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MEASURING IN LIGHT

by: Sutanuka

The light at the end of the tunnel didn’t really make sense to me until I was at the end of the tunnel. When you are at the tunnel, it feels like a long stretch of black cloth wrapped around everything you can lay your eyes on. It’s stretchable and it stretches and stretches.

Subconsciously, I had started to count kindness on my fingers. If you were like me, you barely got enough of it to fill in one hand, but I took what I could; I still do. I had learned to lick it in scraps, taking whatever I could and storing it in a jar made of hope and I took a bit more out of it than I should have every time I was told I wasn’t enough. Which was every day.

 The jar didn’t last long enough and there were cracks on the glass. I was not enough. Every fiber of my being was one touch away from being enough but I never could touch it.

 Enough.

Whatever that is.

 I was always short of being the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the perfect person. I was always tugging it with my thread but those always tore in the middle and I was adrift again. In the emptiness of not enough and never enough and less than.  I was drowning in that vacuum. Years from then I still am not enough for anyone, and even when they tell me that I am, I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop – which I know it will – for them to realize that I have pieces missing from when I left them in my previous life. Or maybe the one before that.

But this is not what I am writing this for. I remember when I was fifteen and in a terrible place all around, I asked myself to rebel. One December, I wrote in this ratty tissue paper that I need to dye my hair a bright pink or orange – a color that my elders hated – for me to finally give that fifteen-year-old peace.

Last November, when I dyed my hair a bubbly pink, I did not remember the tissue paper letter, I remembered it long after I dyed it brown again. Ever since I go back to that December a lot. I think if I had to pinpoint a moment I knew about the light at the end of the tunnel, it’d be that. It’d be that moment when I was sitting in that salon chair watching my pink hair dry when I swear I could see the light. I could see it bright and clear as a day.

Days pass and night changes and I found people who love me. I am terrified of being alone, of being loveless, of being lonely. My friends like me and it’s been so long since it happened that I fight a dead mountain trying to believe it. I think about them a lot and I turn up clueless when I think, why do like me?

When you see the light at the end, you also look back and see the long way you’ve come, but then you also see the pile of stuff you missed out on. You see how many people love you so dearly, but you also see the mobilized fear of knowing they might not really love you. It’s a double-edged sword and you never really escape it.

I think about that fifteen-year-old often. I think about how in some parallel dimension or multiverse, she’s stepping into the tunnel for the first time, not knowing she’ll spend years there and in some other dimension, she’s stepping into it again until, in a thousand different universes, she’s stepping into it again and again and again and then some. 

I see the light now and it’s golden, like daylight, I see everything around me and I wonder if it’s here to stay. I hope it is.

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Till death did us part.

by:Sumana

There didn’t pass a day you weren’t on my mind

There wasn’t an act that didn’t turn my thoughts to you

There didn’t exist a time you didn’t reside in my heart

There is not alive another soul like you

I can’t imagine a life without you

.

.

Yet here we are, 

On opposite sides of a fine, fine line

Nothing new, nothing amiss

Only this once, the line is an abyss

.

.

You dance with death

Whilst I stare from across a chasm

Living a lie

Knowing you court death

How could you leave me

To fend all alone

I know not how to live

Without you by my side

You brought out the worst in me

And you brought out the best

Yet there you are 

Caught in death’s tempest

There is no one else like you

No one I respect as I did you

Another quip, just one other taunt

Anything, anything to get you back

.

.

Whom will I thank for all that you have done?

Who will fill this void you have left?

Whom will I challenge, whom will I fight?

Whom will I grind to dust in my wake?

.

.

There was love in this enmity we shared

There was meaning in our story of hate

There was purpose in our every war

There was elation in our rivalry

.

.

There doesn’t pass a day you aren’t on my mind

There isn’t an act that doesn’t turn my thoughts to you

There doesn’t exist a time you don’t reside in my heart

There is not alive another soul like you

I can’t imagine my life without you.

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The Stoic overflow

by: Prajjwal

Dinner table conversations at home are often unpleasant. It significantly revolves around how incompetent or inexperienced I am compared to other people of my age. I realized I wasn’t worthy enough to be a boy of my age.

Back in school, I was asked to man up whenever I went to seek help during distressing times. I learned that I should pretend to be fine when I am hurt, deep within.

One day I was shamed for not winning at a competition. I had to digest the fact that defeat was never an option in my life.

There are instances when I preferred to remain silent after listening to triggering statements or derogatory opinions. All credits to my conflict phobia.

Finally, I learned to tune myself with the norms and rules of society so that I could fit in and get some kind of validation for my existence, and this was when stoicism entered like a dreaded monster, extending its bloody hands to cover my mouth and cloud my emotions.

According to Greek philosophy, stoicism refers to the teachings or the ethics designed to lead a happy, virtuous, and wise life. It is regarded as a powerful tool for those in pursuit of perseverance, self-discipline, and master, or in simpler terms, it taught people to be free from any kind of passion, and unmoved by grief or joy. History’s great minds believed in stoicism and sought them out. 

Even though the core idea of stoicism is lucid and relevant, the modern version of it seems hyper-polluted. 

Society’s paradigm is quite a complex subject. As you grow up, you are expected to be the ideal man or woman who is capable of handling responsibilities without any flaws and mold into perfect shapes and sizes to please the people around us. And, this is where the misappropriation begins. You tend to suppress your agonies and hardships without any display of emotions, just so that you can avoid getting called ‘the fussy one’ and when you fail or break down, you silence yourself with phrases like Do not give up, Keep calm and move on when in reality, it just starts to snowball and multiply your miseries. 

The societal norms which define the dichotomy between genders have posed an unspeakable threat to the modern world. At places where patriarchy reigns, you can find a crisis of affection, especially in males. They have no female companionships except for the ones at their home, thereby tricking boys to signal their masculinity. They tend to follow the same rituals for generations unless cooped.

I too am emotionally sterile at times. I constantly worry about the visceral way I cringe when I talk on video calls. I waste my time significantly in “What others might think about me?”, unaware that this very notion has the potential to cripple my existence one day. No wonder, Gen-Z has mistaken the word depression for sadness, failing to realize the existence of a thin line between both. There are days when I feel that I missed a great number of opportunities to express myself, cry, voice out my opinions, vent out my feelings. Maybe I was just afraid of grief, which might make me look weak in front of other people.

It is exhausting to keep up to the expectations of people around us, especially at times when you are grappling with your internal self.  It is worthless to bottle up your emotions and choke yourself with unforeseen consequences. We as humans have the power to express our inner self, vent out our opinions. It has a cathartic effect.

Stoicism is brutal. It is capable of taking a toll on one’s mental health. You may opt for silence, but the echoes inside will remain and thrive, to haunt you forever. 

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A piece of peace

by: Netra

Everything around me was dull. The light glowed dim, at least to my eyes. The pale blue bed sheets, glass tubes and bottles, surrounded by freshly painted walls and no windows intensified the silence surrounding me. The air-conditioned room was unbearably cold. I was claustrophobic, but staying in the room was my choice. It wasn’t my fears that worried me at that moment, it was the expressionless man lying on the bed before me, draped in white hospital gowns, and an inhaler tube plastered into his mouth. It was the first time I’d ever seen my restless, talkative and constantly complaining dad lying still and unresponsive on a hospital bed. He was even more afraid of closed spaces than I was. I felt breathless or had headaches, but my father would puke and panic. I watched silently, internally picturing my dad freak,  jumping out of the bed to open windows and doors in his hospital gown. I smiled, tears welling up in my eyes. 

My father was brain dead. The doctors did say there was a 1% chance that he could survive if a miracle occurred. But thinking practically, I knew that was not possible(despite watching a million k-dramas where brain aneurysm patients somehow survived). A ruptured vessel had completely flooded his brain in blood. Nothing could be fixed. I’d already let my imaginations run wild when I’d heard “ blasted blood vessel”. There was no point crying over spilt blood.  

I scanned my father meticulously, memorizing every inch of colour, texture and hair strands on his body. I needed to remember for almost another 70 years( my father would have been proud if I’d memorized so carefully, inorganic chemistry, for my college entrance exams). I placed my palms into my dads. It was cold but not as cold as a dead person’s. If I turned off the AC, would he become warmer, would life magically flow back into him?  Would he wake up?

The nurse had said his sense organs are still functional, so technically he can hear, feel and taste everything but not process it. So, I tried experimenting with his ears first(Yes, I am kind of crazy). My dad had an obsession with radio Indigo 91.9(If you’re a Bangalorean and haven’t vibed to this radio station, shame on you). He would go crazy every time Trevor Daniel’s falling came on the radio. So on a low volume, I played the song and placed the speakers beside his ears. I stared at his eyelids, toes, and fingers expecting at least a slight movement. No Response.

My heart hurt a little. 

Never mind, I told myself, my dad had always been a little deaf. Another ridiculous idea floated into my head.  I wanted to pinch him, if he could wake up, he would wake up then. It felt like committing a crime as I had to avoid the nurse’s eyes. I carefully dug my nails into my dad’s arms and pressed, deeper and deeper, but he didn’t react. I kept pinching, with each pinch, my heart hurt harder. I couldn’t swallow the fact that he wouldn’t wake up. 

 As I was busy secretly pinching my father’s arms, the neurosurgeon appeared.

“Hey, you are the daughter right. Where’s your mom?”

“ She’s waiting outside,” I told him. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only one person was allowed into the ICU at a time. I felt slightly fortunate, I didn’t have to watch my mom scream and cry in front of me(If there’s one thing that made me cry, it was watching my favourite people cry). But my luck didn’t last long. 

“Oh no, that’s ok,” he looked at the nurse. “Let her in too,” he ordered. 

5 minutes later, my mom appeared. It took 5 minutes because she had to wear the disposable cloak, disposable mask, disposable hat and disposable gloves before entering the ICU. All thanks to the virus crisis. 

My mom, with her red, tear-drenched eyes, walked straight towards my father.

“Wake up, look, your daughters here. Your stupid careless daughter. You don’t want her being careless for the rest of her life. Wake up, watch over her and yell at her till she learns!” (It was just like in the movies).

My heart hurt unbearably now and tears clouded my vision. I silently cried beside my mom, still pinching. I had a long life ahead of me and a lot of new people to meet, but my mom would be so alone. I could tell she was trying to think about anything but the future.  

My mom was being a little scary. The three nights my dad was in the hospital, my mom, who hates being touched, hugged me so tightly while trying to sleep, the fact that there’s a 5% chance that brain aneurysms are genetic seemed to bother her more than it did me, she kept checking on me every 5 minutes. 

Three nights, we let him survive high on medication, so his heart would keep pumping at least until my brother arrived from the US. The last thing any of us wanted was my brother to come home after almost a year to find his dad no more. I wasn’t allowed to tell my brother anything about my dad’s condition either, he was travelling alone, couldn’t risk giving him tragic information. 

At 3 a.m, an hour after my brother visited my dad in the hospital, we were told the medication wasn’t helpful anymore. His pulse dropped rapidly and his heartbeat one last time.

That was the second time in all my life I heard my brother cry. 

“None of you are to blame. He was just unfortunate. He was born with a weak vessel in his brain. Some things can’t be controlled.” The doctor had said. But there must be a reason. Our quest for reason is what makes us human, after all. 

Since there wasn’t any physical sign as the doctor had mentioned, “It is undetectable. It bursts when it bursts”, my mom and I began exploring other kinds of signs. The lockdown was a blessing in disguise so that we could spend more time with him in his last days, maybe we visited our native out of the blue last week because he wanted to meet our relatives one last time, maybe we never celebrated birthdays as the others do because someday someone was going to leave the world on one of our birthdays.

But there was one sign that bothered me the most. It was an incident that happened the day before my dad was taken to the hospital. 

I was filling out details for my college application and I picked up my dad’s phone to get an OTP, that instant his phone shut down and I’d jokingly commented, “ What is this? Get a new phone. This phone looks like it’s going to die any day, just like you.” My dad didn’t like spending on fancy devices. He would spend loads of money on healthy foods and buy himself tons of fancy t-shirts and sports shoes, occasionally get us what we ask for but never upgraded his gadgets unless it falls very behind in technology.

My dad laughed and hit my back,” What did you say? I look like I’m going to die any day huh?”

At that moment it felt like a joke. It was like telling a healthy 6-year-old, he was going to die of a heart attack soon(My dad was nutrition and diet-obsessed and quite healthy for his age).

I replayed this incident in my head countless times and each time felt more bitter than the previous. I knew deep down, this incident had nothing to do with my father’s sudden death but it still bothered me, the absence of signs had made me look at otherwise irrelevant things. My mom didn’t know about this conversation. I wanted to tell her, but I couldn’t. I was too scared. My mom was rational enough to know I was not the one to blame but talking about my dad and death might tear her apart.

It’s been quite a few months, I tried to write it down, tell strangers about it. I couldn’t tell my friends, I was afraid it would make them feel uncomfortable. When I run out of things to do or shows to watch, my thoughts drift to this little piece of peace I will never be able to get back unless I tell my mom. Significant or insignificant, I believed my mom deserved to know. Would telling my mom make me selfish, or would it be the right thing to do?

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A Tale Of Two Nights

by:Tharun

14th August 1947

Loud noises of the Gypsy Jeeps were echoing in every alleyway. Alleyways stuffed with people as far as the eye could see. While most of them were rushing to listen to The Man in White speak, a few seemed to be making their way out of the crowd, almost as if they were looking for something precious that they had just lost. Pandemonium. This was the only possible way to describe the night, right in the middle of which was a young girl. Orphaned at birth, she had never known a life of certainty. While many had tried to foster her through the years, none of them ended well. Yet again, she was back on the streets. Although this wasn’t unusual for her, she could sense something very different this time.

She looked weary of her journey. She lost count of the days for which she had been on the road in search of a home. At one point when she thought that she’d found one, she was told that they could only take her brother in. A brother whose existence she didn’t even know about till that moment, but the loss of whom felt as if she had lost a part of herself. Many miles and several horrifying visuals later, she had finally reached where she was now. She didn’t really know if she could call this place home, but she was too tired to go any further. 

The people here looked no different from what she’d seen. What was different about them was that they seemed to have a strange sense of hope. The kind which could be easily mistaken for unrest. She heard someone yell that all their troubles had come to an end. She scoffed at them. Although still a child, she knew not to fall for this illusion; she could see with her own eyes that nothing had changed. Buildings were being swallowed by flames and people were being slaughtered for fictitious reasons. What was funny was that everyone knew this, yet their desperation for hope superseded their ability to sense the horrors of reality.

Suddenly, everything went silent. People stopped right where they were and the Jeeps turned their engines off. The only thing that the girl could hear was the faint voice echoing from the loudspeakers. Someone said that The Man in White had started speaking. Everyone was listening to him as though he were instructing a new way of life. Though she had never believed in hope, the fact that everyone else did, comforted her in a way. Reassured by this, she shut her eyes with a feeling that things would change for her this time, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. 

14th August 2021 

It’s dinner time and everyone is glued to the television. With a plate in their hand, they’re listening to the interview of The Man in Blue, Olympian Neeraj Chopra talking about his historic win. As the interview finishes, everyone is forced to get off their seats by a lady, who just seventy-four years ago was a scared little girl. 

The same girl who once feared for her life now runs a proud household. She has children, friends and family whom she can confidently call her own. Truth be told, not much has changed for her. It’s just that the years have given her the strength to keep a straight face while dealing with troubles. One of her sons succumbed to Covid while gasping for breath. She listens to her friends talk about the way they are subjected to mental and physical trauma at their homes. A few years after that night of 1947, someone once told her that the brother whom she was separated from was actually two people… or something like that, she can’t recollect exactly. Every day she helplessly witnesses her children quarrel with each other for the same reasons that she had seen seventy-four years back. The only difference is that now they pin it on her honour rather than the other person’s cowardice. 

She feels the hope which people once shared is now transformed into something different. It has now changed into arrogance. The arrogance that breaks off a friendship. The arrogance that threatens others to prove its supremacy over them. What hurts her the most is when one of her own children is labeled an outsider. As someone who toiled for years to build this family from the ground up, she feels she let down that little girl who for once came close to believing in the concept of hope. 

Everyone in the household is excited for tomorrow. It’s one of the only days where all of her kids spend time at home together. She personally has mixed feelings about the day. On one hand, it reminds her of the story of a little girl who grew into a beautiful person against all odds. On the other, it reminds her of hope. The same hope which is now synonymous with unrest. She fears for the lives of her own. She wonders if the Man In White lied to the people that night. 

There is one thing that she is certain about. People are not evil, they are simply misguided and afraid. In 1947, her house didn’t have a head. Now, there are far too many, with all of them tugging about the roof in a separate direction. She knows the cost at which her freedom came. The tears, the bloodshed, the unbridled sacrifice that she had to witness to even think of a probable future, let alone a prosperous one. She only hopes that people realise the struggles of those who gave her and many others the chance to have a place to call home, rather than glorifying them mindlessly. But then again, she never fully believed in hope.

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Of Gratitude and Affirmations

by:Prajjwal

Gratitude and affirmations. We all might have come across these two words several times, maybe on our socials, or whenever we surf “How to be successful in life” or something congenial to this. This article is basically a review/experience of how gratitude has transformed, not just my life but the greater good as well. It does sound philosophical or scholarly, to begin with. I, for one, found it worthless and stuff even before I could go on to discover it, only to realize its actual power at a later time, especially when I hit the rock bottom. Everyone does experience their ‘rock-bottom’ phases in their lives. You might be just stuck with some work, you might be in a dilemma on how to proceed further, unable to pull off the burden upon you while you are left with no other assistance to heal your mental wounds. And this is when gratitude can prove to be your knight in shining armor. Also, this is not some kind of a summary of Rhonda Byrne’s gratitude books. It’s just one of my little ‘secrets’, I’d like to share with you.

There are a zillion things out there that go unappreciated or for which we are ungrateful. We all have succumbed to a mundane robotic routine of ours. How often do we realize the importance of people in our lives? How often do we feel lucky to have a roof above our head, pure air around us, the pettiest things we use daily? Be it our gadgets, accessories, or trivial stuff around us. How often do we thank our own existence? To start off with, I’d suggest you maintain a gratitude journal. You could savor your gratitude to all the things or people to whom you are grateful and appreciate their existence. Take a vow to recall moments of gratitude associated with the ordinary events, your personal attributes, things that pique your interests, in order to interweave a sustainable theme of gratitude in your lives.

Second off, practice affirmations. Gratitude and affirmations go hand in hand. Want a new car? Crave for a new outfit? Want to overcome your bad habits? Want to improve your grades? Affirm it! (Nothing to boast, but the secret to all my exam results lie here:)) And slowly you start manifesting what you affirm. You start to attract what you speak. This is the whole concept behind affirmations- the law of attraction. So make sure when you stand in front of a mirror the next time, to affirm good thoughts instead of holding an empty gun pointing at your head. Every syllable we speak manifests energy, towards or against us.

The science of gratitude is omnipresent. It is vast. It is relieving. It isn’t unrealistic wishful thinking. Luminaries such as Plato, Socrates, William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, Newton had discovered it way back and have delivered the same through their works. 

Change your perspectives, drink loads of water, exercise daily, think of grace, gifts and reap your rewards. You do feel a gush in feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin once you shift your thinking from negative to positive. Replace your feeds with gratitude pages, group your apps on your home screen with affirmative titles, consider yourself lucky if you see repeating numbers, download apps that help you practice gratitude, practice freelancing, start writing letters (it’s okay even if you don’t have to send them), and reinforce positivity back into your lives.

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Live in the moment

by:Abhinav

Have you ever thought of what will happen to all your dreams and goals when you die? All the places you wanted to go, all those trips you wanted to go on with your friends, and all the other things you wanted to do. Where will they all go? You will never know. Because you won’t be there to try and achieve them. It is really good that you have your future all planned with all the things you want to do. But you never know what life has in store for you. It can be good or bad. Living in the present sure has its pros and cons. One major advantage of living in the present is the fact that you don’t have to bother about what happens in the future. Not that you do not care about what happens in the future or that you don’t care about the repercussions of your present deeds. It just means that your mind is free of all the things that may or may not happen in the future.

This is especially very true for people like me who tend to think a LOT about things that may happen in the future and get shit scared about stuff that has a 0.001% chance of happening and do not look at the better outcomes which have a higher chance of happening. I tend to believe in the worst that can happen and keep my expectations low regarding any future event. This has sometimes clouded my judgment and thought process which has affected me very adversely when making decisions about stuff that matter at the moment. This can also bring out the frustration you feel about something that you think is going to happen in the future (say, a bad outcome in a test you gave) at the wrong time and on the wrong person.

This in no way helps anyone and is counterproductive. One solution to this is to stop thinking of things that may happen in the future. We can surely prepare and brace ourselves for things which we can control to some extent, like a VERY difficult test that is scheduled sometime in the near future, by planning ahead. But certain things like exam results or the fear that you may get infected in the global pandemic and damage your lungs to an extent that you may not be able to take part in the cardio heavy activities you always wanted to do. The 140.6-mile Ironman you always wanted to finish will remain a dream. The 1000Km bicycle ride you dreamt of going on in your 12th grade will remain a dream.

So what do you do? What can you do about the uncertain future? Nothing. You just have to live the moment. The 140.6-mile Ironman may not be possible in the current situations but what you can do is a 42.2K run. A 1000Km bicycle ride may not be possible with the fitness and equipment you have right now. Maybe try for a 100Km ride or even a 70k. Slowly reach the goal. But do not waste your time and energy dreaming about a shiny and happy future. The future is never happy. Life keeps surprising you and the surprises are not always pleasant. If you keep thinking about when to start, no time seems right to start.

What I want to say is, the future is not in your control. Sure, you can plan all you want but no one can say what is going to happen in the future. Who knew 2020 was going to be all at home and who knows what 2021 is going to be like? Act on your plans and live in the moment because you can never live the same moment twice. 

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is yesterday and the other is tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live.”

~ Dalai Lama

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Stay

by:Ishika

A heaviness falls on my chest as I hear him say the words again, for the umpteenth time today. 

“Stay.” He begs, with a pleading voice. 

“I can’t, not anymore.” I say, with an icy chill in my voice that puts him over the edge as his eyes go small and his face falls. I wrap my arms around his frame one last time and as I wait for his arms to find their way onto my back, I can’t help but contemplate staying for a little long. But I don’t wait. I don’t wait for him to hug me back and I walk away.

There are days when I hear those words ringing in my mind in a litany, when nothing else makes sense. There are days when I hear those words ringing in my mind on loop, where everything seems to have fallen into the background, like a motley of colours splashed on a canvas haphazardly. On either one of those days, I wish that you were here, to calm my ocean down and tell me that it will all be okay. The truth might be far from it, but just this once, I might actually believe you. 

I have been keeping this under wraps for long, in fear that once these words roll off my tongue, it just might be real. There is no going back after that. It takes only one to fall in love and I just might be the testimony to that, just like it takes only one person to wreak havoc and orchestrate loss. There is definitely an odd comfort that comes with being in the company of strangers; where no one knows you, knows your truth, the scars under your sleeves or the voices screaming inside your head while you walk with calm and staccato in your steps.You were not Hawkins’ Jason and I could never be Jess. I don’t know exactly which moment or date I transcended from Rachel to Jess, or if I ever did. I watched you from a distance each day, in groups or by yourself and at that moment I could only ever think of you as a magnificent piece of art I wanted to claim as mine. I talked to you as though I had not observed every little detail of yours and how you turned my apathy into something I did not know. As the distance reduced to endless talking all day on the phone, I realised you were not what I had expected you to be. What a fool of myself I have made, thinking that my imagination could trod over into reality and gain life. 

We were thin glass, you and I – fragile yet iridescent. This is the only thread of similarity running between us.

Running away was easier, holding your heart in mine and listening to your heartbeat could never be easy. I am Frangipane’s muse and you’re the boy from the garden state. A catastrophe underway, grenades in hand. When I left, I took the grenades away and blew it up on me.

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Oh, family mine!

by:Sumana

Your small fingers used to close around mine

Clutch them in a nervous grip

We would waddle along side by side

Braving the world, time and tide

That time you flew off the swing

My heart stopped dead

I fell down right next to you

Wishing I could share your pain

I was proud, so proud

To have you by my side

And now you’re a stranger

Oh blood of mine!

I know I hurt you so

When I told you I wanted a brother

I know I hurt you, by word and deed 

When all you ever did was look up to me

I know I loved you so

Still do, still do, so much it hurts

Only I forgot that I was acting quite contrary

I wasn’t there when you needed me

Oh! I should have been

It hurts,hurts so much when you turn away 

I wronged you, kicked you when you were down

Fought you for our parents’ love

Only, someday it crossed a line

A line I failed to see

Now you have not the will nor the patience 

To hear my pleas, my apologies

Now I’m left all alone

Wondering if you would forgive my follies

But Why should you

You are younger and I was cruel

Oh brother, my brother!

Oh blood of mine!

That day when I realised

That all life must one day end

I did not panic, did not cry

Only wished that you would live and I die

You used to call me cutie pie

Like I was all that mattered

Every time you berated me

You  left my heart in pieces

I gave u all the trouble I could

I used to drive you to anger

But I never once cried

For I knew you loved me still

Oh mother mine!

That day I heard you were hurt

I knew unadulterated fear

I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think

I wished it was me instead

You were my rudder in the storm

My fount of unconditional love

Be it a good day or a bad one

I could always count on you

Oh father mine!

I knew then, as surely as I do now

Nothing keeps me this side of the veil

No dream, no goal, no glory

But your love

Oh family mine!

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World Press Freedom Day

by:Vrushali

It is World Press Freedom Day and what better country to talk about it than India? Instead of how we usually talk about what Indian journalism is (and the degrading quality), let’s talk about what Indian journalism is allowed to be. India has managed to remain at the 142nd position out of 180 countries in terms of the Press Index by being one of the highest scorers in terms of press abuse. It reflects the degree of freedom that Indian journalists, print media and news channels, and netizens on social media have. This rhetoric compels me to imagine the rank of India if the index accounted for human rights violations and the quality of our journalism. I’d rather refrain from thinking anymore. 

Not that it concerns anyone anymore but let’s talk about the Indian Press and freedom of speech and expression. 

With the insurmountable Covid-19 crisis in India, the Indian government has been widely criticized for its desperate attempts in trying to filter India’s global image. It is more concerned about what the world hears about the Covid-19 outbreak anywhere across the 7 continents than actually looking out for its citizens. Well, people shall come and go, the government remains stable!?

Last week, the Modi government sent notices to take down around 100 “misleading” posts and block the accounts of people who were discussing the second outbreak of the pandemic and the mismanagement from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. On April 23, at the behest of the Indian government, Twitter acted on the protocol and blocked over 50 tweets from celebrities, MPs, MLAs of opposition parties, journalists, and others criticizing the mishandling of the pandemic by the government. The tweets that were taken down simply mentioned the upsurge in cases and deaths, the shortage of medicines and medical equipment, accompanied by photos of Modi’s election rallies even as the Covid wave became uncontrollable. The posts also mentioned undercounting of cases, images of mass funeral pyres, patients struggling outside hospitals, and basically criticized Mr. Prime Minister. And one cannot deny that all these claims are accurate (speaking from personal experience).

Facebook restored the  #ResignModi hashtag after blocking it for several hours and stated that it was a “slip-up and “not because the Indian government asked to block it.” The error was apparently caused by an algorithm or a human. It is only fair for people to not buy the story. 

While the possibility of such slip-ups cannot be entirely ruled out, the Modi government has a history of shutting down critics. In my opinion, this is truly worrisome. 

The government’s explanation for removing these posts is that it is controlling the spread of misinformation to curb panic while in the eyes of people it seems to be suppression and intimidation.

In the face of failures and criticism, a leader can deal with them in two ways- either by taking down the failure or taking down the criticism. Modi government is adept at doing the latter. Instructing Twitter to remove tweets that are against the government is easier than ensuring oxygen supply throughout the country, right?

Even in the past, the government was seen tightening its grips on social media by clamping down on criticism about the farmers’ protest, the Citizen Amendment Act, the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, and more. Not to forget, the internet was down in Kashmir for several months to contain information which also made ground reporting extremely difficult. It has also threatened social media platforms by stating the IT laws and policies, leaving no options for them.

Although Twitter has given certain clarification, a glance at Twitter’s relationship with the Modi government proves the two are constantly in a tug of war.

In February, Twitter’s officials faced the threat of jail time for not taking down specific tweets and handles related to the farmer’s protest. Several prominent leaders endorsed Koo app—India’s Parler— in protest. Perhaps fearing loss of business, Twitter later restricted the visibility of some hashtags and penalized 500 accounts. Similarly, In 2019, Twitter faced similar threats for objectionable content but the definition of this “objectionable” content….who knows?

Facebook has earlier been accused of pandering to the Modi government, followed by the stepping down of the public policy head Ankhi Das and the allegations of being biased for BJP. Forget Press freedom, do we even have the freedom of speech?

The goal here, I suppose, is to take control of the public narrative, and consequentially, the quality of Indian journalism is dying because it is scared of being advertised as anti-national. 

Indian Press has failed/ is scared to report other observations too.

For instance, in the US, the Biden government set targets, met the targets, and still stated that it is not enough. In India, the message has always been that we have constrained the virus, be it the second wave or be it the shortage of medical equipment, medical and paramedical staff, drugs, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, or vaccines. Earlier this year, the Indian government spread the message that it had beaten the virus. New cases dropped to 11,000 by mid-February, vaccines were being exported and in March the health minister said India was “in the endgame” of the pandemic. How are you contradicting yourself so audaciously, dear sir?

Opinion-based tweets are being withheld. As a matter of fact, BJP Government’s grip on the mainstream media has always been this tight. Social media was acting like a boon in these times of crisis where individuals and volunteers were putting up their needs and available items for those in need, to access info and express their opinions and concerns which is dead in the mainstream mass media. When it couldn’t get any worse, UP CM Yogi Adityanath went on to say that hospitals are spreading fake info about the unavailability of hospital beds and cylinders and action must be taken against them. In an interview, Home Minister Amit Shah said that we have produced enough medical equipment, completely ignoring the shortages.  It is important to know that Mr. Shah dodged the question of Kumbh Mela and election rallies running in a full-fledged manner despite skyrocketing cases.

What happens when the journalists questioning the central government leaders remind them that they are not only contesting for power in the states but also represent the centre? They are dumbed down or tagged anti-national.

Let me take a moment to put forward my rant about the government here.  Let me exercise my right to speech in the face of dying media and journalism. The central government has had a series of distractions that a normal or rather a sensible government would not have had while they were facing multiple warnings of such a major calamity possibility in the country. From January last year, they were warned about the pandemic coming in, and even by the end of January and mid-February, they were too concerned about Delhi elections and riots. Where Mr. Prime Minister was busy in Namaste Trump rallies welcoming Trump and toppling the Madhya Pradesh government, the government also delayed the lockdowns without preparing for the consequences or impacts on the migrant labourers. Despite this, they had enough time after the first wave but the farmers’ bill proved to be a better distraction instead of preparing for the much expected second wave and improving the healthcare. Holding onto power has always been more important than their primary duty of protecting citizens’ lives. The first mutant was first discovered in October 2020. Britain set up genome sequencing labs in April 2020 while India set up these labs in January 2021 and the funding came in March 2021. This is not a scientifically rational response and we are paying a really cruel price for this. The response seems like an Ostrich’s head in the sand with no respect for science. A majority of statistical models predict that the peak would arrive during mid-May but we cannot even trust the data that is being allegedly underreported by at least 15 times in terms of cases and deaths. Is this the failure of democratic institutions or the populism or knee-jerk reactions?

The Election commission is equally to be blamed for this outbreak. EC is supposed to be neutral but was seen siding with BJP this time. All the parties except BJP pleaded to scrunch the elections in 1 day instead of 7 days and multiple phases and to stop campaigning but it refused to do so.  Even Madras High Court last week remarked that the EC should be “booked for murder” for continuing with the political rallies during the Covid emergency. 

I can still go on if allowed to. But the crux of the matter is that the media has every right to report the facts in the public interest. We need criticism in good faith, opinions, true data, contents of court hearings and to stop dramatizing and politicizing social issues.

It is the fourth pillar of democracy. A morally obligated free-flowing dialogue is what India needs. The media is responsible for formulating and expressing a collective opinion of the public and so restricting it simply means not caring about the public at all.

This world press freedom day, we don’t need anything more than FREEDOM.