Pearl City

I have spent many December holidays in Thoothukudi at my aunt’s house. Thoothukudi during Christmas was a vibrant, colourful and happy place.

My brother and I would start counting the stars hung from the façade of various buildings and be amazed at the huge numbers. In the night, ubiquitous fairy lights, of different shapes, sizes and hues would illuminate the town in beautiful patterns. The joy I got from seeing the lights strung up around the trees in the garden can’t be explained. The cakes were so delicious and they were always available, so many varieties of them. When I got a present from the Santa Claus going around town, I remember thinking why something like that never happened in Chennai.

I also have memories of Thoothukudi unrelated to Christmas: time spent in beaches watching the sunset, the picnics to Muyal Theevu, finding out that I actually liked fish if it was this good, going to the church and seeing the wonderful decorations for the festive season, travelling to Tirunelveli to see a film in a theatre in which the seats had holes and the popcorn came in small plastic covers.

I have enjoyed the quiet and relaxed vibe of the town, especially during lazy afternoons when not a sound could be heard. I have thought that we could actually live there.
When I was thinking about the police firing during the anti- Sterlite protests, these memories came rushing back. The tragedy seemed uncomfortably close. I would never have imagined something like this happening there. You hear about things like this happening in a faraway place you don’t know about; you feel sad but a sense of detachment sets in. But when it happens somewhere you know well, a place you love, it is unnerving.

But the feeling wasn’t immediate. My mom was agitated about it, but at that time I didn’t register the full horror of the act. I had been greatly affected by the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas and was reading everything I could find on it, so this news was in the background for me. Shock slowly started setting in when I read the newspapers the next day, though it was pretty much the same information I had learnt yesterday except the fact that protocol was so casually neglected. I think it was because when I focused on it, the brutality of the whole thing hit me hard.

I then read the part in One Hundred Years of Solitude where Marquez talks about the banana republic and the shooting that ensued. I had read the book last year and even searched for the meaning of ‘banana republic’ but had no idea of the larger context until my dad told us about United Fruit last night. The thing that really stayed with me after reading was the scene where the Colonel will say that three thousand people were killed in the shooting and the woman will respond that nothing had ever happened like that in Macondo. This seemingly simple exchange speaks volumes about state control and vehement denial of injustice. It also warns that it is very easy to erase events from public memory.

The more I thought of the incident, the more was the shock and disbelief that something like this could happen, something so undemocratic, inhuman and dictatorial in its very essence.

I can also sense fear in people’s minds. Fear in my grandmother’s voice when she called my dad because she couldn’t reach my aunt’s mobile. The fear that makes us call my aunt frequently to see how she is doing. Fear in relatives and college friends when they call to make sure everything is alright. Fear that something untoward might happen in the tweets that tell my dad to stay safe. He has been answering calls all day.

But there is also anger. Anger of the people against the puppet government. Anger against the Centre. Anger towards Sterlite. The anger that made the kin of the deceased refuse to accept their bodies. Anger I feel because no protocol was followed. Anger that made my father post his most recent translation. The anger of my grandfather against a newspaper that blamed the protestors. Anger on Twitter over people who are insensitive to the massacre and worse, peddle fake news.

In this anger, I feel hope. Hope that if people come together, nobody can stop them. Hope that there will be a solution.

Yesterday, I explained to my brother about the incident and why people were protesting against the factory. I told him about the protocol that had to be followed in the case of a police shooting. He easily identified which of the steps were neglected. When I was trying to tell him that people must be shot only below the hip, he understood it himself and asked me: ‘they should be shot but not actually shot right?’, meaning that they should not be shot fatally.The childish way in which he expressed it touched me. He exclaimed that the police should not have resorted to shooting. He suggested that the police personnel who did this should be suspended from their job. When I told him about the compensation the state government had announced, he snorted. He had somehow understood that cash compensation wasn’t going to bring back lives. I was left feeling that if people in authority had even a bit of the clarity he had, this would have never happened. I felt extremely proud of him for the sensitivity he displayed.

We don’t tell kids about the big bad things that happen in the outside world because we want to shield them from the violence. But they deserve to know what’s happening. Kids are even allowed to watch U/A movies with explicit violent/ sexual undertones. What’s wrong with letting them come to grips with reality? Discuss with your children about important events. You will be surprised by their mature and assured responses.

For Praveen

Praveen was a 26-year old young man with learning disabilities. He studied in Vidyasagar, a school for disabled children and went on to work as part of the housekeeping unit in the Savera hotel. On the morning of 13th January, he went with his mother to the bus-stand to catch the bus for work. The terminal was crowded and he let go of his mother’s hand as she boarded the bus. After the bus started, she noticed that he wasn’t on the bus. She immediately came back and searched for him, but he was to be found nowhere in the vicinity.

She called Vidyasagar and filed an FIR in the police station. What followed was three days of intensive search by people from Vidyasagar, his colleagues at Savera, friends and family. Pictures of Praveen were circulated on social media. But on further enquiries, it was discovered that Praveen had died instantly in a road accident in the wee hours of 14th morning itself.

The FIR on the road accident said that the body was unidentified, but it was not uploaded in the uidentified dead bodies section of the police website. The lorry that caused the accident was not registered. The FIR on Praveen’s case was not filed until the evening of the 13th and not uploaded in the missing persons section of their website until the 16th, 3 days after his death. He is still officially “missing” according to the website. The testimony of the security guard that witnessed the accident left out the statement that the driver was drunk(because tests didn’t reveal any evidence) and so it became a bailable offence.

So many delays, so many loopholes. At the end, it was the system that failed Praveen at the moment when he needed it the most. The facts paint a picture of blatant apathy and indifference on the part of the police.What chance did Praveen have of survival in such an  inefficient environment?

Why isn’t there a connect between different police units in this age of internet? Specialization is fragmentary in nature; and the wheels of justice cannot afford to be fragmented in the issue of providing safety to citizens. For three days, Praveen’s mother held on to the hope that he would be out there somewhere and would eventually return home. But he had been dead all this time. This issue raises uncomfortable questions. If it had been any other person/ a child would there have been these delays? Is equal treatment under law a fact just on paper?

Praveen’s father was in Sabarimala during that week. He was informed about all this only when he came back and both his parents were taken to identify whether it was Praveen who had died in that accident. I cannot imagine what they must have gone through. People go on a pilgrimage to pray for the well-being of their family. How would the father have felt when just after he came back his world suddenly fell apart? If the same thing happened to any of us, would we ever be able to believe again?

I attended a candle-light vigil held for Praveen. His mother was distraught and the father broke down while thanking everyone. A friend said that she couldn’t do anything but weep when she heard of his death. A neighbour said that he still couldn’t accept what had happened, that they still wait for him to come home after a day’s work. It was very hard not to get teary-eyed after this. My heart feels hollow even as I write this.

A good friend. A cheerful person. Responsible. Extrovert. This was how people remembered Praveen that day. One thing that struck me was how he too had people who cared deeply for him. Sometimes, we don’t include disabled people in the community, because we don’t think about them at all. The only time we give them a thought is to express pity/sympathy or appreciate how much they have achieved despite their state. We either degrade them by pity or idealize them as heroes. Either way, we perceive them as different from us. But Praveen was just like you and me and anybody else. A simple, friendly person who had people waiting for him at home.

Praveen lived on in the minds of people, in the undying flame of the candles set on the wall that evening. I spent some time alone with the candles, their flickering light drawing patterns on my face. I needed that time for a sense of closure, for thinking of how all those candles symbolized the affection people had for him, how his spirit was captured in them.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute , in however small a way, in ensuring this doesn’t happen again. Parents of disabled children present in the gathering that day would have dreaded the possibility of the same thing happening to their child. It is the collective responsibility of the society to allay these fears and take the necessary steps to ensure that Praveen’s demise does not go in vain.

Though there were people from outside the disability community in the vigil, they were few in number. The media was more interested in reporting of the vigil than the actual incident. This is something that could happen to anyone’s child. I might forget the way home one day, but I will be able to return safely because I can ask for help. But how do you help someone who does not ask for help? This is why sympathy is not enough and empathy is required. As a society, we need to pledge to create safe environments for everyone, especially the more vulnerable among us.

The necessary systems are already existing in countries llike the US. There, they give out an AMBER Alert when a child goes missing and is believed to have been kidnapped. Descriptions of the child and the suspect are broadcast on TV, radio and traffic signals.They have something similar for people with mental disabilities called the Silver Alert, issued when such a person is missing. If they are on foot, people in the neighbourhood in which the person was last seen are given their description through an automated telephone call. It is an highly efficient system- 95% of people for whom the Silver Alert was issued have been returned to their families.

I cannot help thinking how Praveen could have easily been saved if we only had systems like these. But I guess the best thing to do would be to ensure that these systems come into place in the near future.

I have not written anything for a long time; I struggled a lot to finish this. The only reason I didn’t abandon the effort in the middle was because it would be a disrespect to Praveen’s memory. Writing about it is the first step in the process of finding answers.


An interplay of cultures

I do sociology in school, and for one of our internal assessments we have what is called a ‘book project’: you read one of the prescribed books and try to make connections with sociological theories/concepts learnt in class.

When the teacher brought the books to class, I felt the familiar thrill I get when I see new and colourful books. We were given a chance to skim through as many of the books as we could before indicating our preferred choices. I choose three of them: David Davidar’s House of Blue Mangoes, Pankaj Sekhsaria’s Last Wave and Pico Iyer’s Video Night in Kathmandu, though I would have been happy to read all of them.
I was assigned Video Night in Kathmandu and I just finished reading it. I really enjoyed the book though there was the constant pressure of it being an academic endeavor and my eagerness to finish the project before others did.

The book is set in the period of 1984-85, chronicling Iyer’s experiences and observations on his travels to different Asian countries and places: Bali, Nepal, Tibet, China, Philippines, Bangkok, Hong Kong, India and Japan. The book mainly concentrates on the interplay of West and East and the resulting aspirations and ambiguities. It also describes the social conditions of various nations in this time period.

Iyer’s amazing skills of observation, sharp, sensitive writing and a dash of humor and emotion make this book the masterpiece it is. He captures the nuances of events and conversations brilliantly. The balance between the three ways through which information is conveyed in this book: descriptions, interactions and reflections is maintained quite well, ensuring that it remains engaging throughout.

I was very disturbed my some of the images Iyer brought alive: The mysterious and widespread prostitution of Bangkok; the ragged poverty and destitution of Manila and the chilling perfectionism and artificiality of Japan. The portrayal of India as a land of mainly superhero movies with no logic was a little slighting. I reassured myself that all of the above were the situations of 1985 and no doubt there had been progress.

All of the characters are common people from different backgrounds and their stories lend authenticity to this book. Quite a few of them stay with the reader afterwards, like Susie, a bar receptionist who desperately wants to pursue higher studies while maintaining her virginity, Maung-Maung, a rickshaw driver who is too good for his surroundings, and Ead, who struggles with the mental battle between her morality and economic pressures.

Iyer describes the impressions he is left with in a remarkable way with beautiful language that makes the reader reflect . I loved in particular his lyrical description of Japan and how he portrays in a lighthearted way, the conundrum, and family ties of India.

The troubles he faces as a traveler are expressed in words that reek of acerbic humor, which works well in making the flow lively Quite a few of his observations are thought-provoking: for example, he says that after returning home, he was the one who felt homesick at the thought of the East, while the citizens there could never let go of the West; and how the East sells its own modified versions of the West back to the West itself.

Iyer’s prose appeals to the visual, auditory and tactile senses, making it easy for the reader to imagine the environments or situations he finds himself in.
I would describe this book as a roller coaster ride, filled with thought and colour. I was also delighted when I found out that Iyer was born and studied in Oxford.

Shame is a revolutionary sentiment

In today’s morning assembly at school, we had a teacher speak to us about a statement by Karl Marx that stayed in her thoughts long after she came across it. It was a simple yet intriguing sentence: Shame is a revolutionary sentiment

She went on to talk about how as a society, we seem to have ceased feeling ashamed about our corrupt political leaders and convicted religious figures and instead, place them on high pedestals; how we are not ashamed about the inequalities that plague our country. She was quite vocal about it, saying that it reflects our blind worship for power and authority. She brought how shame can be a harbinger of change if we take action after that feeling.

These points resonated strongly with me, a girl who dreams of using her words to inspire people to take action, to fight injustice and ultimately, be the change they want to see in the world. I like to tell myself that after all, the pen is mightier than the sword.

All of us feel angry when we read or hear about violence, deaths, discrimination or other such social evils. Ashamed? To an extent, yes. But is that feeling strong enough that it enables us to do something immediately? The answer is in the negative for the majority of individuals. Shame is productive only if it results in some difference. Otherwise it is just a momentary spark that dies away after a period a time.

How many of us are really concerned about the worrying issues that come to our attention? We express our indignation on Twitter or Facebook, say that more stringent action must be taken, praise the judgement if there is one …and then? The unpleasant memory still lingers in some cases, but most of our lives are the same as before.

This shows that we are not as much affected by the happenings around us as we should be. How many people participate in protests and vigils, take part in public petitions or start / volunteer with organizations working for social justice or any other cause they are interested in? Only a few amongst us are inspired by their feeling of shame to change the reality they encounter.

I am not denying the importance of expressing criticism. Criticism voiced by the people shows that they are not oblivious to their surroundings; it shows that they care about values like equality and justice and will not remain silent. In that way, criticism is powerful. But when criticism is combined with action, it becomes invincible. This will be more effective in bringing about a revolution.

I also realize that lately, there have been more protests than ever before and that there are many people who work as part of organizations that empower common people. This is something to be happy about, but shouldn’t many more of us follow their path? Shouldn’t we get inspired by their stories of change? When something condemnable has occurred in a society which we are a part of, all of us should contribute to make sure that it never happens again. Why must only some people struggle for issues that are important to all of us?

I am struck by the fact that we talk of deaths so impersonally. We read about traffic accidents or terrorist attacks, feel sad and forget about it. Can we even imagine the agony of the family members? I believe we are so insulated from these incidents that we don’t care about them unless something similar strikes at our door. Man is a social being. How can he be so selfish that he doesn’t care about what happens to his fellow beings?

A few days back, I heard about an accident in which a school boy was terribly injured. When I was on the way to school the next day, I almost felt guilty for being happy when he was suffering. Then came the bitter realization: whatever happened to him, the world will still go on as before.I felt angry at that, at the fact that none of us will be affected by the accident other than his family.

But it mustn’t be like that. The world cannot just go on. We need to fight together to ensure that it does not go on. I have always believed in the power of democracy; in the ability of people to be instruments of change. If many unite for action, anything can be achieved. Let us all come together to turn our shame into a really revolutionary sentiment.

 

 

 

Bombay Fever- Review

It was around 5 hrs ago, that I started reading this book. My parents had pre- ordered it. When I read the storyline at the back, I decided that I would read it this weekend. And once I started it, there was no looking back. My class 11 environmental science project draft due on Monday could wait for a few more hours.

The book was excessively enjoyable. I loved the way in which the story brought together different dimensions of an emergency situation, from public opinion to political repurcussions.

I thought at first that I was able to relate to the story better because it was set in an uniquely Indian environment. But on introspection, I think that it is identifiable with because it is realistic. This is what would exactly happen if we were ever faced with a real epidemic. The book does not attempt to describe impossible and quite absurd scenarios of psychosociopaths who go about murdering people. And to a person who liked Robin Cook thrillers, this was a welcome and refreshing change.

But the novel’s authenticity cannot deny the pleasure it provided me to read an Indian medical, or rather socio-medical thriller. It was very fulfilling to read something one could relate to instantly. I believe it made me feel more invested in the tale. And I loved the dig at WhatsApp forwards! The scene where a man buys a smartphone for his father was quite touching and relevant.

The Beta Protocol was an intriguing piece of information. Though it seems cowardly, there must be situations where it is absolutely necessary. I liked the character of Nitin Phadnavis: stylish, composed and humorous. Maybe he could have acted more efficiently during the outbreak; but I think he is the embodiment of what kind of person I would like as the prime minister of the country. The Maharashtra CM’s character was also well formed as a lady who is impulsive yet brave.

The stories of the scores of other characters were also very engaging and will make the reader sympathize with every one of their peculiar circumstances.

The plot is given primary importance, and that ensures that the book is never boring. Though the first part was also very good, I personally found that the real mastery came through after the deaths started mounting. Which is a pretty awkward thing to say,but still. The chaos that reigned following the media report was depicted with extraordinary vividness.

I felt that it was a brilliant book. And I hope to see many more books like this which cater to the Indian audience. This book has made this weekend exciting and remarkable.

 

Books

 

I am reading Terry Eagleton’s How to Read Literature currently. I rather pride myself on having ingeniously downloaded it for free from the Yale University website. It is exceedingly clever, witty and quite easy to read. This is my first book regarding anything related to literary analysis, and I am enjoying it.

I am surprised by how much layers of meaning you can extract from a sentence that seems quite clear. Or how much the notions of character have changed with the times. The book has given me a peek into several great pieces of literature, almost all of which I have never heard of; It has also introduced me to poetry, which I rarely touch.

I think I would like to discover new dimensions to texts I thought I knew well; I would like to read about different theories in literature, to be able to tackle questions of the ties between society and texts, to explore how the language used can alter meanings totally. I love reading books, and I think I will also love understanding more about them.

I also read many other books, and reread some books in this vacation (some of them in the study holidays!) Indeed, it is the only worthwhile thing that I managed to do these two months, most of which I slept off.

I started reading Arthur Hailey, and have already finished three of his books. The first one I read was Airport, which was quite good. I liked the way that different elements were mixed together in the plot, and how, at the end all the loose ends were tied up. I spent the whole of a day reading the book, much to the chagrin of everybody at home.

Next, I read Overload, which was about the electricity industry. The idea of the power crisis was explained in good detail, and the story brought to light how vicious the press could be if it wanted, and showed the problem of conflicting interests excellently. It had some interesting elements to it as well. I personally felt that the story could have been much better than Airport, if it had not devoted much space to the amorous affairs of the protagonist.

But Wheels, about the automobile industry, was the best of all. The novel was superb in all its aspects, from the description of racism in Detroit to the designing of cars. I loved how it offered an interesting perspective into all the departments involved in the construction and marketing of cars; I had never spared thought to how much was involved in it. The ending was logical and positive; I appreciate the author for that. I really enjoyed reading the book.

I also read Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel, and it was amazing.  The author had done a good job of tracing the lives of two different characters, in good detail, allowing us a glimpse into their respective personalities, successes and failures, leaving it to the readers to decide whom they liked better. I think the book is so great because it manages to remain coherent and gripping throughout. The language is unassuming and true to the point. I liked William Kane better from the start.

I also read The Final Impression by the same author, and it paled in comparison. It was not a very great story, nor very thrilling, except maybe in the last part. But I am grateful to the book for offering me a peek into what people must have gone through when 9/11 happened.

I read John Grisham’s The Associate, which opened my eyes fully to the insane workload of law firms, where everything that matters is billing. It was a good book, and takes you through the mind of the hero, so that you can understand the paranoia he is feeling. But I liked The Firm and The Confession more, as they were really un put- downable.

I also read The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee, which explores Mahabharat from the viewpoint of Draupadi. It is a great concept, and she has handled it really well. The novel lays bare the female character’s emotions, joys and beliefs. The strength of the book lies in this; it also explores her whimsical and petulant side.  At the end, we sympathize with her for all she has gone through. We question the injustice that was meted out to her, just because the destiny of the world had to be fulfilled. I loved reading the book.

I have noticed that nowadays many young Indian authors are writing new kinds of fiction; they are exploring new arenas and producing some superb pieces. Leelavati by Nandini Bajpai is my comfort read. When I feel extremely lazy or restless, I give it a go. It is a charming and simple love story. Similarly, Right Here Right Now by Nikita Singh is a nice book about teenage life in the backdrop of a girl losing her memory. Life Is What You Make It by Preeti Shenoy, is very insightful regarding bipolar disorder. All these are promising books that I have read before.

I finished reading The  Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen. I gained knowledge about many things, from Tagore to Carvaka philosophy. All his statements and arguments are backed up with solid proof and the language is amazingly lucid and precise. It showed me how academic essays are to be written. His clarity of thought is unmatchable.

I tried reading Foucault’s Pendulum again, and this time, I used a dictionary. I understood it better than last time, but I have just left it for the time being. I also am reading John Banville’s The Sea now. It is a book, where even the mundane appears to have deep emotion inside. It is a pleasure to read simple words which convey so much feeling. But it cannot be read in one go, so I take it little by little.

In the meantime, because Banville and Eagleton felt heavy sometimes, or as I wanted to read some books I had loved again, I reread Three Men in a Boat, The Alchemist’s Secret, Da Vinci Code, parts of King Solomon’s Mines, What Katy did at School and The Contagion.

So I think I have read quite a bit, actually! That’s it for now

India through my eyes

I read a significant number of books in the holidays, but somehow it seems like I can write only about social issues nowadays. Maybe it is because I find this more easy and interesting. Or it maybe due to a less-innocent reason. Like wanting more appreciation and comments!

Firstly, I think we need to talk about the political instability of our country these days. I may tend to concentrate more on Tamil Nadu, what with the politicians here always making it to the breaking news on TV with their calculative opinions which change daily according to the circumstances. But even at the national level, I think not everything is smooth going.

We have this great politics textbook in CBSE, which gives such a good view of democracy and  its advantages, with substantial evidence. I very much believe in true democracy because of that. Whenever we criticize politicians at home, I am able to appreciate it to be the best form of government because it gives us the freedom of speech to express ourselves.

Sometimes, everything seems to have a political undertone which frustrates me. I want to still be able to believe in a world where things are done for their sake, not for politics. I will never cease to wish for a democracy in its true form, to be established in India. As a person of the next generation, I dream of a country where people in power will be free of corruption, will try to understand people’s mind set and will dedicate their life to serve the common masses.

I know that it may be asking too much, as politicians are also just humans, who will make mistakes like us. But I am not expecting everything to change overnight, or for them to be always right. If they are open to change, if they don’t shun from honest interaction with the public, then I am sure people will support them enthusiastically. Together, we can make India a better place to live, can’t we?

Next, is the very important issue of gender equality. The situation now is much better than the olden days. I can choose what I want to study. Most girls today get schooling of some sort. Female foeticide is non existent(at least from what I know). But we are now faced with a much more horrifying reality: Alarmingly frequent cases of physical abuse. Recently, the convicts in the Nirbhaya case where handed a death sentence. People are hailing it as an historic decision. But we can’t afford to rejoice, not with so many more girls waiting for justice.

What is the most infuriating thing is, some people try to justify such barbarous acts. They try to normalize it as part of man’s nature. Worst, they blame the woman, the victim. They say that is the woman’s fault that she wore such clothes, that she was out at an eerie hour,etc,etc. It amazes me that we still manage to live in such a world. Who gave people the right to advise women what to wear and where to go? If they restrict men this way, will the world accept? A person in my school said that these incidents are happening because women do not use their freedom in the right manner. As if freedom is something somebody lent us! It is our birth right as a human being. People need to force their convoluted minds to accept this.

Another thing I would like to focus on are the regularly occurring traffic accidents. I don’t know about other parts of India, but I think they happen everywhere in varying amounts. In the last two months, I have myself seen two. In one, my father told me that the person had blood in his face. Thankfully, I didn’t see it, otherwise I would not have been able to sleep for days. I have been struck by the fact that while I read about this in the news, I feel that it is happening in some faraway place. I feel insulated from it all. But now I am realizing that it is not very far away. It is taking place in front of my eyes. We should not lose some of our brightest minds in this freakish manner.

Lastly, from a student’s perspective, I would like to say a few words on our education system. Things are changing, people are taking up new fields. CBSE and ICSE  offer more flexible curriculae than the state boards, which place more emphasis on rote learning. I don’t support CBSE bringing back 10th boards. The CCE structure gave students the option to use their cultural passions to get a decent grade. I have not done my math exam very well, and I can hope to get a good CGPA only because of CCE evaluation. Taking back this system has given students only one chance to prove their merit. It has turned the wheel back to bookish learning.

I want education to let me pursue my interests, to be enjoyable and to make me independent and responsible. I want to be able to think about things I read. I want to go to school happily everyday. The school I have chosen now offers me all this. I look forward to starting there.

Reflections

Yesterday’s newspaper was filled with assessments of the political situation in Tamil Nadu, the heat wave and farmer’s protests. While perusing through all this, a small news item in one of the inner pages caught my eye:’10 year old girl commits suicide because of quarrel with friends’.

Some of you may already have come across this. I don’t know what were your thoughts after reading it, but for me, I was shocked. It seems the girl fought with friends, some foul language was involved, so adults warned her and she ended her life.

This affected me considerably, and that is why I am writing this now.

It is high time that we think about where the current young generation is headed. By concentrating on the material luxuries they can provide their kids with, have parents neglected the emotional well- being of their child? If they are this vulnerable, how will they cope in the future?

Generally, this younger generation has grown up being too sensitive. They can’t bear even small criticisms. Probably I am not the best person to talk about these issues because I also fall under the “too sensitive” category. I am now only slowly coming out of it. And I too cannot accept criticisms and get angry at clashing opinions, albeit only at home (strange, isn’t it?).

But I am not so ridiculously fragile in mind. I realize that what I am feeling is wrong. Though my temper gets the better of me sometimes, I instantly regret what I said. This post is meant to be my reflections on the issue, and I believe it will inspire me to change.

The girl was on the brink of adolescence. She may have had many talents and dreams for her future. She may have been the best student in her class. Her mother may have planned something special for her birthday. All this has gone to waste. Most worryingly, she took her life at the age when there is so much to learn and experience; when they are innumerable opportunities to grow.

This is not the first case of child suicide. There have been many others. On what basis do kids decide to end their lives? What do they know about life? In a moment of anger and panic, do they forget how much happiness surrounds them ? These are not questions normally taken up for discussion, but we can’t deceive ourselves for too long. We need to wake up to these new challenges.

Generally, childhood is supposed to be the time of life when you are carefree and can enjoy to the fullest. Then why do incidents like this happen? A possible cause could be the overload of information. Or maybe lack of parental support and time.

I would say media is a major culprit. From where else can children gain the notion that ending their life is a solution to all their problems? More specifically, we have to blame the responses to such media. Maybe there should be classes on ‘Discovering how to react to media” where children are taught to not take things they see in films too seriously.

Counselling in schools needs to become the norm, rather than being an additional bonus. Life skills and gender sensitivity classes need to teach what they are supposed to; they are not meant for being free periods or being taken by subject teachers to finish their portions.

More than being academically gifted, having emotional strength is important. The world is becoming increasingly competitive. The need of the hour is to help the younger generation grow into composed and confident individuals, who have the skills to contribute to the betterment of society. This is the lesson we need to learn from this unfortunate incident.

Aspiring to be an English Literature graduate, maybe I should be writing literary criticisms, but I observe I am at my best when writing about personal experiences. I am currently reading How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton, which is quite interesting. I have found out that this is the best course choice for me, though I am still unsure whether I have the ability to analyze texts.

But I have consoled myself by thinking of the fact that just now I have ventured into the world of literary theory; so it is too soon to reach a conclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

My board exams….and some other things

Today was my first board exam. The first one, thankfully, was Tamil, one subject I am very comfortable with, albeit issues of lack of time in some instances. I know that the very next question would be: how did I do, and how much would I get?

To answer this, the paper was actually a very easy one, and for the first time, I was able to write how much ever I wanted and still finish in time. I am sure that I will get an A1 grade(the equivalent of 81 or above for 90 in CBSE).Not only me, all of us who wrote the exam did well.

However, I am not writing this merely to tell you that I did well. When I was sitting in the hall, listening to the invigilator’s instructions, one thought struck me. I realised that the room and the general atmosphere was not at all scary. It was just as if we were writing a normal exam in school. After all the hype, this was a welcome reality.

I don’t blame our teachers and some other people, who told us that our 10th exams would be the turning point in our life, and constantly reminded us that we were ‘board going children’. After all, they were concerned for our future, and I know , that us lazy students took studies seriously only because of this compelling reminder.

But, generally in our society, I think the influence of these exams is exaggerated. Some people think that life revolves around these. A month before the exams, all the magazines started printing advice on ‘How to study for board exams’. I won’t deny that I read all of these, not because I was religiously going to follow the instructions(it included eating lots of leafy vegetables!)but because I just liked to read what they had to say.

When I think about it now, it strikes me that they provide advice only for board exams. Or at least, if the board exams were non existent, they would not offer  any tips. Why? Why can’t we take these exams as any other ones we normally take up in school? The only difference I see is that, we write board exams in centres outside our school, and teachers whom we know nothing about, correct our papers, and the marks we get are important for our future. That shouldn’t be a problem if we prepare well, unless we expect some extra favours from teachers we know, which is not an acceptable practice.As regards future, I think we just need to keep that in mind to motivate us to do well,and go on with our regular preparation.

One thing I agree with the magazines.We need to do some extra question papers,to get familiar with the types of questions that can be asked, since boards are unpredictable. Otherwise, it is just another regular examination.

After today’s exam, I thought that writing these board exams was a good experience. I enjoyed today’s exam. One, somehow, writing  in those answer sheets was nice(I guess it made me feel important),and two, the questions helped me to express my creative side, especially  an essay on hard work and persistence.I can almost see my father laughing on reading that I wrote a good essay on something I don’t follow at all.

Even in school, I loved to write social exams(though I did not finish the last answer last time). This was because, I knew all the answers most of the times. Except geography, I liked all the others, and I believe that is the reason why I do well in social. Really, the satisfaction you get when you know everything in the question paper is immeasurable.

I also liked science exams, largely due to the fact that our teacher would appreciate me if I did well, and also because she told us that we should pray for  challenging question papers which would stretch our potential. She was a great teacher, and we all required just a simple ‘good’ from her to make us feel on top of the world. And I think I don’t need to tell anything about English exams.

But, whatever I talk about liking exams, there is one subject that I hate as much as a person can possibly hate a subject, and I have no doubt that I will be tensed and nervous before that particular exam. I averaged only a 50% in all our revision tests, due to (1)many silly mistakes (2)My brain which seems to have an overload of linguistic ability, and very less of analytical skills (3) an intense dislike of the subject (4)and not understanding why algebra and surface areas were going to help an English graduate. By now, you must have guessed that the subject is math.

Math is my nemesis. I don’t know why, but from the earliest I remember, it has been like this, though I did very well in 6th standard and my FAs in 10th. I didn’t even want to write an entrance test in math for a school, though it wouldn’t carry any weightage, as I was applying to the Humanities group. But I promise that I will get at least A2 in boards in math, as how much ever I can’t do it, my grades are important for Oxford.

So, that’s it. I am happy today as I did well. My biggest concern was time, but the 15-minute reading time we are given is a boon; it helps us plan our answers, so I shouldn’t have any difficulty in finishing the social paper also. I know I will get A1 in the other three; math, I need at least A2. Let us hope for the best!

I AM COMING, OXFORD

My days are filled with beautiful dreams and ambitions for a perfect future. I have gone back to my daily ritual of exploring the Oxford website and I derive the greatest pleasure in talking to somebody about my blog or about the different schools I have applied to.

I forever think of the place. I even prepared a presentation the other day regarding my plans for when I am there: which student societies I will be a part of, which volunteering activities I will enroll myself in, what will be my syllabus, the exams I have to attend and my weekly study schedule. I have become so bewitched by Oxford, that in slam books, I filled out my residence as 2019-2021 in Oxford.

But, in the midst of all this, I tell myself now and then that I am expecting too much. I give myself a reality check by telling my mind that all this might well be just a bizarre dream which afforded me many happy hours. After all, very great expectations may lead to great disappointments.

Even if I say so, the people around me, especially my parents, family and friends, think it is a plausible occurrence. They believe in my capabilities more than myself. They don’t dismiss it as some teenage fantasy of mine. To have people who  will support me in every endeavor of mine, who are truly confident of my abilities, around me is my biggest motivation.

I don’t know, but there is a small voice inside me, in spite of all my doubts, telling me that I might have a chance, however small, to get there. I think of  how great an opportunity it will prove to be, if at all I get the chance. I believe this is the reason why I still go back to the website, knowing that it all might be a farfetched dream.

I have imagined my exact reaction when my place at Oxford is confirmed. It is like this: I will get the news when I am coming back from my grandmother’s house along with my grandparents, and after coming home, I will bolt the door, close all the windows, and scream with joy. But I know, when it actually happens, my reaction will belittle all of this.

There are still twelve days for my 10th boards, and the other day, I was struck by the realization of how fast time was flying. In just two years, I will be at Oxford or Delhi. I have grown up, but I know very little about many practical things. I panicked suddenly that I didn’t know anything, and my mother comforted me, saying that she will help me out.

I only have little time left to spend with my mother, before I pack off to Oxford or Delhi or wherever my future beckons me. And moreover, I can’t spend at least the next one year with her, due to the fact that only some schools offer the subjects I want. So, I told her that we must hug each more often, whenever there is still time to.

One other thing. I am inspired to write because of the appreciation and support I get from all of you who spare time to read a 15-year old’s musings. I want to become a writer, but it is not an easy task, and the encouragement keeps me going. Thank you.