end up using these as an excuse for not trying to find happiness in their lives. There are a variety of ways people use to blow off steam, but doing it literally is more common these days.

 

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Very common addiction to nicotine comes from cigarettes. It has been a part of our society since ancient history, with various forms of opioids and other psychoactive materials, being converted to vapors and smoked. From hookah in the middle east and India to the pipes used by aboriginals in the west, smoking up has evolved with the society.

There exist multiple types of normal cigarettes for example menthol, which people generally use to start smoking, light, advanced, for loosening up the mind, and light, for chain-smokers who do not really need it but can not deal with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.We now have e-cigarettes as well which make vapors out of anything using combustible substances and electricity. It is not yet a common sight in our country, but hookah sure is. People, young and old alike, can be seen swarming the hookah bars where they are served smoke through a water-pipe along with  food and sometimes drinks. They have become a great spot for socializing.

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However, unlike the common understanding, hookahs and e-cigarettes are equally harmful. An hour of hookah can fill your lungs with more tar than a complete pack of cigarettes.Nicotine is a great way to reduce pressure in your head, but the withdrawals leave your body craving for more. This is the logic of marketing of cigarettes, but not a good logic to follow up on.

marijuana-smoke

Another trend that is hitting the world by a storm is the recreational use of cannabis/marijuana, commonly referred to as ‘weed’. It does have significant medical benefits, which are still under research. It helps patients suffering from glaucoma, reduces nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, improves appetite in people with HIV/AIDS, and treats chronic pain and muscle spasms. It is also under preliminary research for their potential to affect stroke or children’s epilepsy. Smoking it up is still not good for health.

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It can still be consumed orally through muffins, biscuits etc. If the governments globally legalize marijuana, it would definitely make the world a happier place. Imagine a pizza delivered at your doorstep with chilli flakes, oregano and marijuana sachets. Making chapatis with weed in it. Restaurants serving ‘Chhole’ and ‘Weed Bhature’. Although strict policies like that with liquor will be needed to keep it in check, however, people will have less harmful methods to de-stress themselves.

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The best stress-busting mechanism, for me, is looking at and playing with pets, be it dogs, cats or even cows. Playing a sport is equally helpful. If for some reason though, you are hooked on to nicotine, a suggestion would be to use safer alternatives like nicotine gums or patches to slowly help yourself rid of the addiction. Dogs still remain my prime suggestion for all stress related problems.

 

Don’t let this article ruin your mood, pulling a cigarette once or twice a month won’t kill you unless you have Bronchitis, like a certain friend of mine. Always try finding healthier ways to kill stress and increase productivity. Smoke is bad for you, in any form. As the reggae king, Bob Marley used to say, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief, and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”.

King

Long live the King“, the Friday Daily Mail screamed.

Keith ‘King’ Bell had finally decided to hang up his boots.

He lay majestically on his bed as the sunshine shone on his forehead from the window. A bed whose size was in accordance to his nickname. It was 7 AM. He woke up. Today was his final game.

After 15 years in cricket, Keith had become the world’s most feared fast bowler. But cricket was not his sole love.

He had as many headlines on page 3 as the number of stumps he’d rattled in his career. Tall and well built, he was feared on the pitch, and loved in the green rooms. A transition to action films was stirred up, but never taken seriously.

Being a media darling surely helped sustain his ‘Most Eligible Bachelor’ image all this while. A photo of him with any of the new movie bombshells was a prize catch for the ravenous paparazzi.

But it was all over now. After 15 years of physical and mental strain, he’d finally called time on an illustrious career.
Thousands of teary eyes were spotted at the Mecca of cricket during his testimonial match. No one wanted him to go.

Keith wasn’t really sure of his future goals.
Coaching? Never. He hated all his gaffers.
Commentary? Meh.

Reaching home after his final match, all he wanted was sleep. Enough sleep to rest his madly overworked torso.

Sadly, the siesta was cut short by a call.
A call which shook him to his core.

The caller had also mailed him a picture. Of him with Kubal Malik.

The King with the most wanted bookie of the sport.

“It’ll be on the Daily Mail tomorrow”, quipped the caller, cutting the call abruptly.

It was over. His 15 year old legacy was shredded to bits.

He shouted, disbelief in his voice. A 30 second call had turned a 15 year old career into a scam.

The shouting dried down. He wept now.

The clock chimed as the needle hit 6.
It was dark outside.

His heart was full of regret.
It was dark inside.

He slowly crawled into his bed, with a small black bottle in his hand.

It was 7 AM.

He lay majestically on his bed as the sunshine shone on his forehead from the window. With foam on his mouth.

Long live the King. The King is dead“, the Saturday Daily Mail screamed.

Shivansh Mishra

Let it flow

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Some curl up on their beds with heater pads.

Some pop in pills like candy.

Somewhere, in another part of the world, little girls think they are “injured”. Worse still, some are sure that it is cancer.

While most of us have been taught about, or at least are informed by our mothers or sisters about puberty and menstruation, many suffer in silence and ignorance.

In many households, especially in countries like Nepal, India, Afghanistan and Iran,experiencing periods is viewed as a frightening experience. The “embarrassment” regarding periods is a major cause of hesitation amongst women, which might affect their daughters’ health.

The stigma isn’t prevalent for no reason. These are a set of hand-me-down myths and misconceptions which a female child is made to believe because her ancestors had believed in it. Some bizarre myths often heard are: “Don’t touch the food, it will go rotten”, “You are impure during menstruation”, “You will defile everything you touch”.

I also read an account of a girl who believed her nail polish had spoiled because she applied it during her period.

The condition in India, especially in some rural areas, is so bad that girls and women care little about personal hygiene, let alone menstrual hygiene. A survey says that 23% of  girls in India dropout of school, the major reason being inaccessibility to clean toilets. They choose to stay at home, and eventually end up getting married early.

The high cost of sanitary pads is a primary cause of low menstrual hygiene, since women resort to cheap alternatives like cloth, which are reusable, but very unhygienic (only 12% women in India use sanitary napkins). Some also reportedly use newspaper, sand or straw. The germs in the reused cloth might result in serious infections. Further, reports say indigenous girls in Australia steal sanitary napkins and bunk school during periods.

To make it worse, we have advertisements which ask us to bleed blue and keep it all a hush-hush affair. This, instead of encouraging girls and women to talk about their period freely, forces them to keep it to themselves.

Being a single father just increases the problems. Girls can choose to talk to their aunts or sisters instead, if they are uncomfortable. Being silent will never help.

It is sad how a perfectly normal phenomenon, which has been occurring over ages as an indication of physiological maturity, normal body functioning and a sign of fertility is stigmatized and depicted as a curse rather than a natural cycle of hormones churning inside the body.

As Rose George (a marathon runner) rightly says in an article, “Period may hurt, but not talking about menstruation hurts more.” While one might experience bloating, excruciating pain and nausea, the thought of being buried under ignorance is far painful.

We need to take inspiration from women who accept their body, their cycles wholeheartedly and take pride in who they are. Kiran Gandhi, a Los Angeles based musician, sensed that she was going to get her period while she was running a marathon. Yet, instead of using a pad or a tampon she chose to run, letting her menstrual blood flow free.

To make personal and period hygiene accessible and affordable, the government can distribute napkins for free, or at least at a nominal cost, to females in rural areas. Constructing and maintaining lavatories in schools will go a long way to support girl education, which will, in turn, improve their quality of life and the generations to come.

Instead of hiding your napkins in your handbags and concealing them at the bottom of your shopping cart, remember that menstruation is a normal phase in a woman’s life. Embrace it.

– Ramyaja

 

Inside Out

Ever so beautiful looked the sky,
As I walked by,
Walking past the houses, in the lanes,
Greeting the old lady, stooped on her cane.

With some curtains brushed aside,
I could get a glimpse of what’s inside.
Some faint voices, some familiar, some unknown,
Some genial, some in exasperated tone.

The aroma greeted my nose,
There a girl, camera, was a 100s liked insta pose.
Shook my head, with a smile on my face,
I kept walking my own pace.

Wasn’t even half a mile before the smile waned,
Those eyes evinced fear and pain.
Big and bulging, staring right at me,
Brimming with emotions, sadness, gloomy.

A boy of nine standing behind the window,
I looked past those eyes somehow,
Only to find what I feared,
Those deafened ears could again hear.

Squabbles, shrieks, abuses being hurled,
Disturbing was the visual concerned.
I again looked at them, million stories untold and unsaid,
Trauma being made to drink, grief being fed.

Who was I?
Just a passerby.
Now drowned in the ocean,
Of a child’s emotions.

This may have stirred turbulence in my heart too,
Disrupting the serenity of the ocean blue.
Who knows?
Thankfully, no one looked at my eyes, through a window.

Secrets buried,
Secrets that we have carried.

I started walking now, towards my abode,
All alone on the,dimly lit, road.

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Muskan Chanana

 

Not Being A Prodigy

Being in the presence of a prodigy is amazing. They leave people around them often spellbound, mesmerised and awestruck with their works. Their light works as the torch that brightens the paths of many after them. Every field of human interest or disinterest as well, has those names that become metaphors for novitiates in their fields. Prodigies occur once in generations and they redefine the field they enter.  They make things seem so effortless that everyone around wants to imitate them. They set new standards, new bars to cross for people around them.  They shatter old records, styles, make new ones and repeat this all over again. It takes great effort to come to top and it takes even more to stay there. And a prodigy is one who keeps bettering himself before someone else does.

Sergey Bubka, a legend in the sport of Pole Vaulting, broke the record not once or twice but 35 times. Kenny Schrub, better known as KennyS, redefined how the AWP sniper rifle was used in the game of Counter Strike. Unconventionally, he played aggressively with it,  instead of hiding in corners and waiting for players. The list of names is limitless, but my ability to remember is. When we are capable of fully admiring a prodigy, we get unknowingly attracted to their fields.

There are two ways to become a prodigy. Imagine the making of the best wooden chest. To do so, you can either use the best wood or you can use an ordinary type of wood but craft and polish the chest in a way that it becomes unparalleled. We will talk about the first method later. To use an ordinary wood to craft the best chest, the maker needs to put in the extra effort in polishing the wood, multiple times. The wood too needs to be able to withstand that kind of polishing and stay in its shape. It goes the same for becoming a prodigy. The person needs to work themselves out, exerting, enduring harder than normal to take the top spot. One can easily tell a legend in the making when they see them pushing beyond limits.

The other way to make that chest would be selecting the best wood. This wood could’ve been lost in the forest forever, but it discovered its best use in the chest. This wood would need much less effort and would outweigh the best of the contenders and set a new standard once it is finished. This is probably the best way to make a prodigy, to be born one. To be natural at your talent will help you master the basics quicker and in a much better way. Then you can do what the best people do easily and become better than them in no time.

That might seem complete, but there is a third way to make a better chest than the two above. This can be done by using the best wood and polishing it extensively, to make it the best of the best. This chest would make the best of items put in it look inferior. This method makes a prodigy, unparalleled.  The ones above this are remembered for long. But prodigies who got up there by this way become legends. They become the origins to folklores and are cited way beyond their time. This gives us the epitome of perfection, the Sirius of a sky full of stars.

On close evaluation, we observe that all the methods discussed above are flawed. Not all of us are born with a special skill. The world is a cruel place and getting noticed itself is tough, let alone becoming the best. Not everyone is able to make the cut and thus they become a part of the general crowd. You must beat the one at top to get to the top, which leaves the veteran lost in history books. There are so many trying to get up there that it takes impenetrable will power to get there which not everyone is capable of. Every spot has numerous contenders, and there is but one winner which leaves the rest lost in the crowd. And the third method thus gets out of calculations, lost in the rare probability of finding the talented and making it the best.

Is living worthless then?

If you are not special, then why are you alive? This question that ignites the fire of existential dread among many, can be very easily answered. The first argument is, you might have still not found your talent yet so keep trying until you find what you were made for. It is never too late. The second and most pointless argument would be, you need the dark to see the stars i.e. you need ordinary people to admire the extraordinary. The third argument is what I live for:

Freedom.

When you are not a prodigy, you are not bound to something specific. You can be a guitarist for a year and an athlete in the next. You can try out everything while not being the best at any. And that is what makes your life worth living. You are not bound by the limits of perfection, but only by boredom. If one thing gets you bored, try the next because the complete saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none, though often times better than master of one”. So, keep doing what you were and keep admiring the prodigies, for they need it and deserve it. Remember this in your heart that you are only bound by your motivation to do something. You might not be the best but hey, you never planned to come this far either.

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.