The Lovers’ Burden

The mirror told the truth. Savitej was no ordinary man. Over six and a half feet tall, and consisting of two hundred pounds of pure muscle, he was touted to become one of the greatest soldiers of the Bihar Regiment, joining a Param Vir Chakra awardee and multiple Vir Chakra awardees. An exceptional marksman, a cunning strategist and a gallant leader, his booming voice and strong personality made him equally feared and revered by his battalion.

He slapped himself and muttered, “Wake up, wake up, wake up. Another day’s about to start.” He looked at all his scars, as he would, every morning. They meant nothing to him, in spite of what they made him go through. There was a pain radiating down his lower back. And for some reason, it was the only thing that mattered to him. He smirked and got dressed in his track suit, for his pre-dawn jog.

Taking his first lap around Danapur Cantonment, the pain felt more than usual. Looking around, he saw the armoured units warming up their vehicles for their daily patrols and the supply trucks arriving from Patna. The first flock of birds was taking flight and a couple of roosters were beginning to crow. All in all, it was another usual day.

Completing his jog, he returned to his bungalow. His lover was still sound asleep on their bed. He kissed his lover and sat down at his desk, to write his daily log. He winced as he sat down and murmured, “Am I getting too old for all these acrobatics?” While writing, he nodded off and fell asleep.

The sound of the bugle awakened him. He woke up with a start, and saw the mess on his diary. “Oh, not again,” he said, tearing off the ink blotted pages and tossing them into the trash. He saw his lover move in the bed, and said, “Good morning, my love. How are you this fine morning?” A high-pitched voice replied, stifling a yawn, “All good! You?”

“Never been better. The pain keeps getting worse, though.”

He was greeted with an eye-roll, followed by the usual “I told you that we didn’t have to do it last evening. But you insisted.”

He chuckled and said, “I’ll be fine. This pain is worth it. This pain is worth the sacrifices you make.”

A smile as warm as the sun outside shone at him, and his lover got up. They embraced, and he said, “Off you go to the barracks. Make sure no one gets to know.”

“Yes, Sir. See you on Saturday.”

He watched his lover jog towards the barracks. As the figure got smaller and smaller, he wondered how long they could keep it going, without being exposed. Eventually, he’d have to tell someone about the pain. He couldn’t tell the army doctors, or his peers: it would result in an immediate suspension and court-martial. He did the usual and called his sister up, and asked for medication. Hearing his symptoms, she laughed and said, “You’re forty-three, and your phase still hasn’t passed? Oh, Dear Lord.” She prescribed some pain-relievers and hung up.

Thursday, the 6th of September, was like any other day for Lt. Gen. Savitej Singh Johar. Going through files, letters, requests for leaves and go-aheads, was his bread and butter. As he leafed through the Services hockey team’s request to go out and practice in the SAI complex, he realised that he hadn’t played a good game of hockey in ages. He closed the file, and got up. ‘Let me go to Bharadwaj and see if I get into the officers’ team for the next tournament’, he thought. As he walked outside his air-conditioned office, he received a call from his sister.

Answering the call, he could hear people, on the other side, shouting in glee all around, shouting “Love Wins!” He heard his sister shout, “Go see the news immediately! Bye!” What could’ve happened, he wondered, that his sister called him up to tell him to watch the news. He went down to the lobby, where a crowd had gathered around the TV. Some were murmuring nervously, some had small smiles of relief and some had looks of immense disgust. He read the headline, and his heart almost stopped.

The headline read, “Supreme Court unanimously strikes down Section 377.” His pulse grew faster, and he felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. His hands were trembling, and a tear came to his left eye. He had never felt relief like this in his whole life, not even when he finished at the Defence Academy. All his life, he had live in the fear of his superiors finding out, the fear of being isolated by his peers and the fear of losing the respect of his battalion.

Walking back to his office, he dialled the barracks and ordered them to tell Brigadier Agrawal report to his office. He was told that Brigadier Agrawal was arrested by the military police, a quarter of an hour ago. Before they could tell him the reason for the arrest, there was a sharp rap on his door. Disconnecting the call, he barked, “Come in.” The door opened, and four military police officers walked in.

He smiled at the officers, and said, “Ah, yes, boys, how may I help you?” He recognised them all, they had all served under him, at one point. None of them smiled back; on the contrary, their faces revealed apologetic expressions. He couldn’t understand why. His smile disappeared, and he said, “What’s wrong, boys?” The shortest of them, Officer Mishra, said, “Lieutenant General Savitej Singh Johar, you are under arrest for violating Section 46(a) of the Army Act, 1950 as reported by Brigadier Lohith Agrawal, with video proof. He was arrested twenty minutes ago, after he showed a certain video to his bunkmates, as a reaction to the news. You, sir, are part of it and named explicitly in it.”

His joy turned into fear, his elation turned into anger and his newfound throne of safety crumbled into a pile of dust. He stood up and bellowed, his voice breaking, “Are you out of your minds? Did you not see the news?”

“Indeed, sir. Acts of homosexual intercourse are not permitted in the Armed Forces. Please come with us.”

Savitej sank into this chair. His mind went blank. His limbs grew cold. His muscles stiffened. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he could hold no longer. The pain his back was at its worst. He remembered all his lovers: the times they had spent, how he held them, how he kissed them and the times they had become one. As the officers handcuffed him, and took him away, he could see people coming out of their offices, and looking at him in shock and awe. And that’s when he realised: Everything had changed and everything was the same.

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Four Seasons

Four Seasons

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

A DIFFERENT WAY

Storytelling is an art, a talent of its own.  The earliest forms of storytelling must have been verbal aided by drawings. Nevertheless, It has evolved. Our first meeting with stories are usually through our parents, telling us a story to help us sleep. But the paths fork as we continue through our lives. Comics and short stories come first, followed by light novels, complete novels and then audio books for those, who are too busy to read or have weak eyesight.

We look for stories due to a lot of reasons. We learn from true stories. We find an escape from the real world. If you talk to a bookworm about their books, they get so passionate that you want to grab the first book you see and dive right into them. You are compelled to see what they see and feel what they feel.

Storytelling has evolved drastically over the years. We now have movies, TV soaps, anime and what not.  The method of storytelling that is being advocated here is RPGs which is acronym for Role Playing Games. People seem to unable to wrap their heads around the fact that stories can be told in such dynamic ways.

Novels were plain text, so they added illustrations, which according to many are obnoxious and disgraceful. However, a major school of people believe video games are too violent to be considered to be even remotely related to educated adults. There exist competitive games where the sole purpose is to win over other people, just like any other mental sport. The skills required are not just faster reflexes and better hand eye coordination but also the ability to foresee enemy strategies and counter acting them. Nevertheless, there are games that are meant for people to enjoy the story from all genres including horror, action, adventure, sorrow, fantasy, romance etc.

It never ceases to amaze me how one game can make people feel so many emotions in just one story.  

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I can never forget how scared I was when I first saw Dahaka, the keeper of timelines. He looked like a minotaur with horns shaped like infinity. He was all black ,surrounded by black mist, with white eyes. Oh the nightmares.

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I was really happy, when the assassin pirate, Edward   Kenway, returned home from his adventures after   saving  the world. He then took his young daughter on   the seas with her as she was the only family he had left.

 When you develop the powers of your character in the   story, adding strengths that suit your playing style,   unlike   how the author wanted him to be, gives a feeling   of fulfillment.

 

If you are a ‘Lord Of The Rings’ fan, you can see the graugs and the castles, climb on them, build your army. All these can’t be done in the book.

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Just like novels, these games come in series. Many popular novels take to games to tell the story of the prequel or aftermath of the printed text. These games give the user a sense of achievement, very similar to finishing a page or chapter in the book. However, words can never signify the difficulty of 35 retries just to get through that one villain and the satisfaction of continuing the story after his death. A novel only gives credits to 10 people, but a game owes its creation to many times that number.  The story of a haunted house becomes way more enthralling when you see the witch cut your arm and hear the chainsaw of the man following you rather than when you read of these things happening.

Novels and games have similar cons as well. They come at the cost of time, attention and money. There is piracy and duplication. They can leave you with nightmares or daydreams. Although, you will never end up strategizing your next moves and plan on exploiting your enemy’s weaknesses when you are reading a novel.

Albeit every person is made different. Some of us like apples, some oranges while some of us like both. You can like one and not hate the other. It all comes down to what your poison is.

ALIVE BUT STILL DEAD

“What would be my age,mama?”, I asked. I was with my mother on the couch, as close to her as possible, with her hand on my head. It just felt safe. My mother replied, “You were barely a month old”. I sensed something wet falling on my head, thus I looked at her to only find her staring at the wall, with tears rolling down her cheeks. In the picture, there was a man. He was looking at the younger me, wrapped in a blanket and sleeping in his arms. This man is my father, apparently. His eyes were lit up with affection, his face glowing with joy. It felt like he had achieved something or found something really precious, that he won’t be giving away easily, not without putting up a fight until the very end.

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I continued to flip through the pages of this album which has been in the home for twelve years. There was this one picture in which, I think we were celebrating, the sort in which I am sitting on a baby high chair, properly dressed. Mom and the man were also seemingly wearing their best clothes. It was definitely not a birthday because I didn’t see balloons or decoration of that sort. “Mama, where are we, what is happening?”.She said, “That is the day when you took your first independent steps,hence the celebration”. Those were her last words of the day, she got up, walked into her room, slammed and bolted the door behind her.

I was left in the drawing-room all by myself, I just wanted to hide under her chunni, and never get out of it. That was my escape from the world that I didn’t want to face, the world that I despised. Under her chunni, clung to my mother’s body, I found my haven.

As much as I missed that right now, there was still something in me that wanted me to keep turning the leaves of that album until I see those twelve years of life. I saw a photo, in which I was old enough to walk, we are on some beach, with both the adults on my either side, kissing me on the cheek.In turn, our feet being kissed by water. Those were the good days, I guess.

There were pictures of me winning a certificate in some recitation competition, playing hide and seek with my so-called dad, going for vacations, being mollycoddled by both of them. I miss those days, I miss that dad, I miss my family, I miss what I once called home.

I hit puberty. That is when things change. Well that is not something new, right? It is that time when everything started changing not only within me but also around me. Parents in some way or the other confront their kids about this, well I was too, but by a monster. I was raped by that man each and every day when my mom used to leave. I was told this was normal, that this happens to every kid. After that day there was no new addition to that album, things stood stand still. The house which once used to be filled with laughs, balloons, streamers, now was always at sixes and sevens with my clothes sprawled on the floor and filled with shrieks, screams and cries.

The neighbours stopped visiting us, mom couldn’t comprehend what was happening to me.

A month passed, two months passed, three months passed, it was only after the seventh, that my dad was accidentally caught in the act, and now three years have passed. It is just me and my mom, in this house. Two lives that can never be normal. My mom’s adulthood, and my childhood, youth and adulthood all smeared with an indelible imprint which haunts me every time I close my eyes.

I took out the last picture from the album, it was me, mom, and that man, at a wedding, the last smiles on those faces. I shut the album, threw it in the dustbin and went to my room.

In the year, 2016, a total of 38,947 cases of rape were registered under POCSO. Now a girl isn’t safe even at a place she considers home .There has been a turn in the tide however, with more and more of these cases being regularly reported and demands for stricter legislation being made even more vehemently by the masses. Only total justice shall suffice, nothing more and definitely nothing less.

Sheryl

Bright Red

He stood on a long, white, sandy beach, away from the hubbub of civilisation. The sparkling blue ocean lay ahead, graciously licking the soft beach with its cool, calm water. The celebrations of the previous night had rendered the beach somewhat dirty, but its clean aura still washed over his senses, and it reminded him of the night before.

The bar was the busiest place that evening, with the bartenders drowning in a deluge of orders from the guests. Sitting with his favourite drink, he looked around and thought about the vast number of people he knew. Everybody seemed so insignificant and passive to him. As his thoughts washed over him, he caught a whiff of a strong feminine musk amidst the intoxicating vapours of alcohol.

He wasn’t the only one, though. All around the bar, the conversations got quieter, and people swirled around to find the source of the smell. A lady was walking down the bar, her shoes clacking with every step on the wooden floor. Adorned in a dress of red, matched with rubies for earrings, a rose corsage and bright red lips, she smiled like the morning sun at all those looking at her. Occupying the only empty seat beside him, she ordered a drink, and looked at him warmheartedly.

Initially lost for words, he gathered his wits, and started a small conversation with her. As the words and the drinks flowed, it slowly transitioned into an exchange littered with amorous statements and light humour. Following the little laughs exchanged after a particularly humorous joke, their eyes met. His brown eyes, and her grey ones. She gave him a smile and grasped his right hand. His heart beat grew faster, and he could also feel her pulse rising.

It was that moment, when they rose and embraced, and she whispered something into his ears, rather seductively. She bade him farewell, with a peck on his left cheek, leaving an outline of her bright red lips. He stood there, transfixed, looking at her retreating figure, in anticipation of what was to follow.

The beach was completely deserted, save for one white and blue umbrella, which created a cool region of darkness. Under the umbrella, lay a lone figure, which prompted him to proceed forward. On edging closer, he saw a naked woman lying on one of the two mats. Her skin was smooth as silk, and her tan was a beautiful light brown. The woman from the previous night looked up, on hearing his footsteps and motioned him to occupy the mat beside hers.

Lying down on the mat beside, he held her hand. The conversation was loud, over the din of the ocean, but there was a certain indescribable beauty about it, that kept both of them at great ease. Keeping the conversation going, they kept drawing closer to one another, a little bit at a time.

He brushed her night-black hair aside, and took a deep look into her soft, grey eyes. He could feel the adrenaline rushing through his body, as he leaned in towards her, and looked at her warm smile. All of sudden, he noticed that her front teeth were larger and sharper than what they ought to have been. His excitement turned to fear, and he tried to pull away. Her grasp, however, was steel-hard, and like a cheetah, she jumped on top of him, and sunk her teeth into his chest. Multiple times.

In his dying moments, he looked up and saw her, the lady of the previous night, on top of him, with her bright red lips.

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

 

Father to Son

Said father to son, “What hurts thee most?”

“When friends betray me, through our friendships they coast.

They smile with me, they rejoice when I’m around,

But behind my back they dislike me, I found.”

Said the father,” Well you can always make new friends”

The father asked again, “Son, what hurts thee the most?”

“Well then it’s my school, the times when I give tests,

All the times I didn’t score well, I didn’t give my best,

I try my hardest to succeed, to score,

But somewhere, somehow, people expect more”

Said the father, “You can study harder the next time”

The father retorted again, “Son, what actually hurts the most?”

“It has to be home dad; the times you and mom don’t treat me well,

It wasn’t my mistake, but the tears I swell,

I understand you are a little tired, a little stressed,

Instead of being scolded, shouldn’t I be blessed?”

The father tearfully replied, “Well boy, I’ll do my best.”

“Now it’s my turn to tell you what hurts the most, boy

It’s the time that hurts the most, it stings the worst,

All the times you could’ve helped someone, the relationships you could’ve nursed,

Once gone, it never comes back,

Leaving you with the foul words you could’ve taken, prevented the setback”

The son said, “Well dad, I’ll tell you what I learn,

Time is the most contagious,

It spares no one.”

Growing Up

It is a journey of change, of a person’s transition from a child into an adult. However, despite having such definition, this term ‘Growing Up’, still seems rather ambiguous to me. It indeed begins when we are born. But when does it reach conclusion? What is the culmination of this arduous process? Where exactly on our timeline do we know that we are grown up? Many of you would quote to me the legal definition phrased by the world’s governments, ‘any person of 18 years of age or over is to be considered an adult’. But is that what you sincerely believe? Is just a passing of time enough to define the maturity of beings as complicated as humans? Does spending 18 years on this earth by default make you up to par on all fronts be it physical, emotional or spiritual?

Once upon a time, there lived a child. Let us call him James. He was a kindred and carefree spirit born under the sign of the Twins. By nature, he was inquisitive, insatiably curious about the happenings around him. The boy was a quick study, eager to learn, eager to please. His parents found great joy and pride in the growth of their little boy as he developed a happy personality, finding friends even in the unlikeliest of places. He had an effect on others that made them follow him and he in turn reveled in their companionship. However, as all human beings are, James too was not a simple person. He had multiple levels to his self; one that he showed to the public at large, another that was reserved for his close friends, another for his intimate family and yet a last one, entirely for himself. James excelled at all that was expected of him as he grew through his early years of childhood, be it academic or social or personal. This made society perceive him as an exceptionally mature individual, a child who was very wise for his age. However, as all things do, James perfect childhood too ran into
some turbulence as the boy descended into adolescence.

An important point to be noted here is that as varied were the levels to James’s personality, so was the development of each of them. We all know about the outermost public level. The innermost however, the one reserved solely for himself, was not so caught up with James’s ‘growth’. On the rare occasions that he found himself alone, he would interact with this facet of his personality. This person who came out only in times of solitude knew the actual truth of James’s being, the boy was only doing what was expected of him and there was truly nothing he did that was of his own will. He had only encountered one true love, a deep-seated passion for reading. Adolescence saw him through the awakening of new perspectives and new emotions. The previously happy and extroverted child grew into a quiet teenager, speaking when necessary, acting when needed. True, he still had his friends from childhood, he even made some new ones. He also still possessed that quality to inspire fellowship in those around him, even though his inner self knew it was only by treading the expectations of his society. As he approached the cusp of ‘adulthood’, his outer-self grew more independent while his inner self became more attached to his past, clinging tightly to the vestiges of his
childhood, the adulation of his parents, the company of his friends. Adolescence also saw him through the rigors of love and infatuation, the unbridled joy of finding a partner as well as the terrible anguish of a lost love. The day he turned 18 was a day of joyous celebration for the boy was now a man, an adult so to say. But James’s inner self knew the truth, ‘adulthood’ was just a word and he was still, just a child.

James knew that despite the broad spectra of emotions that had beseeched him in puberty, all his experiences as a teenager, he had yet to mature. He did not know yet, what it meant to be an adult, what it meant to be considered mature. He fell in love once more, but something was different this time. The feelings in him, the reactions of his body and mind seemed somewhat dulled around the edges, lacking the sharpness of his adolescent experience. The emotions were indeed strongly felt and the relationship was on a happy path but this too was not meant to be. Seeing his love smile for another man, laughing in the other man’s arms once again brought him pain. But this was not the anguish he had known before. It was a pain mingled with a happiness of seeing his love feeling happy and content, even if it was with another man. At that point in his life James knew, he had indeed grown a little, that he had taken a step closer to ‘adulthood’.

Going away to college had started James on the path to independence and self-reliance.
The musings of his inner self had started to surface, to manifest them as his desires and
actions that he could truly call his own. The man that he was growing into was even more quiet than his teenage self. James was exploring his inner self for the first time uninhibited, and as all things do, this too came at a price, the price being the loss of his ‘companions’, the loss of his parents’ adulations. Not to say his parents didn’t love him anymore, for a parent always loves their offspring. But James knew that their relationship had changed and he was no longer their lovely little boy. And once more, James knew, he had grown a little more.

As the months passed by in college, he involved himself in his studies and pursuits of his own choosing. The demands on his time started reaching a crescendo, every waking moment being given to further his progress. Sleep became a luxury, food only a necessity to survive and true love and friendship a coveted dream just beyond his reach. A few months passed in this manner and his body and mind began to feel the consequences. The stress of living started catching up to him at times and would always leave him worse for the wear. Life for James had devolved into a never-ending rush, an existence of constant trials and challenges. The sweet memories of childhood had begun growing dull and the sharpness of adolescence too had lost its edge. Always having lived close to his parents as a child, always having the company of friends, he had never truly felt alone. And yet at this point in his life, it had been more than a year since he last saw his parents, since he last had their arms wrapped around him, over a year since he had last talked to his best friend. At this stage, James finally had an epiphany. He had finally realized that he had reached the culmination something; a journey that had begun long ago had finally ended. And James finally knew, that he had become an adult. He now understood what it meant to be mature. He now finally knew, the true essence of growing up.

By Tanmay Aggarwal

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.

 

Net Neutrality

In lieu of the recent events that have taken place and the fact that we fear the eventuality of it reminds us of the time when in 2015 the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India also known as TRAI published a 117 page paper named Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services posing a threat to ‘Net Neutrality’ and leading to widespread indignation throughout India. So what were these ‘Over-the-top services (OTT)’? Well, Over-the-top (OTT) services refer to the services ensured to the people by different companies without any involvement of multiple-system operator(MSO). So for example – a Skype video call is an Over-the-top (OTT) service and the telecom company (Airtel, Vodafone, Idea etcetera)  falls under the category of a multiple-system operator (MSO). So you don’t have to pay Airtel or Vodafone for the Skype call. The paper published by TRAI was to discuss conditions under which the OTT services or your Skype call could be charged. This transgressed the internet’s guiding principle which we commonly refer to as Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is a concept that preserves our right to communicate freely online, protects free speech on the internet and most importantly it prevents the telecom operators from ostracizing a specific portion of the internet and disallowing users from visiting some specific sites.

The recent outbreak of parleys on Net neutrality was fuelled by the decision of Federal Communications Commission, the governing body for interstate communications in The United States of America, to approve Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to scrap the net neutrality protections. Now unless and until the vote gets reversed, the end of a net neutral internet in the States is inexorable.

So why is Net Neutrality so important?

Well, without the Net Neutrality rules, companies like Airtel and Vodafone would be totally free to exercise their control over which websites you are able to visit. These companies can make changes and ensure that the content which they don’t support is accessible to you at much slower speeds than normal or not accessible at all. They can hide views, speeches, videos and content of the political parties they don’t like and excessively promote the same of the political parties they do support and accentuate their chances of winning.These very telecom operators can easily charge extra money in exchange for providing access to certain specific websites such as Netflix, Facebook, Instagram.

Open Internet allows people to avoid and bypass the conventional media and raise their voice against the wrongdoings of politicians, bureaucrats, tax evaders etcetera. Don’t you think a restricted internet would put politicians, corrupt businessmen, tax evaders at ease?

What about the startups which rely heavily on the open internet for their businesses to grow? With all the extra money that would have to be paid to access services, do you think they would stand a chance in front of the big shots of the industry?

When you have a conversation on the phone, do you let your telecom operator decide what and whom you will be speaking and listening to respectively? So why let them decide what content you are able to access online.

All I’m saying is that for growth and healthy competition within the society, we need to have an unrestricted flow of ideas and content which demands an open internet in this modern world. Our forefathers made this constitution and provided us with the right to speech and expression, I think it should apply to the internet too.

By Nripendra Mishra