Categories
change COVID-19 Thoughts

(Almost) Teen Titans

Author: Ankit

Prelude

It’s 2-something AM and I’m working on an article that was to be uploaded yesterday.
Clearly, keeping schedules isn’t my forte (what IS my forte then? wait, not the time Ankit) ((although I’m fairly sure I’m usually better than whatever slump I’m in right now, to say the least)).

This time last year we were stuck at home trying to make something of an alien new concept of endless free-time and zero freedom to do anything. And we genuinely believed that it couldn’t get any worse.
Cut to today, including whatever the blur of the last month-and-a-half encompassed where it seems like we’re living in some dystopian world similar to that of Skyrim with an all-too familiar pop-up ; Current Objective: Survive.

Cue ‘No one is safe’, ‘every man for himself’, ‘valar morghulis’, and other generic, bleak, fatalistic quotes.

Oh and surprise, surprise, our awesomely negligent government had refused to take any precautions or preventive measures against the second wave of the virus, a fate of which we were duly warned by every scientist worth his salt.
Chaos ensues as there are people running around for oxygen cylinders, concentrators, ICU beds, vital injections- essentially a long and non-exhaustive list.

However even as the country seems to fall apart, I see glimpses of hope. God, I sound like a parody of myself but it just so happens that these past months have caused me to completely re-evaluate every aspect of life in general.

So that’s what the rest of this blogpost is going to be about.

These glimpses of hope.

Reading further on is optional, it’s fully going to be anecdotal and referencing that of my personal experiences with these people, but I’ll try and make it, what’s the word? Engaging.
_______________________________________
Interlude

Somewhere in the duration of early to mid April, as we see the case counter skyrocket and shit starting to hit the fan, I start frantically storying news about COVID resources and helpline numbers in an effort to ease my survivor guilt. ‘Hey, at least I’m doing SOMETHING to help’.

My very handsome friend Adwaith Praveen (swear, he didn’t pay me to write this) tells me that he’s adding me to a group that he’d started with his college mate Chris Kevin (another pretty lad) and a bunch of other friends, that sort of worked on the same thing. Mobilizing resources.

I was skeptical, naturally, because I didn’t yet know the power we wielded and the distances we could travel sitting behind the screens of our cellulars and laptops.

I went, “Yeah, sure whatever”.

I meet a bunch of new people upon being added there, and now after two official newspaper articles about us spanning The Hindu and ToI, I’ve taken it upon myself to write about the people who I felt have been working relentlessly to this day (and counting) and those who help out periodically and were okay with their names being mentioned in this article.

Let’s meet our leading lady, ‘mother hen’ Shreya AP (or was it Shreya Sridhar?) from Christ University and my great friend for years now. Since the first day that I punched in, she’s been working steadfastly at the front, making the magic work. She handles the requests that we get in on our page @covidsosindia, and allocates the work to us, after rightly pointing us in the direction of resources. Upon completion of tasks, often the first person to congratulate us, Shreya makes the dreary work fun.

Moving onto my bestie the ‘champagne supernova’, Dhiksha , who still studies in highschool, and manages the preparation for a 100,000 entrance tests and the internal dread of the possibility of a board exam, between, you know, SAVING LIVES. Almost always the first to volunteer to make phone calls when the need arises and scraping through every crevice of social media to get leads, DG makes most of us college goers look bad.
With good reason too. I’m inspired, perhaps I’ll go back to 12th grade. Keep going bff.

Up next, we have ‘chakkara muth’ Nivi (her real name’s Nivethitha I-can’t-spell-it-right), an absolute sweetheart who serves as the life of the party in this informal group (yes we’ve separate groups for work and chilling) whose idea of taking a day off is to come into work anyway and help out the rest of us who are stuck searching for a lead. She scours the internet, comes up with a contact list that none of us have seen before, and then makes it happen. a hundred jaws drop.
Hit her up for casual Fahadh Fazil fangirl sessions (make sure you invite me).

Moving to the gents-rification (I’m sure it means what I think it means).

‘Stoical hero’ Adu (hitherto mentioned Adwaith) sometimes has me completely convinced that he doesn’t sleep. Or maybe he does, and his AI bot takes over and does the work for him.
The guy’s a med student but he does more than put on his white coat and play Doctor-Doctor.
I mean he takes brownie points for being the person behind the inception of these miracle workers-group, but if that wasn’t enough, he also manages and assists Shreya in allocating the work and dividing different patient appeals and connecting the concerned authorities and the patients.

We have a resident movie critic and ‘soon-to-be celebrity’ Adithya Muthukumar in the house, (affectionately and mandatorily called muthuwu by ALL of us) who apart from using his established connections (he’s the guy who knows a guy) to source leads, works on talking to influencers and other minor league celebrities to promote the appeals we receive on our page, and signal boosting it into oblivion. Another high schooler whose experience with COVID is all too personal, he serves as Mr.Wiseguy in the informal (he sends the memes, VITAL).

We’ve arrived at the J-square. Two giants, ‘corrupt by design’ Jayanth, and ‘rage against the machine’ Jeyanth.

Jayanth ‘Jay’ Narra has been around here longer than the rest of us and therefore preaches holy wisdom to us when we take time off (basically warning us away from engineering). My quizzing buddy back from my days of high school, Jay also uses his extensive network of people to bring in leads to the centre. Which like, really REALLY makes our work a whole lot easier mannnn.

Jeyanth RS is another dapper dan who happens to be a violin maestro (I swear I’m not reading this off his tinder profile). Nay-sayer to break-takers, Jeyanth’s sharp wit combined with his suave, uh, “conduct” makes him a favorite and must-have in every informal conversation. Man also gets a brownie for being the only one to double-tap on the jokes I send in there.
Make no mistake though, he’s razor focused when he’s on the job. Which is like ninety percent of the time.

Hi Pranav ‘bae’ Agumbe. Did you think I’d miss ya? Internet friend that I’ve known for over a year now, the primary basis of our friendship was ranting towards each other. We LiVe In A sOciEty and he remains the most prized addition I’ve made to the group, who despite having off-days, brushes past it to make sure that someone somewhere makes it home alive.

Bae reminds me of myself in some ways (we both can’t sleep at night) , which I suppose is another reason why I adore the guy.

Finally
Shreya ‘Fireside’ Volety. That’s not her real middle name, come to think of it, I don’t think she has one. ‘Anime sreya’ as christened by Nanditha, took like fifteen seconds to become everyone’s favorite upon her addition to the group, honestly. This lovely lady runs through lists of donors and hospitals making calls by the dozen and swiftly reports back to duty.
And when she takes her time off, she gives me company, which ALSO rocks. 10/10 wife, who’ll definitely scold me for staying up this late writing the day I am to be vaccinated.
_____________________________________

Postlude

C Help or COVID Help initially started out as a Chennai-based initiative that worked on getting hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and blood donations to patients that need it in most of our hometowns.

Now, they work as a 24/7 Pan India group, fully held up by a group of teenagers and young adults just like you. With incredible foresight in disaster mitigation, these people rounded up the names of hundreds of blood donors knowing well that the banks would run dry. And so on.

There’s not a lot of people in this version of life that’re born with privilege, it’s those who choose to do good with the upper hand that they’ve been provided that go on to be remembered.

I can’t fully express my joy and happiness when we reach milestones such as over a 1000 requests being processed, bundled with hundreds of patient ‘thank-you’ notes and so on.

Mind you, it isn’t an easy job. With such an abysmally high death toll and patients’ names and their relations being associated in our minds, the news of death isn’t something most of us are equipped to cope with emotionally, and often is very mentally taxing.

Yet, they move.

Never taking a day off, sometimes at the cost of their own psyche’s wellbeing, they move.
You gotta love ‘em, man.
I’m glad that I get to be friends with them.

When the government fails to fulfill its duty towards its citizens, the citizens must rise up to the occasion themselves.

As small-time Youtubers do at the end of their videos by mentioning their Patreon patrons, I’ll now list out the names of all the other people that I know of who’ve worked tirelessly in making this happen, past and present. The work put in by them is by NO means of any lesser magnitude or significance. May the force forever be in your favour. It’s been a pleasure, and I look forward to the day where we can resort to our normal lives.

Teen titans, GO!

Nanditha (AKA Eggy, the cutest of them all <3 who will soon get her own plaque for being senior stock market analyst something)
Susan- Vyshnavi Praveen- Nikhil- Sameeha Mariam- Krutika- Bupesh- Vignesh Kannan- Vandhana- Nikhitha- Sabarish- Reshma Reddy- Tharun Jayaprasad- Jishnu- Manya Prasad- Lokesh- Sumaiyya- Hrsh Venkat- Akshaya Ranganathan- Achyuthan- Sanjana- Gayathri- Rafa- Vishwajeet- Divya- Amrutha Nathan
Vasisht Balaji Srinivasan (the one and only VSB)

Where do I fit in all of this?
https://tinyurl.com/3p77t7k9 (I assure you it isn’t a rickroll)
But I’m very, VERY, happy to help.
Cheers. 

Categories
chilling COVID-19 life Movies

Coping up with COVID

The world stands in shock while India breaks records every day in the number of COVID-19 cases reported. The last count I heard was 4 lakh cases. We have been locked up in our houses (literally or metaphorically) for more than a year now. No matter to what extent you are an introvert, we are social animals by nature, and it is tough to stay at home. 

But something that helped me cope with this lockdown was movies and social media. I travel from Netflix to Amazon Prime, to Instagram, and then Youtube. These apps were there with me throughout this lockdown and made me laugh, cry, introspect, look forward to something, and boost me up. 

Am I romanticizing my relationship with apps? 

*sad life pro max*

But in this lockdown, I got to experience a whole new stratum of content, which included many podcasts, old movies, web series, T.V. shows, musicals, and many more, and these gave me a massive bag of positivity and hope. 

So here are some of the movies/shows/podcasts that made my life slightly better.

[P.S. I didn’t add Brooklyn 99 as it is a part of my day irrespective of the current scenario, but if you feel slightly sour, don’t even think twice to watch B99]

The internet said so

Once the lockdown started, many professions were severely hit, and one of them is standup comedians. Some shows got canceled, and specials could be shot, and so on. I have always been a fan of SNG (Schittengiggles), and when I got to know that four people from SNG are coming back with TISS, it got me excited. I love a few episodes such as Bollywood, Big Boss, Relationship, siblings, and many more. But two episodes that were cold and felt like a warm hug — Death and We’re in this together. The 1.5 hr episode is just me keeping all my thoughts aside and listening to four friends talk about life and crack jokes. Sometimes it just makes me laugh my heart out and forget about almost everything. 

Geeli puchi and Ankahi from Ajeeb Dastans

Netflix loves the concept of anthologies, and the latest Netflix anthology, Ajeeb Dastans, had many good and bad aspects, but two parts that brought a smile to my face are the third and fourth short films, Geeli Puchi and Ankahi. I don’t want to share any spoilers, but here is a disclaimer, you will fall in love with Konkona, Aditi Rao, Shefali, and most importantly, Manav Kaul (I wish I got to meet someone like him) 

*blushing so much that my face turned pink*

While watching Ankahi, the way they handled the story was so simple yet so complicated, it made me melt gradually, and towards the end, I was floored. Am I a part of the Shefali Shah fan club? Hell yes. Whereas Geeli Puchi made me laugh, cry, smile but mainly root for the characters. Towards the end, I was left in shock. Please watch the 2nd half of Ajeeb Dastaans please. 

Modern Love

This didn’t release in 2020 exactly, but if there is a series that can make me feel good and break me, it’s modern love and specifically the 3rd episode. As each conversation progresses, my heart sinks further and further, and towards the end, it pulls me up as well. There is a certain warmth to every episode that makes me root for the characters. 

[this is a short para because I am scared of giving spoilers]

Kumbalangi Nights 

Some movies make us melt slowly and gradually through the film, but this film grabbed my attention from the first minute. The characters in that movie are so natural and extremely relatable that you just hopelessly fall in love. Speaking of my favorite character in that movie, it’s Fanny, the youngest in the house and the most mature. While I root for the other characters as they have certain traits, Fanny is a person I look up to and seek in a best friend, and luckily I have them in my life. You know who you are. And the movie has some breathtaking visuals and soothing music. 

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota 

I watched this movie in an empty theatre and Oh my God! This is by far the wackiest Indian film I have ever watched. The movie showed a unique take on the angry Indian men’s portrayal in the 70s through Surya, who cannot feel pain at all. His innocence and his lack of awareness that the world is way beyond the 90s will make you root for him. But the show stopper is Gulshan Devaiah, who plays Jimmy and Mani. This movie has some breathtaking action sequences with is With some of the quirkiest characters and wacky writing. This movie will crack you up with innocence and will bring you to the edge of the seat during action sequences. This movie is criminally underrated. 

I wanted to add more movies and series to this piece, but the list is exceptionally long. In the end, I would like to say, Stay home, stay safe, and we are in this together. With loads of love and to try lifting the mood, just like how all the Brooklyn 99 trivia manages to fit in the iconic scene, I will also do the same.

BOOOOOOOOOONEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Categories
change COVID-19 Efforts growing up Lessons life personal Poem Self society story Thoughts World

PRACTICAL OR BRAVE?

by:Rithika

Dear readers, it should be noted that I’m no philosopher and am just gathering some thoughts. But, if this helps you make some decisions, be sure to let me know. Because that would mean that I’m good at writing and it’s something very critical for me to know.

So, diving right in.

I’m having to choose between an inner voice and a safe choice because unfortunately, they’re not the same thing for me. If I’m being practical, then I’d have to do an MBA and take a job. Does that not make me happy?

Of course, it does. To be honest, having a stable career is what I want. But then, will I stay happy doing this?, knowing that there’s a writer inside who deserved a chance but quit because I was too scared? It brings me back to my question. Am I allowed to flirt with two different choices? There was a time when I reached a solution. Life felt happy. Everything felt right inside. Until I realized it wasn’t. I was just sufficing myself. That’s when I knew it was legit toxic. But it finally felt so good to arrive at an answer. ‘If you truly love something, let it go if you have to’ seemed to have truly sunk in at that moment.

Getting a normal job would make my family very incredibly happy. I know that.

And I would’ve stuck with that decision if it weren’t for the lockdown. Oh yeah, the lockdown was a really good time for me to explore what writing meant to me. I wrote a few poems. Then thought they deserved a bigger platform than my Harry Potter themed-notebook. I gathered all the courage I had and created an Instagram page for my poetry and then miraculously enough, a few of my poems got published in an actual book. That frankly boosted my confidence. I started writing a novel too, but then I’m yet to complete it. All these things have confused me more. Because writing or literature according to a majority of the society, isn’t mainstream and if you don’t do something mainstream, you’re tagged as incapable for some reason I’ve never understood properly. I then wrote this one specific poem:

Should I go against?

Or bend to their bait?

Is their wish my command?

Even when all I get is reprimand?

Am I free enough to take charge?

Or to let my inner self barge?

What’s holding me hostage?

Will I ever be able to rip off that one bandage?

I want to get out of the trap,

But what if it’s the actual map?

Also then, will the ghosts leave?

I can’t even tell if it’s just a pet peeve,

I live with my fears,

Can’t even get rid in those tears,

Maybe it’s high time,

Should I end this in the prime?

Honestly, this poem made me look at things clearly, and then, I dropped the bomb on my family saying that I’d been thinking of doing a Masters in Literature. Ironically, I can never explain the happiness I derived from their reaction in words. They were okay with the idea of my future where I would be a writer. That lifted a huge weight off my chest. That made me think why I was still scared to take the step of ditching a software job and take the risk of ending up as some non-famous writer. It was because my heart didn’t accept the idea of me leading a mundane life and also, this feeling called regret was something I’d never want to feel. If I was never courageous enough to give my talent a chance; I would regret and beat myself up over it every day later.

 Here’s to hoping that I keep writing! 

Categories
change COVID-19 Environment personal Self Thoughts World

Spiraling Away

By:Varshaa

Living is gamble, loving is much the same, 

Life is chaos, existence is arbitrary and overthinking is everything.

So, excuse me if I sound overly analytical of inane if not mind-numbing things. Also, fair warning, you could most definitely go down a spiral reading this, so get ready for the ride.

When I started attending university, I had suddenly filled my day with so many things to do that I started to make sense of time with intricacy I had never before. I had finally capitalized on time, made these fancy to-do-lists, color-coded, with cross-references to a master list and whatnot. Everything was perfect, no time to overthink, no time to question anything.

Cut to, months later, I was home, and the concept of time was lost on me. Tuesday and Thursdays sounded no different from one another, days and nights merged and I was losing so much time, which I was constantly anxious about. At this point I should remind you, I am an extremely restless person, so when I say I was lost in a timeless existence, I mean that I was trying out new things every other minute and feeling constantly inadequate.

One thing, however, was never lost on me, no matter how many times I wished otherwise. Thoughts.Questions. Thoughts and Questions that turned into endless obsessions. One such obsession was the very human ability to be sad. By common knowledge, Sadness (I mean everyday-sadness, NOT DEPRESSION) is what one would describe when one feels like one has lost something of value. Scientifically, it is the consequence of an imbalance of the ‘happy’ hormone. But what I don’t often understand is the very contradicting human ability to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and why some have that ability more than the other.

What if sadness is objective to time? What if everyone had, say, 50% of sadness and 50% of happiness in their lives and it works like a sand clock? Then, everyone would be just as happy or sad in their lives. What if it is us that put a label on our lives to make ourselves believe that someone’s life is happier or sadder than ours? That could mean you are, by intention, trying to make the 50% of your life with happiness, sad. Then, isn’t it your fault for not trying to live up to the happiness of your life? Isn’t it because of your pessimism that you are not able to conquer your own happiness?

At the same time, what if sadness is subjective and all we need is a little perspective? I know it’s an irritating argument, of course, starving kids in Yugoslavia have been brought up enough in these conversations. However, what I mean though, is the stark contrast we see between things that make us happy and things that don’t. What if we are describing the absence of happiness as sadness due to the greed we have for happiness? In the age of social media and pretend lives, we are so saturated with normal and ordinary, that every-day life is not making us happy because it is not especially special and only special things are supposed to be happy according to our pretend internet lives?

And finally, are we all sad because it is easier than to try and be happy?

Well, thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Yours sincerely,

Spiraling away

Categories
Christmas COVID-19 Thoughts

Please Wear Your Hands and Wash Your Masks

Secret Santa: Neeraj Meghani

Image for post

The title is a half-hearted attempt at humor. In my defense, I was very sleepy.

Christmas is usually weird for my household. While I do not (and can not) speak for all the Christian households in our country, my house has never played host to the whole hiding a present in socks shebang. Socks have a short service period which starts in the cupboard, goes through on our feet, and ends in the washing machine. Retired socks end up as cleaning rags at the most random places in the house, and we just relive and enjoy those memories whenever we see one of our shoe-buddies around. We have never come around to calling chips as “crisps”, biscuits as “cookies”, or “Ma, close the door on your way out, for God’s sake!” as “privacy” but then we aren’t really that modern, anyway.

I am stuck at home with good reason (couldn’t have done this without you, China), till I go to university later next year and all I’ve heard is how this year was a blessing in disguise. Personally, my mind believes in the glass-half-empty school of thought, and I really don’t think things could be worse than they are. Things would actually be better if people stopped talking about how the lockdown was a learning experience, and how they can do the dab now that they’ve taken online classes for the same.

It wouldn’t be justified to shame all the internet, even a place as scary as it has some nooks and crannies that aren’t life-draining and Dementor-ish. Sitting at home with way too many people indoors isn’t always easy for us introverts, and the internet is a good way to escape that thought for a while. It’s true that I made Dalgona coffee like everyone else, baked banana bread for no reason, and tried an ungodly number of fitness regimes on YouTube as if my abs were just waiting for this fickle sense of accomplishment to come up. Being at home used to be so easy when all extroverts used to be outside, leaving us introverts alone to self-deprecate in peace. I loved re-running five-year-old arguments in my head in order to fill the void that’s my brain, but then now I just have new ones with my mother about how we should cut breakfast sandwiches (what are you psychopaths doing if you’re not cutting them diagonally?).

Meals are probably the most mundane things now that eating out (or food delivery) is at an all-time low. Earlier, my parents and I used to have a fairly lengthy discussion about what we’d eat for the next meal, and now we’ve all relegated ourselves to eating anything between last night’s leftovers to last night’s leftovers over bread. I cannot count the number of times I have eaten food while watching random stuff on Netflix, without realizing what I’ve been putting in my mouth all along (Netflix and chill, please get the joke). As of 2020, the average user spent over three hours on the service daily and yet, being the typical overachieving Asian kid as I am, I’ve done much more than the average person.

All I wish to do now is to end this passage that started with Christmas with some wacky statistics because sticking to the word limit is a good habit for any tired writer, and also because good figures are always attractive.

All of us had comprehensive plans for the year that were terribly foiled, but such is the magnanimity of the human spirit that we got through nonetheless, albeit with dangerously excessive screen-times that our digital wellbeing will hate us for. Learning new things, experiencing new feelings, and trying new hobbies make us all unique, and that’s important.

After all, even if you’re one in a million, there are 1350 of you in this country.

Categories
change COVID-19 life Uncategorised World

If 2020 Had Been A Normal Year

Author: Aradhana Ghosh

The merciless blare of the alarm reverberates through the room. The student hits the snooze button in the hope of returning to his blissful slumber. After multiple snoozes, he grudgingly wakes up to deal with the existential question – to attend or not to attend? Through weary eyes, he checks his abysmal attendance record, desperately yearning to let another day of classes go to waste by clinging to the loving embrace of sleep.

The declaration of all classes getting cancelled to facilitate a break, devoid of guilt, remains a fanciful desire.

It is a night filled with exuberant music and dance. People are dressed to kill, to pamper their vanity. New friendships are forged and old memories are revisited. Everybody has the time of their life at the party. Meanwhile, the introvert racks her brain for a new excuse to avoid the Herculean task of socializing. Forsaking the leisure of her couch and the company of a good book is a nerve-racking thought.

If only no excuses were needed to avoid social gatherings.

The persevering employee has been pulling off long working hours every day since she joined the company. With a high income and a prestigious position, she is now at the peak of her career. This year, she will finally go on a well-deserved vacation to her dream destination. She is excited about exploring different cultures and experimenting with delectable cuisines.

The new decade will start with the fulfillment of a lifelong wish.   

The sportsperson has been training rigorously since his potential was discovered in a back alley by his trainer. The Olympics is still 2 months away, but the exhilaration of his impending debut is keeping him awake. He will have to carry the weight of his nation’s expectations on his shoulders at the most important sporting event in the world.

The dream of making the entire nation proud by winning an Olympic medal could come true this year.

We are half-way into 2020. Yet it has already been declared as the most bizarre year in recent history. “Happy New Year” could turn into an obsolete greeting. We long for the old days when the majority of the problems that we had to deal with were predominantly self-centered. Is 2020 the beginning of an apocalyptic period or will we soon return to the years filled with mediocre troubles that we have grown to miss?

Categories
COVID-19 life Thoughts Uncategorised

I Wonder When

Poet: Aaditya

It’s lovely to see and hear you

Through my digital pane

But I wonder when

We’ll be in the same room again 

I wonder when

I will lie in your lap

Or, receive l

A gentle and loving slap 

I wonder when

Will we go out and play ball

I am waiting to see

How much you’ve grown tall 

I wonder when

I will taste your cooking

Or, hear you telling me

To do the right thing 

I wonder when

All of us will be in the same room again

Laughing, talking, and celebrating!

Oh, I wonder when. 

Categories
COVID-19 life Uncategorised World

What After?

Author: Vrushali Deshmukh

The birds are free,

And so the men will be.

The roads won’t be empty,

The way lately they are used to be.

Finishing off errands with a smirk,

With new vigour, we will work,

We’ll be gathering hastily to the favourite public place.

Each family member will finally have a happy face.

The doctors won’t decease,

A cop won’t become a soldier.

When there’ll be a fresher air to breathe

Only then we will embrace the truest meaning of roger.

Distance won’t be a compulsion

And routine definitely in regression

Noisier than ever and closer than before

Will celebrate the essence of life more.

We will kiss our loved ones with passion.

Eyes will turn red, and heart will skip a beat.

As we will step out of our homes

Knowing we have survived it.

Knowing that we are safe.

That day will hit different!

Like a passive wildfire, this virus came unnervingly close only to rip this world in a few months. It’s not just about the sluggish habits. It is about the lethal damage of million lives that we’ve faced and the flattened economies that have put us in a limbo of shuddering hopes of a restored future. It’s already been over four months. The longer the globe sweats to impasse the pandemic, the less likely it is to recognize restoration. Some have lost their faith in government, and some are stashing essentials. Most of us have glided the smallest desires, such as giving hugs and grabbing drinks (that we took for granted all our lives) into our bucket-lists. Everything has come to a precedented halt, even the most awaited 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Everyone has kept their post-isolation fantasies listed. Perspective towards essential services has reformed.

It will take months for mutilation to undo as people will try rebuilding some semblance of a healthy life. The facets such as financial, demographic, lifestyle decisions, child-care, education, sports, business, etc. will face adversities. The behavioural aspects as trivial as intimacy will feel treacherous. Mundane activities such as grocery shopping will force us to envision everyone as a potential threat. The world is undoubtedly going to be different, highbrow, and with more values and no social contagion. Not just gloved servers in restaurants and disposable menu-cards but masked people (evident irony) will follow social distancing proactively.

A storm dies down. A pandemic doesn’t. 

In such cumbersome time, rotating schedules in companies and online classes at home will be reassuring. In any case, the pandemic will reshuffle the global structure in manners that are hard to envision. The disrupted distribution chains will further motivate the economies to devise new methods to ensure stability. Over the long haul, the pandemic will substantially decrease the profitability of the global economy, mainly if businesses shut down and the labour force lessens. The developing nations and those with more number of economically vulnerable workers are at a higher risk of dislocation. The universal framework is prone to incredible pressure, bringing about unsteadiness and global strife. 

Reconstructing economy will have no underlying resilience, thereby promising more of “blue-sky” days.

The pandemic seems like god’s ugly plan to be finally able to hear him. Howsoever chaotic it may seem, it is bestowing on us a healthier planet with a sustainable future.

Categories
COVID-19 Uncategorised World

Music Heals

Author: Harini N P

Music, which can conquer anything, has proven once again that COVID19, isn’t any exception. Researchers in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came up with a tune for the Coronavirus. Yes, you heard it right. All of us are aware of how this virus looks. Its spiky look has now become a common sight on various news channels and internet. However, the sound that this virus makes is something new to us. With the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the researchers have turned Coronavirus into a melody.

The spikes of the Coronavirus, which are made up of a combination of Amino acid sequence and the structure of the spike protein of the pathogen COVID 19, have been turned into sounds. Each amino acid was given a unique note in the musical scale and the entire protein was converted into a preliminary music score which plays for an hour and forty nine minutes. This technique of representing data in the form of sounds is termed as sonification. Developing better understanding of these vibrational patterns of the virus will be critical in designing an effective drug therapy in future, perhaps by searching for a protein with a similar melody and rhythm that would make an effective antibody and limit the virus’s ability to infect the hosts.

With this process, the project lead, Mark Buehler, believes that potential therapies can be established in the hope of preventing the deadly outbreaks by assisting scientists in finding where, on the protein, the antibodies or drugs might bind and could assist scientists to spot specific details that they may have not noticed until now. This research is one of a kind and it is interesting to witness how creatively human brains can work in developing solutions for various problems that the world is encountering today.

Going back to the early Greece rituals, music was used to soothe pain, North Americans and Africans used singing as part of their healing rituals and in India the use of specific ‘ragas’ for curing ailments have been in practice since ages and is used by music therapy practitioners even to this day. In the wake of the pandemic today, many countries have witnessed people keeping their spirits high by tuning into various songs. The citizens of Wuhan were seen chanting “Keep it up, Wuhan!” and singing patriotic songs from their windows, which encouraged everyone in their efforts to save their city. In Italy, citizens have been playing instruments and singing from their balconies during the lock-down. Many parodies have surfaced on YouTube giving hope to people all over the world, reiterating the fact that this epidemic shall be defeated.

While the MIT research offers great scope for finding antidotes, there are certain shortcomings with respect to the working of the AI. Also, the awareness about this technology has not reached a wider audience yet. A free Android smartphone app, called Amino Acid Synthesizer, has been launched. This app has been designed to play the musical compositions have been created by the researchers. Once this gains momentum, the work on such projects will be enhanced and this will contribute tp achieving greater success in combating the pandemic.

Moreover, the spikes of this virus contain three protein chains folded into intriguing pattern, which becomes difficult to see. The microscope and other apparatus to track its movements will require huge amounts to be spent on them. Hence the music notes for these proteins, when heard, can provide a better understanding in coming up with solutions and can be of great help when this technology gains a wider reach. This is a promising project and with dedicated efforts, this will definitely help in contributing towards overcoming these uncertain times.

Music unites the human race. We can always find solace in the lilting tunes when we lend our ears to this divine art. From music therapy to sonification, it will always be there to guide the mankind towards peace and well-being. That’s why it is said that music heals!

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COVID-19 Government Uncategorised World

A Slippery Slope

Author: Shweta Sundram

With the Coronavirus pandemic raging across most parts of the world, bringing governments to its knees and exposing and furthering the different inequalities embedded in the society, there is nothing but panic and fear among people. Governments of various countries, including India have imposed nationwide lock downs to mitigate the spread of the virus. This has led to a growing demand of essential goods to stock up, some of whose prices have increased, lest the situation becomes worse.

But there is an unusual case of a commodity, traditionally regarded as essential, whose prices have not only decreased but became negative. The oil prices have crashed to a historic low,being sold at -$40 per barrel, which means that the seller has to pay $40 per barrel to the buyer to sell off the oil! What explains this seemingly illogical situation? Even before the COVID-19 struck the oil industry, crude oil prices were not doing great. At the start of the year, the price was $60 per barrel and $20 by the end of March. This was due to the fact that the supply of crude oil was more than its demand. Therefore, the oil markets globally, and especially in the U.S, were facing a downward trajectory.

Historically, among the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), Saudi Arabia has been the leader when it comes to the oil market, catering to 10% of the global crude oil demand. It also meant having the leverage to fix favorable prices for oil. It would do that by bringing down the prices, by increasing oil production, and raising prices by cutting production. Recently, OPEC had formed an alliance with 10 other non-OPEC countries led by Russia called OPEC+. The main objective of this alliance is to manage the volatile oil market by undertaking production cuts. Trouble started brewing in the alliance in the early days of March, when Russia and Saudi Arabia bickered with each other on the issue of production cuts to keep the oil prices stable. This discord led the countries led by Saudi Arabia to start undercutting each other on price though they produced the same quantity of oil. The discord was finally sorted out with pressure coming from the U.S, but alas it was too late. COVID-19 had exacerbated the dwindling prices of crude oil, as lock downs in countries made sure that fewer flights, industries and vehicles, etc. were using oil.

There are three primary benchmarks of crude oil, which serve as reference price for buyers and sellers of crude oil, namely WTI (West Texas Intermediate), Brent and Dubai crude. Though all benchmark prices fell, it was the WTI which registered a negative price. This was due to the fact that rather than direct cash, WTI trades in contracts. The May contract of WTI expired on April 21, leading to desperation among buyers and sellers. With sellers wanting to get rid of their oil at really low prices, rather than choosing the expensive option of shutting down production, and the buyers on the other hand, trying to cope up with the loss in storage facilities of oil, resulted in the prices plummeting below zero.

India was not adversely affected as its crude oil basket does not contain the WTI. But oil being a global commodity, the crash in WTI prices has resulted in falling prices of other crude oil benchmarks, thus indirectly affecting India. Indian oil companies such as Indian Oil Corporation Limited have already begun to bear the brunt, as witnessed by a 53% decline in its value.

Nevertheless, the low oil prices do signal some amount of relief to India’s struggling economy. The government can avail this one-time opportunity to fill up its Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPRs) in the country as well as rent spaces abroad in order to increase the storage facilities. This will ensure that our energy needs are met sufficiently at lesser costs. Having said that, the government should take a long-term view at this issue and should not let India’s commitment towards using and preferring renewable energy taking a backseat while meeting its energy needs. Thus, the government should take a balanced view on this and see this as a silver lining in these testing times.