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)

 

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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

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.

The Mail Carrier

Ramapuram was a small, sleepy town. Full with unambitious people roaming around the big banyan tree, as if it had borne the nucleus of the old town. People were happy, everyone going around for their work, everyone sustaining the small town economically. Industrialisation had left the town almost untouched, which only added to the natural beauty the town had. Letting things be as they imbibes a certain untouched beauty to the subject, and Ramapuram, if seen through the right eyes, was a perfect example.

Raman was one of the many dreamy-eyed residents of this town. As small a boy he was, like all other boys and girls of the town, he went to the only school the little place had. The school was a place of interest for the boys. The most striking features of the school were the old thatched roof, the archaic yellowed walls, the rusty blackboards, and the almost uninterested teachers. Almost as if it was an epitome of neglect and carelessness. The teachers had not been changed in years, nor had been the classrooms. The old furniture had borne the brunt of all the aimless people who happened to use it, day after day.

Every day would come and pass by. The students were taught the same Sanskrit, History, English Composition and Maths every day. The teachers would come and drone, each stricter than the other. Perhaps if not in terms of qualifications, they competed with each other. Maybe they compensated for their lack of scientific acumen with their strictness, which eventually made the students fear them, and hence, ask no questions.

Yet, Raman did not mind. He had no doubts. He was certain. The day would end at the same time the train passed the school, and more certain he was of the fact that the school was not a place for him. He was considered a failure. He would sleep through his classes. Sometimes some teacher would wake him up only to beat him up, most of the times, the teachers just sighed and let him sleep. Who does not sleep in school anyway?

The end of the school day almost coincided with the loud noise the daily mail carrier train would make as it would pass by the town. Out of the many trains that passed by the town, the mail carrier was the most important one. To the people who worked at the small forge by the lake, it signalled lunch. For the teachers at the school, the mail would mean the end of a sultry workday. The old people would go for their afternoon naps, which would often extend into the wee hours of the next morning (Then under the banyan tree they could be heard saying, “These young people are so lazy, sleeping late into the morning. How do they expect to be successful?”). To Raman though, the mail always meant the end of the sufferings he had to endure every day.

Monday was a new week, a new day, a new start. Raman hadn’t been so pumped in years as he was on that Monday. He somehow looked forward to the classes. Though it seemed wrong to his gut, all down to his roots, he somehow knew he could face the teachers today. Sanskrit came, and he could correct grammar in all of the verses the teacher wrote on the board. The Gita, the Ramayana and some verses from the famous Meghdootam, he could recite and correct them all. History was cake today. He knew all the dates. The Mughal Empire, the year Sir Thomas Roe attended Jahangir’s court, the year Bahadur Shah Zafar died. He knew it all. Nobody got appreciation from the history teacher, and yet, Raman was the only one in the class the teacher heaped praises upon.

English composition was a breeze too. Raman could summarise every chapter of Tom Sawyer with ease. Maybe like Tom, he had risen up to the occasion when he was least expected to. Though Raman was not as mischievous as Tom, he obviously shared the laziness. Maths was easy too. Linear algebra was easy. He did not even need to lift his hand to compute the value of x (Only if life was as easy as solving a linear equation, he thought). On Monday, Raman felt what he never thought he’d feel. He felt at ease with his school, his life. He could ace the exams on Monday. A new week is a new start for all of us, after all.

Raman knew that he had changed his life that day. Filled with a new sense of purpose, a feeling of satisfaction, and the best of it all, he was not unnoticed anymore. It felt so strange to him, as to how his life could have turned a full circle in a day, but oh yes, he was happy.

Like all good stories though, be it Romeo and Juliet or the Iliad, this good story couldn’t last forever. After all, success is not achieved in a day (or in a night). It is a path tread only by the hardworking and the certain. Success is a rare commodity, and like many other essential commodities, was in low supply at Ramapuram.

The sun had climbed up the horizon, the mail carrier had come to Ramapuram, and like all trains, it carried news for the people around it. The news is like sunlight. It warms up the things it touches, much to Raman’s dismay.

The train’s shrill whistle shook the townspeople up. Raman felt a surge of dread shrouding his new world. He started feeling the same lethargy he felt every day. He did not want his day to end, but it started slipping like sand from his fist. No matter how hard he tried holding on to it, it was just slipping away. This new wave of sadness had introduced a new screeching and pulsating pain in his left ear, or so Raman thought (After all, sadness does cause pain). Wasn’t sadness supposed to ache his heart, and not his ear?

The next thing Raman could hear was his Maths teacher pulling at his ear, “Don’t sleep in my class, you moron! The mail’s here, the day is over, go back to your home and sleep.”. To the sound of the mail’s shrill whistle, Raman’s new world came crashing down and broke to form his old one. Raman hated homecomings.

Abduction

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With love showers from God, we have been graced,
We are fortunate to be born on this earth, in peace and solace.
The perfect paradigm of beauty and serenity is nature,
These qualities in our mind and soul can be nurtured.

But we have a devil and an angel residing within us,
Whomsoever we feed starts growing within us.
These days, the demons have gone beyond their boundaries,
So self centered, they don’t listen to anybody’s cries and pleas.

Girls in their teen were abducted,
Not just two or three, but about two hundred.
They were in the examination hall writing a test,
Striving hard to live and to do their best.
Unaware of what they had in their casket of fate,
Unaware, this was the last time with friends and mates.

To be educated was their fault?
To be in school was their fault?
To have high ambitions was their fault?
According to Boko Haram,
Having breasts was their fault,
Having a vagina was their fault,
Being a girl was their fault.

In science, humans have reached very far,
In technology, we have crossed all bars.
Still, a buxom lady is pictured naked,
Cases of sexual harassment are being reported.

These girls were parted from their mothers,
Far away from their sisters and brothers.
While we were in the most comfortable zones we had seen, ever,
These girls were being raped each time rougher and harder.

We, girls, are the reason why life continues,
Still, we are the victims of sexual abuse.
We are not puppets,
These men are the real culprits,
They can’t just pull strings to undress us,
Play and then discard us.
I can clearly sense the grief in their eyes,
The fear, after seeing those big, muscular guys,
Tearing their clothes, to lay bare their body,
Just to have pleasures which are momentary.
I can clearly hear those screams, well, every girl can,
Her trying to protect what is left of her , from that monstrous man.

Atrocities, tortures, murders are rampant,
One day, Boko Haram will have to pay and repent.

Till that time we should continue our fight against this evil fox,
Trust me, it is not as cumbersome as penetrating Fort Knox.
We just have to remain strong in the toughest of  times,
Even when we become the victims of these moral crimes.

Yes, we will fight it out!
Yes, we will fight it out!
Should be our motto,
Just step into the fight,
Like Miss Malala, without much ado.

-Sheryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, we will fight it out!
Yes, we will fight it out!
Should be our motto,
Just step into the fight,
Like Miss Malala, without much ado.

 

-Sheryl

We are all responsible.

2017

It was a partially sunny day. The wind was strong but there was no rain yet. Joshua was waiting in the queue with his KTM RC 390 in a petrol bunk somewhere on the East Coast Road twenty kilometres away from Chennai.

‘Last year, around this time, it was sixty-six rupees per litre! I remember it very distinctly’ Joshua said frustratedly.

Vicky, sitting behind him, replied ‘Now it’s eighty-one per litre. I know’

‘Greedy rich shareholders and spineless government’ Joshua cursed.

‘If the fuel was cheaper, what would have happened? ‘Vicky asked.

‘We would’ve visited Pondicherry more often, have fun more often’, Joshua replied.

Vicky sighed with a smile, ‘Yeah, but you would have turned more fuel into greenhouse gases. You will be contributing more to the climate change that’s happening. Any commodity that is harmful to the environment should be costly. That’s the only way you would use it less’, he explained

Joshua moved the vehicle forward as the queue moved and then he turned to Vicky ‘I agree Mister Civil Engineer. Enough with your environmental advice’ he jested.

 

It was unusually a sunny day in a developing locality somewhere in Ernakulam district, Kerala. Mohan Raj was looking around the construction site for the Senior Engineer. ‘Engineer Sir!!’ He greeted him outside the construction site.

The Engineer came walking through the busy site among the brick workers and cement heaps all over the place. ‘Hello sir!’ he greeted back ‘How are you sir? How is Chechi?’

‘All are doing well! My wife also came to the town with me, actually!’ Mohan replied as the both walked towards the nearby tea spot ‘Now she is in her brother’s house here’.

‘Oh, okay sir’ The engineer replied ‘Two glass tea! Both strong!’ he ordered as the both sat down on the old wooden bench painted blue.

Mohan Raj took out a bunch of affidavit papers from the file holder he carried. ‘I have brought all the originals and xerox of the approval certificates sir! All the approval work is done and I brought it as you asked.’

The Engineer checked the papers ‘Okay sir. The work will be complete within two months. Your Resort will be ready!’ he promised

‘Two glasses of strong tea!’ The chai maker called.

The Engineer took the glasses and gave one to Mohan ‘So, are you leaving Bangalore after the Resort is opened sir?’  he asked.

‘No, no’ Mohan laughed ‘I work in public sector sir! I can’t just leave the job. My wife’s side of the family will take care of the resort. Her brother will oversee the hotel’

‘Oh, okay’ The engineer sipped the tea

‘Sir, the materials used in foundation are effective, no? The final cost is less than estimated which is good, but still’, Mohan asked.

‘Sir, there are no land slides reported in this locality for the past fifty years. It’s just one floor building, there nothing to worry!’ The Engineer sounded confident

‘What about the drain?’ Mohan asked

‘I suggested typical Kerala style roof, but you wanted flat roofs. All the rain will reach the ground as per my design and moreover your hotel is built in a land area that is slightly higher compared to the neighborhood, and the rainfall is getting lesser every year, there will be no flooding problem even if you ask for it!’ The Engineer replied with a laugh

‘You can’t be sure about the rainfall with all the Climate change and global warming sir’ Mohan said worried.

 

2018

Vicky focused his phone camera. The pottery wheel spun round and round as his grandmother pressed her four fingers tightly on the clay to bring the pot into shape. He was finally spending his vacation in his native as he wanted.

‘Throw the phone away!’ she said annoyed

Vicky pressed the ‘add to story’ button and slipped the phone in his pocket.

His grandmother held his hand and pulled it towards the clay. ‘Wet your hands with the clay! Don’t assume it’s dirty. Clay is not dirty!’

‘I know Aachi, I study Civil Engineering!’ Vicky said smiling as he pressed the edge of the clay.

‘We have to bring it to shape as fast as we can. Soon the sun will dry the clay, and when it dries it will be strong as a stone!’ she exclaimed

‘So, then wet it more. If you add more water, it will take longer time to dry’ told Vicky’s little sister sitting next to them painting dried out pots.

Vicky was curious what answer his grandmother would give.

‘It doesn’t work like that! The soil is strong without water, it is weak, out of shape and can be molded when you add a little water, the more water you pour the clay itself will become watery and flow away’ she replied

‘That’s exactly what my Soil Mechanics sir told!  So it applies to all soil.Not just clay!’ Vicky said stunned.

‘So, if you pour more water, all the soil will erode like water? Even all the sand in my school ground?’ Vicky’s sister asked

Vicky was lost in thoughts ‘All you need is to pour more water’ he thought.

 

Mohan Raj was standing there not knowing how to answer his wife. He kept on calling to the phone number of the Engineer, but the number was unreachable. He was nowhere to be seen.

His wife was sitting in the corner along with her mother in the corner of her native house crying out loud, mourning in the pain of loss. In the middle of the all the crowd of relatives that surrounded, was the body of her brother wrapped up and ready to be taken

The unusually heavy flood that hit Kerala didn’t exempt Mohan’s brother-in-law. The ground level of the Resort building which was higher than the neighborhood dissolved into eroding soil and moved the Resort building along with its shallow foundation causing the single floor building to collapse. There were no guests at that time. Only two servants and Mohan’s brother in law.

If the authorities didn’t approve the construction, if the Engineer wasn’t that dumb, would the dead be alive?

If there was no climate change, if there was no such unusually record-breaking rainfall this year, would all the built-up structures that have collapsed be saved? Can we even blame anyone in particular?

The severe rainfall was two and half times the usual rainfall and it’s the highest recorded in the last hundred and eleven years. The Indian government was formed only seventy-two years ago while the state of Kerala was formed sixty-three years ago. Although the causality was not dangerously high, the property damage is about twenty thousand crore which the people of Kerala cannot recover from for years to come. This year’s flood is one of the obvious phenomena that happened as the direct result of Climate change, the human induced climate change. We are all equally responsible to take care of our planet and all of its changes and challenges.
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King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The King with the most wanted bookie of the sport.

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

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

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

The shouting dried down. He wept now.

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

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

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

It was 7 AM.

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

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

Shivansh Mishra

A FREE SLAVE

poems.jpegShe was standing right there,
Exquisite dress, coiffed hair.
Jewels studded on her pompadour,
Her dress, sweeping the floor.
Neck embellished with rubies,
Gown swaying in the soft breeze.
The night had fallen,
But the room lit brazen.
It was decorated too,
Painted with the hues of bright red and light blue.
Bespangled with the likes of Picasso,
This beauty, the lavishness, one couldn’t let go.

But all came into my periphery,
When she looked at me.
Her skin, cadaverous and shriveled,
Her face, bemused and bewildered.
With eyebrows drawn close,
Full of Suffering, remorse.
Veins etched on her forehead,
Her eyes bled.

I looked right into her eyes,
“I die, if she dies”.
That soul was screaming at me,
She wanted to be free.
Those bulging eyes brimming with sorrow,
She didn’t want to live tomorrow.

I shook my head, took two steps back,
Lifted the vase kept on the rack.
Threw it at mirror, flew away the shards,
Now all is mentioned in the writing of this bard.

I am tired of being this free slave,
This body is my living grave.

Paradise on Earth?

The question one asks is, why is there no peace in Kashmir?

Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India, thought that he was leaving a new world in August 1947. The British empire had decided to leave the Indian subcontinent once and for all, and Mountbatten was given the task of leaving it in the best conditions possible. It is true that as Indians, we have a lot to thank for to the British, especially Mountbatten. They introduced the telegram, the railways and the first ever manufacturing unit based on the assembly line model. Many historians even argue that Mountbatten was probably the best ever viceroy India had the chance to be under, from an economic point of view.

The state of British India, nothing less than the best of the colonies of the Commonwealth, had to be split into two sovereign states, India and Pakistan. While traveling from Delhi to Karachi to mediate the discussions among the future leaders of these states, it would have occurred to Mountbatten as to how little the things had really changed on the ground. British India had seen countless waves of nationalist struggle among the people, the two World Wars, a violent transfer of power from the Mughals to the British and millions of deaths. The recent wave of Hindu-Muslim struggles across the country had led to the killing of many more; and even then, there were a lot of unanswered questions between the leaders of these supposed ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ states. The whole nationalist struggle, where people stood united against the British Raj, seemed to slowly turn into a farce now, when people were ready to kill on the basis of religion first, and nationality later.

The British Raj had to adopt a very unorganised approach to governing the Indian subcontinent. In some areas, they had to give zamindars a huge chunk of power to get the most from a measly peasant. In the areas where the British had set up manufacturing units, they had to give due attention to the conditions of the workers and the well-being of the people. While they left some cities to die of plague, such as Surat, they had to leave no stone unturned in cities such as Lutyens’ Delhi (Edwin Lutyens was the principal architect hired by the British Raj to redesign some parts of Delhi) where the majority of the British people, and their Indian servants, lived. The ruling power had allowed for hundreds of princely states with varying degrees of autonomy to exist across the subcontinent and a fuzzy India-Afghanistan border. Such a loose policy could not be inherited by the two new states, who were intent upon a very rigid border with clear rulings on who was allowed to live on either side of it. To absorb more and more of land into their nation before the border was finalised in Karachi, the two states relied upon a spectrum of policies which included getting letters of accession from local chieftains, establishing their rule over unruled territories and the all-time favourite, sending troops to root out opposition of their land. This led to a supposed peaceful separation of India and Pakistan to turn to a violent one, and the conditions have remained unchanged to this day.

As citizens of India, we only see Kashmir in two ways. Either the military, as the right arm of the government is right, or the people, who supposedly suffer ill treatment at the hands of the military, are right. The truth is, Kashmir is in a state of grey as opposed to the black and white we see on the TV while sitting comfortably at home. There have been many issues which are stopping the complete integration of Kashmir into India. The government has focussed primarily on strengthening control over the area, while using the articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution to great effect. The myth that most of us believe is that article 370 aims to undermine the individual sovereignty of a resident of Kashmir. Article 370 only talks about the ‘special’ status given to Kashmir, and how the state of Kashmir does not have to concur with the Indian government on matters such as marriage and land ownership. Activists all over India are hell bent on getting article 370, and subsequently article 35A removed from the Constitution.

So, does article 370 promote the separatist movements that have ravaged the state for many years now? The article only aims to give more strength to the Kashmiri citizen who feels deeply about the vulnerability of his identity and assets in the state of Kashmir. The article also allows for the President to rule in times of tension, ensuring that this independence does not lead to a misuse of power by the legislators in Kashmir who follow a separate Constitution altogether. Separatist movements only flourish when the people feel disconnected from a source of legislative power. People argue that they are left at the mercy of the separatists based on the fact that the Indian government has declared a ‘ceasefire’ in the valley, which is completely wrong. The whole idea of a ‘ceasefire’ is born from the pens of a few deranged sources of news in the valley who only aim to sensationalise their news at the cost of genuineness. What the government has ordered is a ‘launch of operations’. This means only one thing. The military will not take action if they see a separatist minding his own work, but if he resorts to any violent action, be it shooting anything from stones to rockets, he will be beaten down. Through the policy, the government aims to give these separatists a chance at redemption, a chance to mend their ways. The whole idea of a ceasefire is aimed at showing the government weak against the separatists, and this is the same reason why the government would never call for a ‘ceasefire’, it would amount to a political suicide.

The real reason as to why Pakistan needs Kashmir is simple. It needs to validate and act upon its two-nation theory based on religion. That is a principle reason as to why India has always taken, and will always take a strong stand in the Kashmir issue. From the time when Maharaja Hari Singh requested the assistance of the Indian Armed Forces to fend off the threat against Pakistan, India has been committed to integrating Pakistan as one of its own. Till 1971, the Pakistanis believed that they could annex Kashmir through a land assault on Indian soil, however, the Kargil War made it absolutely certain that Pakistan could never defeat the Indian Army in combat. Since then, Pakistan has followed a diverse approach with three aspects to it. Firstly, the premier intelligence agency, ISI, funds and gathers intelligence from local separatist groups operating in the valley, secondly, to counter India’s military prowess, Pakistan has indulged in trade deals with its neighbours, the latest one being the China-Pakistan trade route, to gain money and weapons, and lastly, by spreading its propaganda through mass media and the numerous madrasas which are integral to the Muslim way of life. Pakistan had to nullify India’s nuclear weapons advantage, and it knew the only one willing to help was China. The Pakistan China Trade Corridor is just another means of exchange of illegal goods among the two countries, as many UN reports have noted.

The boundary between the countries is a matter of international debate (thanks to another British masterpiece by Sir Cyril Radcliffe). The globally recognised boundary has been the one demarcated by the 1949 UN Ceasefire Agreement. However, the de facto border has been the Line of Control (LoC) since 1972. The boundary passes through a spectrum of mountain passes, making it easy to cross over. Even after an increased amount of patrolling along the borders, there is no dearth of militants in the valley who have come from Pakistan. Added to the militants, religious fanatics roam the valley, plastering walls with Islamic texts ordering people to follow the Muslim dress code, and encouraging the youth to pelt stones at encounter sites to impugn the authority of the armed forces of India. All this is done in the name of ‘religious freedom’, wherein the fanatics portray the government as the one oppressing the Muslims. Religion has been used to incite fear in the valley, which has led to the closure of cinemas and bars among other places where the youth may meet. Slogans such as “Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, jehad hamara Rasta hai” (Islam is our objective, Q’uran is our constitution, Jehad is our way of our life) and “Dil mein rakho Allah ka khauf; Hath mein rakho Kalashnikov” (With fear of Allah ruling your hearts, wield a Kalashnikov) have ensured that the peace seeking population of the state has left their homes for a better place.

The question one asks is, will there ever be peace in Kashmir?

I do not know the answer. All I have tried to do is elucidate the reasons as to why we are wrong when we blame our government for encouraging instability in the Kashmir valley. I believe that we are moving forward towards peace, and if we can eliminate the religious cynicism that exists in the valley, we might even reach a peaceful juncture one day.

 

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.

(If there is a paradise on earth,

It is this, it is this, it is this)

Playing hard or Paying hard?

As I pen down this article, the greatest sporting spectacle on earth is underway.

32 nations from 6 continents are fighting tooth and nail for the Jules Rimet trophy. The FIFA World Cup.

But isn’t it just another quadrennial sporting event?

What makes it different from the others?

To truly understand the magnitude of the event, some statistics might help.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was aired to an estimated 3.2 billion people, which is 46% of the human population.

Yes, almost half of the whole world tuned in to watch football during this phase !

The cup has witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity since its humble beginnings.

The first world cup in 1930 could only gather 13 nations, most of them being European. This is quite in contrast to the upcoming 2022 Qatar WC, slated to host 48 nations from over 6 continents.

The 211 countries part of FIFA further cement the dominance of the sport over any other. That’s 18 more than the number of United Nations members.

Just let that sink in.

So after all the praise I’ve heaped on the sport to prove its dominance, a pertinent question may arise in the reader’s mind – “Why the hell am I questioning the World Cup’s benefits at all?”

After all, shouldn’t the countries continue fighting over hosting rights for such a lucrative tournament?

However, hosting a world cup isn’t just another hunky-dory affair. FIFA’s extremely high standards lead to a battle before the actual war in getting the infrastructure ready.

It especially hurts those nations which need football the most.

South Africa stands as a prime example. In a country and continent as culturally and ethnically diverse as it is, football acts as a binding agent.

So nothing short of a renaissance was expected when South Africa won the hosting rights of the 2010 tournament. The fact that $3 billion of tax money was spent only raised expectations.

Naturally, the key word of 2010 for the Africa masses was Hope.

Only to turn to despair.

Though the tournament is remembered as a success, it hasn’t really helped the nation.

The FIFA anthem of South Africa 2010 – “Waka Waka” is remembered endearingly.

The same cannot be said for the country’s football players.

They have continuously underperformed at the international level. So it was no surprise when they failed to even qualify for the 2014 or 2018 cups.

The stadiums have been severely under-utilised, as the weak local league hasn’t been able to maintain them. Most have been dismantled.

Brazil 2014 went several steps ahead and the government spent $ 11.6 billion, almost 4 times the previous WC’s spending.

Hope was in the air, again.

Only to be crushed, again.

Instead of improving even slightly from its predecessor, this WC was embroiled in even more controversy.

A politically charged Brazil with nearing elections pumped up the detractors of the spending. The mysterious deaths of construction workers did no better to help its case.

The final nail in the coffin was the constant decline of the already struggling Brazilian economy.

Qatar 2022 has a budget of $220 billion, more than 60 times that of the 2010 WC.

To put things into perspective; that’s approximately equal to the net worth of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates combined.

That’s a bizarre sum of money, even if it’s being invested in an uncharted territory.

And still, this cup hasn’t gained the confidence of the masses. The corruption charges against FIFA top brass such as Sepp Blatter have severely tainted its image.

There are a few positives, yes. Germany recorded a significant spurt in child births 9 months after the 2006 World Cup, which was quite unusual for a country with declining population. Also, tourism during the world cup does see a sharp spike.

But do they outweigh the negatives?

Hell no.

Tourism spikes are very transient. With the upcoming unfavorable locations (Qatar), tourism is even less likely to be a valid argument.

Contrary to the way it was marketed, the 2010 World Cup did not create solidarity amongst the nations, in sporting terms or otherwise. Most of the African footballers still find no opportunities at the base level, and the talented ones still move to greener European pastures.

Qatar’s astronomical budget can very well be employed in other suitable avenues, such as helping curb conflicts in the volatile Arab region, rather than being used to build state-of-the-art structures destined to be miniature ghost towns.

The world cup remains the biggest and most seen quadrennial sporting event. Its relevance or need remains unchallenged. However the way the countries are selected as hosts, or their spending definitely needs to be kept in check. A balance is needed so that the success of the sport is assured without misusing public wealth. If the current system prevails, a day shall come when the World Cup becomes yet another corporate gimmick masqueraded as a sporting event.

I can only hope that day never comes.

Shivansh