La Bambola

Antonio was bored. The little town of La Martella had little to offer, and was always sulking in the shadows of Matera, a nearby tourist hotspot. The small, narrow lanes, in which three bicycles caused a traffic jam, were lined with two-storeyed brown-brick residences, with a splash of colour here and there, in the form of a restaurant or a café. His mother, Rosalia, insisted on moving here, away from their small cosy hut in the countryside. He didn’t understand why. He was so happy there, playing with his friends, going to school and running around in the fields.

As he tapped the panes of the window, and looked outside, he saw something peculiar. The shadow between the two houses opposite to theirs seemed to be moving. There were eyes looking up at him, and hands pointing at him. He was transfixed, and his hand slowly inched towards their house phone. However, the eyes and hands disappeared, immediately, when a policeman passed by. He quickly closed the blinds and started watching an Italian dub of The Godfather.

At sunset, his mother came home. As her heels clacked on the wooden stairs, Antonio rushed to greet his mother. As the door opened, he stood in shock. Her hair was more dishevelled than usual, her makeup was smudged in a couple of places and her hand trembled carrying the packet of their dinner.

“What happened, mamma?”

“Nothing, Toni. Just a hard day at work.”

“Okay! What did you get for dinner?”

“I got Chinese food! Let me go wash up, and then we can eat!”

Antonio prepared the table, while Rosalia took a warm bath. “The food looks delicious, mamma! Where did you get it from?”

“I got it from Wang’s, a new place near the School!” said Rosalia, while drying herself. “Speaking of which, a man will be coming tomorrow morning, to talk about a new job that I’m starting. If it goes well, you’ll be off the shortlist in no time.”

Antonio jumped in excitement, and ran to hug his mother. “I can’t wait for tomorrow morning!”

After their nightly prayer, they began dinner. During dinner, Antonio told his mother about the eyes and hands he saw in the shadows. She raised her left eyebrow at him, and said, “On the opposite side, you say? Well, don’t ever go into the shadows. It’s a bad place. Filled with bad people. Let’s finish off and go to sleep.”

The prospect of going to school again, it kept him up all night. He couldn’t wait to meet this man, who could steer him back towards his old life. As the first ray of sunshine entered the bedroom, he started shaking his mother. “Mamma, Mamma, wake up! It’s morning! He’ll be here soon!”

“Will you relax? It’s 6 o’clock, he’s not due till 9! Go back to sleep!”

But sleep was no longer a companion for Antonio. He made himself breakfast, drew up a bath and arranged everything in the house, so it was spick and span. When a sharp rap on the door announced the arrival of ‘The Man’, Antonio let out a squeal of excitement. Rosalia, dressed in a red, sheath dress and stilettos, opened the door. A tall, well-built, clean-shaven gentleman stood across the threshold, wearing a black suit. He carried a bag from Pinocchio Toys. He smiled, stepped in and said, “Ciao, Antonio. How are you today?”, in a raspy voice.

Trembling out of excitement, he stuttered, “I-I’m good, Sir. H-How are y-you?”

“I’m doing great, thank you. I got you a little present. Here.”

A trembling Antonio took the bag and thanked him feebly. ‘The Man’ replied, “Ms. Rosucci, shall we confer in the room downstairs?”

Rosalia replied, “Please make yourself comfortable downstairs. I’ll be with you in a moment.”

As ‘The Man’ left, Rosalia leaned down and said, “Play with your gift, ragazzo. I’m downstairs. Call me if you need anything. But do not come downstairs.”

She left, with her heels clacking on the wooden floor. Antonio opened the bag, and a doll popped out. A doll of his favourite superheroine, Wonder Woman! That was the last one he needed to complete his collection! He received the final bambola, the one he’d been looking for three years!

As he ran to add it into his collection, he heard his mother scream downstairs. It was no ordinary scream of anger or despair; it was one of pain. Then came another. And another. They seemed to be getting louder, and deeper. He could also hear things being scattered downstairs, as they hit the wooden floor. Her screams turned to moans; moans of anguish and agony.

Terrified, he stood frozen in the middle of the house, clutching the bambola in his hand. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think and couldn’t speak. He didn’t know what these sounds were, and he didn’t know why his mother was making them. All he wanted was, for them to stop. They did, half an hour later, with a guttural shriek from ‘The Man’. His mom shouted, “I’m leaving for work, ragazzo! See you in the evening! I love you!”

He spent the whole day, curled up in a little ball. He couldn’t get over what he heard. He tried to drink some water to calm down, but he wasn’t thirsty. He wanted to eat a light pasta to soothe his nerves, but his appetite had been murdered. He looked at the bambola and asked her, “Wonder Woman, what was happening?”

At sunset, his mother came home. As her heels clacked on the wooden stairs, Antonio rushed to greet his mother. The door opened, and Rosalia appeared. Her hair was well kept, her makeup was perfect and her she kept a steady hand on the packet of their dinner.

Antonio hugged his mother, and cried, “Mamma, what was happening in the morning? Did ‘The Man’ hurt you? Mamma, what was going on? Talk to me, Mamma!”

Rosalia replied, “Ragazzo, I’m a bit tired today. I’ll explain it tomorrow morning. I promise.”

They ate dinner in silence, and she tucked him into bed. She stroked her thin, ebony hands through his hair, and whispered, “I love you, ragazzo. You’re a big, brave boy. You will always take care of your mamma.” He fell asleep.

Antonio woke up next morning to loud noises. Rubbing his eyes, he heard his mother scream. And again. And again. They got louder and deeper. The moans replaced the screams. And it ended, again, with the guttural shriek. Antonio clutched the bambola, and started crying. “Why are you doing this to me, God?”, he exclaimed, “Please let my mother go!”

At sunset, his mother came home. As her heels clacked on the wooden stairs, Antonio’s ears perked up. He still didn’t move. His mother came into the bedroom. Her hair was well kept, her makeup was perfect and her she kept a steady hand on the packet of their dinner.

Antonio screamed, “Mamma! I couldn’t move all day! What is going on? I’m feeling ill! I can’t move or think or-or sleep! My tummy’s empty but I don’t even want to eat anything! Mamma, help me!”

Rosalia hugged him, and said, “It’s okay, ragazzo. It’s okay. Mamma bought you medicine. You need to take it, and sleep.”

“No, mamma, no! I don’t wanna sleep! Tell me, Mamma!”

She picked him and said, “Not now, ragazzo. Not now. Let’s get you in the school first. I’ll tell you after that, okay?” Antonio, burst into tears and nodded, “Okay, mamma. I won’t. But please stop!”

“I will. I will.”

But, to Antonio’s horror, it didn’t stop. Her pain seemed to increase by the day, and his horror transformed into frustration. His sleep was always induced by medicine, and his appetite was long gone. He began talking to himself and his bambolas. He went about his day in the most sedentary manner, in an eerie robot-like manner. Washing the dishes, doing the laundry and cleaning the house were tasks he performed like a computer. Entertainment and exercise failed to cheer him up.

Every time he heard his mother scream, he would take his frustration out on the bambolas. With every scream, he’d tear off their hair. With every moan, he’d bite their bodies. With every shriek, he’d pull off their heads. All, but one, remained. Wonder Woman. She gave him hope, and kept him together.

Into the second week, he’d had enough. As his mother’s screams began, he clutched the bambola, and quietly went downstairs. He trembled with every scream, and every movement was measured. He unlocked the front door, and closed it noiselessly. Stepping onto the street, he looked around. Not a soul was in sight, except a lone black cat, up ahead. Her moans had begun. And he ran.

He ran and ran, till he didn’t know where he was. He looked up and he was in a desolate, dark lane. The walls around him were whispering, and the windows were staring at him. All of a sudden, he heard the same scream. Except, it was a different voice. The voice was coming from the window next to him. He was stuck, but, this time, a part of him wanted to see what was happening.

He moved closer to the window, and cupped his hands around the glass. The sight he saw, was burnt into his memory. He stood at the window, and his eyes welled up with tears. Is this what ‘The Man’ was doing to his mamma? Was he hurting her in this way? Why did she come all the way to La Martella for all this?

He mustered up the courage and ran out of the lane. He walked back towards the main street, his feet clacking on the cobbled streets. He clenched his bambola, and headed home. He spent the whole day, trying to understand what happened, and what he had seen. He didn’t speak a word to his mother, that night.

Next morning, he decided to confront ‘The Man’ for what he was doing to his mother. In a medicine-induced stupor, he clutched the bambola and waited for the screams to start. He started to walk down the stairs, softly. The screams kept getting louder as he approached the room.

A red light was coming from under the door. He kept tiptoeing to the door. The screams stopped and the moans began. They stung him like icy needles and his heart began beating faster. He stopped at the door, and the moans stopped, suddenly. His mother let out a high-pitched scream of pain.

He could hear the noise of something hitting violently, and her screams were interspersed with the words, “Sir, please stop! What are you doing?” He peeped through the keyhole, and saw his mother, naked, on the sofa, bathed in a shade of red. ‘The Man’ was sitting on her, with a wooden plank in his hand. He struck her, and she screamed.

Antonio was petrified. He couldn’t process what he’d seen. He looked down, and saw the bambola. He bit off its head and screamed in anger. Panting heavily, he opened the door.

–  Inspired by the song Puppe by Rammstein

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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.

Sands Of time

Author: Janani Ramachandran

 

Far away in the dirty suburbs of Kashmir,

The army commander held his breath for life,

The hidden time bomb ticking every second,

 

Down south of the subcontinent,

A woman lay dying in her drug induced sleep,

The malign cancer engulfing her cells every second,

 

In the East of the peninsular land,

The mighty river raged on ravaging livelihoods,

An old widower clutching his departed love’s portrait,

A serene smile on his wrinkled face,

as he watched his life ebb away every second,

 

Due west of the diverse nation,

Silent hospital walls disturbed by the cries of a mother,

Complications in the birth increasing every second.

 

The four lives lay far apart by the compass rose,

Their strings of fate woven by only one link,

Hovering above their heads stands the fragile hourglass,

In it flow the sands of time in their own accord,

Completely in-cognizant of the mayhem and chaos,

Though the aftermath of the dance of fate unknown,

Lie a certain beauty to the lingering uncertainties.

CINEMA ,THE BIGGEST JOKE OF TODAY?

Author: Anirudh TR  

 

A film is only as good as its plot and the plot is conveyed through action. As appealing as the sentence may sound, it is only partially true. A film with absolutely unrealistic cinematography but exemplary acting doesn’t appeal to the eye nor does one that obeys the converse. With that said, today’s generation seems to have submerged too much into the technological well that it would take yet another generation of plot-oriented simplistic filmography to bring them to the surface. Filmmakers today seem to dwell in a smorgasbord of commercial cliches rendering the path for concept-oriented cinema, a dead end. The influence of technology in today’s film making is so obvious that one thinks it is the computer work that defines the beauty of the film and not what is portrayed on the screen. Nevertheless, it is saddening to see that all the technical mumbo-jumbo is going down the drain for the output is not nearly as pleasing as what is promised in the plot or the production. The sad truth is today’s filmmakers cater to the larger population of commercial film craving fanatics and not to convey substance, something that cinema can and should be used for. The problem I feel is that people today are impatient. Their attention and interest bandwidth has shortened over generations and now has saturated at an absolute minimum that any film beyond 2.5 hours seems a burden and any film, seemingly gloomy or slow paced is a definite no in their minds regardless of how long it runs for. The advent of online downloads; ventures like F movies, etc. have made their job much easier. And this lack of interest has managed to seep down to live theater too. Gone are the days when the whole family gathers at the public hall to relish the weekend screening of an epic. Society today is clouded with a farrago of disoriented fame and with commercialization being the dogmatic aristocracy; we have involuntarily immunized ourselves to its infectious influence. The coveted heroes of today that the people uphold have made a religion out of the mainstream cinema but ironically the films that come out today are sacrilegious. Yet, the light at the end of the tunnel hasn’t been put out. With ambitious directors venturing into less trodden territories, the future bears promise. What is required is riddance from the succumbing clutches of mass appeasing cinema, a renaissance amidst young filmmakers to fall back on the masterpieces of the yesteryear and birth revolutionary scripts. As society emboldens itself, getting self-aware by the day, we need films that bolster the prevailing mentality. It is up to the change makers of today to create an environment where the celebrated religion of cinema is free of blasphemy to ensure pragmatism in tomorrow’s green screens. 

Accepting Perspectives

 Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

 

Wayne Dyer quoted- “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” 

Perspective, as described by the Oxford dictionary, is a particular attitude towards something; a way of looking at things or situations. For me, perspective is but a simple truth of life which we sometimes willingly choose to ignore. For a long time, humans have divided judgement on actions and reactions into only two categories: right and wrong. But how can we decide whether something is right or wrong if everyone is looking at it from a different angle? Every individual has his/her own unique personality which makes them stand out in the crowd. Everyone’s “way of looking at things” is different. 

Most of the arguments that we normally get engaged in occur due to different point of views. When conferring about, say, a recent crime, one might be sympathizing with the victim while someone else may have put themselves in the shoes of the accused. The reason of the argument is that the other person has a different perspective on things. He is looking through his pair of glasses at the world, as well as we all do. This means that we filter everything by our personal history, our beliefs, motivations and concepts that we hold true. But what is correct for us may not necessarily be so for another.

Our choice of not understanding and accepting another outlook is what turns discussions into debates. Somewhere, it causes unrest in our own minds. Often we are afraid that seeing the other perspective could lead to us losing the argument … or worse, to get a disadvantage. But the true value of another perspective lies within seeing more of a situation and therefore being able to make a better judgment for ourselves as well as the other person. I personally feel frustrated when the person I am conversing with doesn’t try to look at things the way I do. So here’s my main question: why inflict so much torture on our minds?

I recently finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird. Reading reviews of the book, I noticed people talking about the upsetting discrimination based on the caste and colour of an independent underlined by the author. For me, however, the highlight of the book is the way the narrator grows mature when she starts accepting her neighbor for who he is. From being curious and apprehensive about his way of living life, she transforms to a person who looks at the world from his eyes, accepts his choices and in the process learns that he cares for her in his own special way.

My point, simply put, is that things seem to get complicated when we keep on opposing. Instead, life becomes plain sailing when we start accepting. Someone is acting in a particular way depending on how they perceive that situation. To acknowledge and respect another person’s perspective can only lead to a more positive outcome. The self growth accompanied by acceptance is incomparable. Not only does it broaden our horizons, it brings us peace of mind too. If you get a bigger picture, you get a perspective that is able to solve a situation that seemed unsolvable first.

The greater good is to recognize others and their viewpoints. After all, they say open-minded people do not impose their beliefs on others. They accept all of life’s perspectives and realities, doing their own thing in peace.

Safety: A Birthright of All

Our constitution grants us the Right to Life under the many civil rights that it has provided for its citizens. This privilege promises that the state has to make provisions for the well-being and the safety of its citizens, something that it has failed to do in recent times. An individual’s safety includes protection from abuse, harassment, and predators.

How is it that no number of rules or laws can stop these sexual carnivores from inflicting a lifetime of pain and trauma on unsuspecting individuals? Cases of such hideous crimes are often brought up by the media and left to become breaking news. However, what surprises me the most is how gender-specific safety has become. There are laws and laws that are being passed to ensure that every Cinderella reaches home unscathed, without having to call upon a Fairy Godmother. Women now are in possession of a prerogative which exempts them from any legal action, if found guilty of the murder of their assailant while defending themselves. But in this “We-stand-for-equality” era, aren’t the males of the society equally prone to being targets for these demons in human forms?

Last week, the news highlighted the story of a 36-year-old woman who sexually attacked a nine-year-old boy several times for more than a year, all over a family dispute. The devil dwells in a female figurine as well and is capable of causing the same amount of anguish. There is a greater need to focus on the safety of the males in this country and not leave them to defend themselves with the weapon of masculinity. The perils of avoiding sex education and making it a taboo are faced equally by both the genders. When the judiciary decided to support the rights of the LGBT community, it was unaware of the dangers that could follow. Last month, the nation heard of a case in which a woman was guilty of abusing another woman. It is not just a man with cheap sexual fantasies that a woman needs to be aware of. Her own kind is capable of wounding her in a way she never thought possible. Well, for the feminists with the singular motto of “What men can do, women can do better”, this point is definitely in your bag.

A 14-year-old boy in Mumbai reported sexual assault by a man, soon after which he died of rat poison consumption. In India, the minimum punishment for raping a boy is 10 years in jail, compared with 20 years for assaults on girls under 16. Why this discrimination? While there still is limited awareness, focus and advocacy on women’s rights in sexually violent circumstances, it is even less so when men are the victims of these crimes. A man’s culprit deserves a severe punishment like a lady’s. Every person, be it a male, a female or a transgender, has the right to feel safe and secure walking down a deserted street at any time of the day. It is the need of the hour that we start addressing the issue of male security in the country and around the globe. After all, feminism is not about one gender being better than the other; it is about all of them being equal.

While the Nirbhaya rape case of 2012 succeeded in raising awareness regarding the safety of women in the country, male victims failed to gain much attention. The masculine gender happens to be the most neglected sufferer of sexual assault. A victim cannot get over the psychological trauma easily. It is essential that we try to understand their perspective and ensure that their voices are heard. One can spend a lifetime trying to forget a few moments that lie in the past. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly said our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. From infancy, males are told that they should strive to be masculine, i.e. resilient, self-sufficient, dominant in sexual interactions and able to defend both themselves and those relying on them for protection. This has to change. We, as a society, need to understand that these assumptions, very often, become barriers for them to open up and share their experiences. They believe that encounters of such abuse may contravene with these expectations. The right to equal safety provisions has to change
as an under-discussed phenomenon. It’s work that we all have to start right now.

अनिष्ट(disagreeable, undesirable)

India is changing in a thousand ways. Not all of them are good, not all of them are bad. What we have seen in the past two or three years is a wave of saffron spreading over our country. The Bhartiya Janata Party, founded as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, an organisation committed to turning India to a Hindu nation concluded a resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh, the evidence of the ascendance of its single-track politics aimed at benefiting orthodox Hindus and marginalising everyone else. For the first time in its electoral history, UP did not send a single Muslim MP to the Lok Sabha in 2014. Paradoxically, this was when the legislative assembly had the highest Muslim representation — 63 were elected in 2012.

 

“Those claiming to be secular and progressive do not have an identity of their parents and their blood. One will get self-respect through such identity, I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular.”                                                                                                                   Anant Kumar Hegde, Union Minister of State for Employment and Skill Development

 

Not doing anything in the face of religious tension or intolerance is almost a trademark of our government. The whole government is probably not to be blamed, a leadership wherein the PM himself is responsible for the deaths of hundreds in communal riots in Gujarat is not a leadership at all. Our chief ministers are Hindu priests and brahmacharis, why do we expect the Muslims to not be marginalised anyway? Our habit of judging the character of all Muslims by keeping some random terrorist as an example of the otherwise peace-loving group of people does not help us much either.

 

“Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won’t happen in ‘Bharat’ or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes.”                                                                                                                                          Mohan Bhagwat, Chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, mentor to the BJP

 

I’m really sorry to say this sir, but rapes, as big a bane they are on the beautiful populace of our country, do happen everywhere. Day in day out we read reports of young girls being raped mercilessly in some or the other dark corner of our country, and yet we do not see any concrete action being taken by the esteemed leadership of our glorious country. According to estimates by The Quint, India witnesses about a staggering 106 rapes a day, and that is when about six out of ten rapes go unreported. In the face of such a tragedy we face every day, the mentor to our PM decides to blame it on urban values and not on the ineffectiveness of the law and order situation in our country. How inane is that?

 

“Those opposing Narendra Modi are looking at Pakistan, and such people will have place in Pakistan and not in India.”                                                                                                          Giriraj Mishra, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

 

My grandfather was born in Pakistan and he migrated to India during the partition. As one of the pioneers responsible for bringing electricity to the state of Madhya Pradesh, I can proudly say that my grandfather did his bit for the country. His political leanings are inconsequential to the fact that he did everything in his power to help the country in spite of the fact that he is Pakistani by birth. Our mentality has been modelled in such a way that we inadvertently vote for the party that appeals to us not from the perspective of the work they have done for the nation, but from the perspective of religion. If the leadership of the party respects your religious faiths and beliefs, that party automatically becomes your first choice. The whole task of deciding upon the government trickling down to the ambit of religious and geographical differences is wrong.

 

“As a memorial to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the statue will not only remind every individual of our great nation’s freedom struggle but will also inspire the people of our country to inculcate Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s visionary ideologies of unity, patriotism, inclusive growth and good governance… a fully functional, purpose-serving tribute that will spur all round socio-economic development.”                                                                           Official website of the Statue of Unity, Government of India

 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stood for the downtrodden and poor. He always ensured that the poorest sections of the society had access to all the freedoms that the British enjoyed in the country. Spending almost 3000 crores on his statue is simply defiling every ideology he stood for. These funds have reduced his legacy to nothing a cheap stunt for political gains. What these funds could have done for the poor people of our country would have immortalised the legacy of the Iron Man of India. Consider the fact that the bronze panels used in the statue were not manufactured in India as no Indian firm had the capability to do it, and hence the foundation of the statue was inherently Made in China.

 

“The countries in the world are unsure about how to tackle terrorism. The UN is also not in a position to guide them. It is heartening that Prime Minister of Bangladesh despite the fact that she is a woman is openly saying that she has zero tolerance for terrorism.”                 Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

 

I feel appalled at the fact that we always are puzzled when it comes to empowering the women in our country. When you sit down and realise that our honourable Prime Minister feels that ‘despite’ being a woman, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina having zero tolerance for terrorism is a unique thing to be noted is an instance that explains his true stance towards women. When the leader of the country believes that a female prime minister fighting terrorism in her country is a happening out of the ordinary, I sincerely see no serious women empowerment happening in our country. No matter how much we try to sugar-coat things, all of us know that Modi was responsible for thousands of deaths during the Godhra riots, and is unfit to rule a country as diverse as ours.

 

In the end, it all comes down us. What we think and what we do determines where our country heads . Leaving the decisions to leaders like the ones we have as of now is the worst mistake we could make.

 

आलोचना और स्वतंत्र विचार ये क्रांतिकारी सोच के अहम बिंदु है I (Bhagat Singh, 1930)

 

Distinction Achieved

“May I come in, professor?”

“Yeah, sure Ritika. Have a seat”, said Mr. Roy.

Fidgeting, she sat down on a velvet couch, exposed to his deep stare. She looked around her. Even though it was quite a normal cabin, it seemed plush and spacious than the rest.

Mr. Roy, an ex-attorney, was an eminent law professor at The Institute of Legal Studies, Ranchi. Apart from taking classes of criminal law, he was also in charge of training the undergraduates for the internships. In the current circumstances, Ritika Dey, one of his top students had just screwed up on a very crucial case.

After what seemed like an eternity, Ritika spoke, “I am terribly sorry, sir. Just give me a chance. I ca-”

“I am sorry. It’s not in my hands anymore”, she was interrupted by Mr. Roy. His voice was soft but his intentions were clear.

Disappointed, she left his office. Unsure of her next step, she strolled the corridors for a while. Her eyes fell on a guy, loitering in the hallway. It was Dhruv Talwar, her former partner in that case. Suddenly, she felt a surge of anger rise within her. What a jerk! He was the one who had messed up and then backed out shamelessly.

Dhruv was among the popular guys in college. He was handsome, had rich parents and hanged out with all the cool kids. Being in the same batch, they knew each other to the extent of acquaintanceship. It was only after Mr. Roy handed them a case together, as a part of the innocence project, that they began interacting with each other. Their case began on a good note. But as always, Ritika remained invisible while Dhruv took all the credits. Deep inside she was furious, but she knew it was pointless. It would be only a matter of time before the project would be over and they would move on with their respective lives.

However, the prison visits were the worst. The inmate, Jay, was thrown to jail based on accusations of illegal trade with a potentially dangerous drug dealer. Though the shreds of evidence were inadequate, he was facing a death sentence. From a prosperous businessman, he merely became a nameless criminal.

Ritika knew that they had to meet with him every week and highlight the loopholes in his arrest documents. What she didn’t know until recently was the fact that the two guys with whom she worked were attracted to each other. Dhruv had arranged quite a few illicit visits to the prison. And it was the hidden CCTVs that had captured their rendezvous, thus bringing an end to the show. The prison officials obviously didn’t suspect their romance, but instead made an allegation of some conspiracy. Moreover, Dhruv was reluctant to come forward with his orientation. He was afraid of his reputation. This further jeopardized their case. She could tolerate gay dudes but her teammate going behind her back was not at all acceptable.

Ritika was snapped back to reality as a green light flashed on her phone.

Called the federal prison this morning. Your case is dropped. Jay’s visitation rights will be suspended from Thursday. Only a day and a half left. Do something ASAP.

Her best friend, Tiyasha’s message popped up on the screen. With long strides, she rushed home. Her classes were almost over. Dhruv was as lazy and useless as he could be. Thus, it was about time she took the reins and straightened things out.

Alone in her room, Ritika began contemplating her plan. It was vague.

The thought of his life lying in her hands made her even more anxious. She had to think fast. Now!  She started all over again, from the very beginning.

An idea struck her. She gathered her files and hurried away. An introvert, shy and apprehensive, the twenty-one-year-old had never before made the journey to a prison alone. But, here she was. Trying to look confident, Ritika Dey entered the large iron gates of the prison and walked straight, hoping for her strategy to succeed. After all, it was her life. She was going to be a lawyer. She had to assert her presence, with or without any help.

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