Reborn

Author: Janani Ramachandran


Dewdrops slid down her body
As the snow began to thaw
Uncovering her buried form
That lost its way in the expanse of the perfect white
The sunlight reflecting in her ebony irises for the first time in a long time

One could say she was lifeless
But one look closer
One could feel the slight ministrations of her uncertain breath
Slight yet steady
Like the stream opening to a mighty river
Her ebony irises
Like the inky starless night sky
That conceals a million behind its inky curtains

Her pale arms scratched with blood red scars
Her soft flesh pierced by rough wood and dirt
The fair mixed with the brown
Giving rise to a new hue
The colour of her cocoon
That would give rise to the new her

Her colourless lips encrusted with dried blood
New Ebony hair peeking out from a mass of lifeless strands
Her fat eaten by the ice
Stripping her to her bones
Yet she looked full
In complete harmony with the ice complementing her starved form

They called her a miracle
When they felt a slight twitch in her cold wrist
They had thought that she would’ve snapped
Like the great trees amputated by winter
They’re great arms twisted by the unforgiving cold
Yet there she lay
A subtle pulse in her lifeless form

It should’ve frozen her heart
Crushed her bones
Sucked the life out of her lungs
Iced her blood to bed her in a coffin of ice
There was an endless list of what should have happened
But nothing of what had happened was found in the pieces of parchment

She was alive
Her blood gushing into her veins
Stronger than ever
Her breath like the beginning of a hurricane
The colour returning to her pallid body
Gasps of awe as they watched her arms twitch
Yet what almost everyone missed
Was the drops of liquid lining her closed eyes

Dawn had arrived
The first beam of sunlight hit her heart
A reminder that the wait was over
As her eyes opened
There was a certain light in them
Like a falling star in the inky night sky
That commanded attention and respect
But most importantly fulfilled a wish
It fulfilled hers
She had been reborn

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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.

Dandelion

Author: Janani Ramachandran  

                                                        

The sunlight shone bright on them

As cascades from the canopy of the banyan tree

Their young eyes too weak for the brightness

As they nestled deep into the comfort of their mother

Her smell and aroma engraved in every part of their connected hearts

As the radically different siblings grew stronger together than apart

 

They were countless no doubt

In the sweet spring breeze swaying their arms about

Finally the dandelion did see

The destinations where her young had to be

So she made them beautiful and strong

Weakening her link with them all along

She did see with a heavy heart

That farewell was inevitable to be

 

As autumn whistled by

Spring bloomed to say hi

The nightingales rejoicing the beginning of new life

As the dandelion softly hummed to her dear ones

A lullaby tinged with melancholy

That in their rush to explore did the ecstatic youth ignore

 

They flew by as wind soared beneath their silken skirts

Their magnificent ascent applauded by everybody

Amidst the chaos of the applause

All they could hear was a silent humming

 

A lullaby, a prayer

For their billowing skirts to never falter

To capture the world with their wings of white

And to conquer every war with undying might

The magnificence  of their ascent brilliantly captured by

The silent teardrop gracing the dandelion’s barren body

That held the promise of tomorrow

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.

The Game of Life

“Was the moon landing fake?”, “Was Avril Lavigne replaced by a clone?” , “Was time travel possible?” These were the questions that consumed me once I introduced myself to conspiracy theories. They overtook the mundane thoughts I generally had: food, the unpredictability of the future and several replays of witty conversations. Even though some of them sounded far-fetched, like the flat Earth theory, there was something fascinating about them. I couldn’t help myself from sleuthing around; I needed answers. The ones with substantial proof made me question everything; Nothing seemed real anymore. Among the several evidence bearing theories, one particular theory intrigued me the most, the theory that stated the possibility of the earth being a simulation. Every other theory had enough shortcomings for me to accept that it might be a coincidence, but this one had more “What ifs” than “That’s absurd”. Of course, saying “We are a bunch of characters in a computer game” sounded insane, but something within me couldn’t discredit all the coincidences that had happened in the past and how they seemed connected to a computer game.

I used to watch Sims playthroughs for fun, but after hearing about this theory, every second of every video became an opportunity for comparison. In the game, the player was allowed to control several people at once. Their likes, dislikes, actions and lifestyle, everything was in the player’s hands but in the latest versions, the people were allowed to have a say of their own. For example, in the earlier versions if the person wasn’t given an action, they’d stay idle till an order was given, however now it was possible that the person would begin to do whatever they pleased if no orders were given and they also had the ability to deny the order and do something else. This got me thinking, what if the orders were analogous to our inner voices. Sometimes we pay heed to them, sometimes we don’t, just like the Sims characters. There were so many tiny factors like this that boggled my mind. In the game, the player had an option to cancel the character’s actions from a lineup. This seemed very similar to something that kept happening to me- I’d go into a room for some reason, then I’d forget why I was there. Another thing about the lineup was that the order of the actions could be changed, just like our order of priority. This was relevant to the fact that sometimes procrastinate homework to do something less important. We could blame that on poor willpower, but what about the times I decided to put nature on hold just to continue scrolling aimlessly on my phone. The game also allowed time to pass by faster at the click of a button. Nothing of that sort ever happened in our world, right? What about the times when time would drag on till the point where we thought our watches were broken? The times when every minute was definitely lesser than 60 seconds? It made sense.

The next 2 epiphanies I had regarding this topic were not as concrete as the previous ones, they were sillier. First, a computer simulation would explain every paranormal experience anyone had ever had, especially strange occurrences involving movement of furniture and other objects, from their original positions. The game had a feature where we could change from “game mode” to “build mode”. Game mode was the mode in which the game was played and build mode was the mode in which we could rearrange furniture, buy and sell objects etc. Second, the character’s wants would show up at the bottom of the screen and you’d have the choice of whether or not to fulfil them. This was a lot like the law of attraction, which states that “if you believe you will obtain something, it will manifest into reality”. Obviously, an object dropping from the sky would be outrageous, but the coincidences involving people getting what they really wanted were too many to ignore.

But if the world was indeed a simulation, that would mean that there would be glitches in the system? It would mean resurrection and immortality weren’t impossible. I was left with so many questions, more than when I began sleuthing around. What if the simulation crashed? Would life continue from a checkpoint, like in the games? Was that why Mandela effects existed? What was the purpose of this simulation? Who created it? And why? Who controlled us? I couldn’t believe anything as it was, everything had something hidden behind it.

 

Up in smoke

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

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

 

burning-cigarette-smoke

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

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

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

marijuana-smoke

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

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

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

 

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

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.

ALIVE BUT STILL DEAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheryl

Check Your Emotions Before They Checkmate.

It is that time of the year again when almost everyone under 20 is free. Free to walk under the sun, swim in the ocean, sleep under a roof, under a tree, work for some more pocket-money, explore hobbies and interests, to make the most of all the time they have. It is the time to meet your parents, your family, go to your grandparents’ home and enjoy with your cousins, for this is among the last few opportunities to do so. Everyone is going to grow and leave the nest someday.

For me, it is the time just as any other that I spend thinking of a better world. I keep wondering what the human mind can accomplish, given its creative capabilities and destructive tendencies.

Humans are social creatures. We have evolved to create communities. An urge to be in the good books of people around us is instinctive. Such behaviour is a result of the idea that weaklings can be victors as well, using the strength of unity. Unfortunately, this urge has taken away the angelic side from most of the people. We lie, cheat, and betray to be on the side preferred by the stronger person. This led me to think, what if we lost all our emotions altogether. This mental experiment can take many forms. There are plethora of films and other forms of art that have experimented with the concept.

PK, the Bollywood film, where we see a humanoid alien coming from a similar type of planet. He is naïve, always misunderstood, and pays a hefty price learning our twisted methods of living. We can also think of “The Purge” concept, where humans live peacefully except one night a year, when they murder and rape each other. The “Saw” series takes its audience through a journey that teaches how life can be lived with our moral values intact but with big stakes.

There are many ways to tell a story, and not all of them have to imply to the lesson directly. In “A town without me”, popularly known as “Erased”, we learn directly that fighting alone might not solve your problems. However, if you muster up enough courage, it resonates with others. Another lesson I saw in it, is speaking up can solve problems right in their roots. “Your Lie in April” and “Anohana” explore these concepts as well, where just speaking or accepting the truth, when and where it mattered, could have solved everything. Obviously, truth is the bitter pill to swallow most of the times but is always better than living diseased with a pretentious personality, separately for each individual you encounter in your life.

In a world where humans are always honest, we would still encounter the seven sins. In that world, even petty criminals would need severe punishments to keep the latent criminals in check. This somehow paints a picture of a communist dictatorship, where everyone is equal, and crime is crime. Honesty is honesty and not hate speech.

A robotic society, where there is no leader, no religion and people follow their will based on logic alone for instance, a society where you pull the lever and let one die to save five. Heaven in its true senses. There is no bond or relationship and we go by our lives in an orderly fashion, doing what we must do to survive. When trivial situations, mishaps and accidents happen, only logic solves them finding optimal solution for the future. This would deny human rights and would be highly apathetic. On the contrary, it compels me all the way more to make and live in a world like that.

Our world is plagued with problems; women do not get equal treatment. It will be different in my world; a human would be a human. Pay grades would exist; however, there would be no discrimination based on gender, race, cast or other reasons. There will be no poor because job requirements will control population, using brutal ways if need be. Road rage in that world would be consigned to oblivion; people will follow rules, understanding the gravity of the consequences of breaking them and not in their fear.

A world of that type would take away the humane part of us. It only seems fair to run it as an experiment and apply partial results to our real lives. This makes us realise that honesty and a life of high morale comes with a cost. You have to like others less to have a favourite. Equality is a tool mostly used by people for their own comfort just like concepts of feminism and right to live. Hope is just a boost of adrenaline that makes us jump into fire.  Nevertheless, these parts of us make us human. Life finds its meaning in between survival and ensuring longevity of its species, but is definitely not constricted merely by these concepts. We are the masters of our own life. Masquerading as the good guy would definitely be tough, consequently, you will get angry, feel hurt, and get envious. However, you must bear it alone and be the stronger person. Fight for all you deserve but not get greedy or proud of it. You define your life. Will you make it a good one?