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Ophelia: The Tragic Heroine

by:Harika

Ophelia, her very name is firmly rooted within the realm of Greek tragedy and as the Early Modern literature scholar Cherrell Guilfoyle wittily notes, “in one of the fragments of Euripidean tragedy, there is the saying ‘Woman brings to man the greatest possible succor and the greatest possible harm.’ 

In this way, from the very beginning of Hamlet, Ophelia is portrayed in a way that she was meant to be a helpmate to the men in her life. Thus, Ophelia’s degradation, descent into madness, and eventual suicide are all incredibly clear signs that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.

And this is where I am completely at odds with the given narrative about Ophelia

Ophelia didn’t just go crazy because her ex-boyfriend killed her father.

Ophelia went mad because her entire narrative arc in Hamlet is defined by patriarchal control and being treated like a child despite being an adult. Her first scene is one in which both her brother and father warn her not to be involved with a man she loves, but the way they do it is so telling.

Laertes, brother of Ophelia offers a compelling reason for her to be careful: no matter how true his love or how good his intentions, Hamlet is a prince, and his actions can’t always be his own. If he marries he has to marry for political gains, and Ophelia is the daughter of a court advisor with no title. So Ophelia could never be more than a mistress to him, dearly and truly loved but living in social and moral/religious disgrace, reflecting poorly on herself and on her father and brother. And sure, if Hamlet were king, she’d be well taken care of even if she weren’t married, but there’s still the aforementioned problem of honor. And besides, there’s the bigger problem of Hamlet not being king. If he so chose, Claudius could have Ophelia sent away, or imprisoned, or anything else that Hamlet would have no legal power to stop. So it’s better not to get entangled with Hamlet.

Laertes’ position is one that denies Ophelia happiness, but it’s also one that recognizes she’s an adult woman and one that is based on practical truths. It’s a position that grants Ophelia time and agency to end things with Hamlet gradually and in a way that lets both of them process the situation. Well, although, there’s a certain degree of talking down he does to her, it strikes me more like the way an older sibling will speak from experience when telling their younger sibling not to do something stupid. Moreover, their conversation is also one where Ophelia has a chance to respond to him in kind and remind him not to be a hypocrite because Laertes isn’t exactly old either.

But then along comes Polonius, proud and concerned father of Laertes and Ophelia to trample all over that. He speaks all over her, gives her no chance to respond, and treats her like a stupid child, comparing her to a bird caught in a trap. Unlike Laertes, he insists that Hamlet must have wicked intent and be seducing her—thereby assuming that Ophelia isn’t adult enough to have romantic or sexual agency. He’s essentially the kind of dad who threatens to do violence to his adult daughter’s boyfriends (well, not exactly, but definitely the same mindset). He refuses to believe Ophelia when she says that Hamlet has been genuine and gentlemanly to her, not trusting that she’s wise enough to recognize when someone is “only after one thing” versus when it’s actual love.

He then goes on to order her to return his letters, to order her to cut off from him completely and immediately (with no chance to process), and to then read some of Hamlet’s words to her to the king and queen, violating their privacy and turning something lovely into a reason for shame. Polonius says Ophelia gives him the “doubt” that the letter was out of filial duty, but given his busybody character and how he forced an answer out of her earlier, it’s not too much of a stretch to guess that he forced her to give it to him. Polonius then proceeds to conspire with Claudius, the quintessential antagonist to use Ophelia as a tool against Hamlet, putting her in a position to be deeply wounded.

I know a lot of interpretations of the “get thee to a nunnery” scene which is quite a memorable scene in the play reveals the misogynistic ideals of Hamlet where he tells Ophelia to become a nun, swearing off men and marriage as women who give birth are breeders of “sinners” as all men are sinners. You could interpret the scene as Ophelia completely believing that Hamlet is actually scorning and being cruel to her, and frankly, I’m not sure that that scene can’t be played straight on his end either. Maybe Hamlet sees that this is Polonius’ meddling, but maybe he thinks Ophelia is going along with it. In short, though, her father’s actions have put Ophelia in a position to be verbally abused by someone who she believes loved her.

However, later in the scenes you could make out a flirtatious conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia but that’s all in the tone—you could make it flirty, but you could also make it Ophelia being distant out of obligation to obey her father, while Hamlet’s goading her with sexual jokes. So it’s him once again being loathsome at best, cruel at worst.

And the final straw comes when he kills Polonius. Polonius’ death wasn’t the sole cause of Ophelia going mad, but it was the final straw. Sure, her father was a controlling meddlesome imbecile, but whether we read him as actually abusive or not, Ophelia probably still loved him as her father, complicated love or not. And now she’s an orphan, and it’s all because of the actions of the man she loved.

Like, Hamlet’s actions are understandable from his own perspective. But Ophelia doesn’t know about the ghost, doesn’t know about the murder, knows nothing. All she sees is the severe mental deterioration of her boyfriend coupled with the heartbreaking knowledge that her brother and father are right about the relationship not being viable. So she can’t be with him and can’t even stand by him to support him. And then she becomes a pawn in a political game she doesn’t even really understand, her every action directed by powerful men, which results in said boyfriend lashing out at her. And then her boyfriend kills her father for no reason she can understand other than him maybe being insane.

Consequently, you can see why Ophelia would be a little out of her mind by the time she dies.

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A ballad for the love of death.

By: Ashar

I heard a sound, as faint as her tone

The sun was as shy, the river was nigh

For the world was in a spiral, a story for one’s dawn

I drag by my reflection across the sands of her bly

.

Caught my eye, bright as the sun flickering by the ocean

Fresh as her soul was the dress she wore, ashen

The air gazing through my chest spout out alive

Ah! But her heart was of stone, she could not thrive

.

A story of betrayal, sorrow, and love

It was what made us whole for each disfigured

To each of their own, the darkness came from above

Images dancing of our hands together, walls lingered

.

Golden hair, purple eyes, mango residue

A gentle smile, soft-touch, there were only a few

Warm lighting, cozy was her sensation, innocent like a barn owl

Writing about her I wonder who was she under her cowl

.

Running through the park, memories rewritten, like a dandelion shawl

Giggling and looking at each other, oh! did we fall.

.

She might be gone, fixed was she, for I was broken once more

By my dishonesty, I don’t understand why she has to go

Young was her spirit, or so spoke her lore

Everything seems clear, blinded by the snow

.

It was as if yesterday she was my guardian

Couldn’t see for she was my grim reaper

Shredded once again, I started to wonder

.

Who was she when I first met her, I heard the accordion

Who were are we really?

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The Thrilling Touchdown

by:Aasika

On the bustling dawn of June 24, 1982, the magnificent British airways flight 9 bearing 247 lives set off for its long journey piercing through several time zones from Heathrow, London to Auckland, New Zealand. Akin any other day, as the flight picked its customary route devoid of menace to Auckland, it was expected to perform halts at Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Melbourne to unload and load passengers before finally arriving in Auckland.

Moments after the plane landed in Kuala Lumpur, the aircraft fuelers barged into the runway and emptied 100 tons of fuel into its tank and the weary flight crew was relieved by the consummate captain Eric Moody, the avid first officer Roger Greaves, and a new cabin crew before it took off again to resume to Auckland. The passengers were experiencing a smooth flight and relishing the cozy inflight services. After ensuring that the midnight sky is lucid and the weather conditions are pleasant, Eric showed himself out of the cockpit to spend a penny.

The captain’s run to the comfort room was intruded on when the first officer called him out. Sensing the seriousness in Roger’s tone, Eric strode towards the cockpit. On his way back, the first red flag arose. Eric espied patterns of fumes escaping the ventilation duct. Given that the crew members were permitted to smoke in the plane until the late 1980s, the captain initially disregarded the smoke. Seconds later, the intensity of the smoke made it challenging for the captain to ignore it like a cigar corollary. The pilot slid the cockpit door open, still perplexed from trying to discover the source of the smoke.

As Eric entered the cockpit, he was hustled out of his thoughts as he witnessed the concerned first officer’s fixated look on the windshield of the plane which was now being ambushed by flashes of light. The captain calmed the perturbed first officer by explaining that the flashes are a resultant of the “Elmo’s fire” phenomenon which is caused by the thunder clouds producing static electricity and dismisses the arisen second red flag as well. When the metal surface of an aircraft comes in contact with the static electricity created by the thunder clouds, Elmo’s fire phenomenon occurs.

The pilots then cautiously checked the radar in anticipation of spotting the thunder cloud liable for this but to their astonishment, no such cloud was found anywhere around the airplane’s vicinity. This added up to the captain’s perplexity as now he hasn’t the faintest notion of what causes the light flashes. After exchanging glances of bafflement and letting out sighs of exasperation, the duo took a beat to process whatever had happened till now but certainly, they were not mentally prepared to process the series of events that’s about to transpire in the next few minutes.

The plane was approaching Jakarta and it was 8:40 PM in Jakarta now, and the amount of smoke entering the cabin was swiftly increasing. This issue started to create fret and panic among the passengers. The temperature in the cabin began augmenting exponentially and the people in the plane started sweating profusely and experienced breathing discomforts. Furthermore, the passengers seated beside the window witnessed weird sparks in the wings. All of this happened in a span of two minutes only and put the cabin in complete chaos and the attendants attempted their best to comfort the passengers.

At 8:42 PM, the captain received an alert call from the first engineer officer who stated that the plane’s fourth engine was on fire and instructed to shut it down immediately. Only now did the captain fathom the predicament their flight is in. It was 8:43 PM and the captain received another warning call stating that their second engine had failed as well. Taken aback by the instantaneous turn of events, before he could even have a moment to loosen up and clear his head, he received a couple more warning calls stating that the airplane’s first and third engine had failed as well.

Several thousand feet above the ground, the flight was now levitating with no functioning engines, or, the flight was now gradually falling. The first officer quickly garnered the facts, did the math, and eventually concluded that the plane can fly for another 23 minutes and that it is capable of covering only 168 kilometers more and the pilots hoped to find an airport to land in that range. The Jakarta airport happened to be the closest.

The captain contacted the Jakarta airport immediately and explained the criticality of their situation. The air traffic controllers meticulously listened and also enlightened him that currently, they were hovering over the Java Island area which is comprised of a multitude of mountains, and insinuated that they fly at least 11,500 ft above sea level to prevent collisions and reach the airport. Haplessly, the current rate of descent which the plane is undergoing makes it improbable to fly the plane at the required altitude and make the cut.  

The pilots looked around in hopes to sight an acreage to safely land the plane and the Indian Ocean turns out to be their only option. The pilots geared up to perform the intentional water touchdown right after the captain performed one more futile attempt to restart their engines. Even though the captain’s landing announcement rendered momentary solace for the passengers, their apprehension returned when they saw the flight’s engines on fire through the windows.

Individual apprehension transformed into mass hysteria in the cabin and the passengers were having a hard time pulling themselves together. Families snuggled together, the parents protectively embraced their children, youngsters supportively held the arms of their paramours, the elderly faithfully chanted prayers and the others in utter despair started writing for their loved ones.

Just when the passengers were dwelling in the presumption that their circumstance couldn’t deteriorate any further, the cabin started depressurizing and the lights in the cabin started flickering. Next, the oxygen level in the cabin instantly dropped and commenced another commotion as the passengers jostled to grab themselves an oxygen mask. However, the depressurization formed in the cabin was so high that not even the masks could avail the asphyxiation experienced by the members in the plane.

Acknowledging the jeopardy caused by the depressurization, the captain performs a nosedive by motioning the plane perpendicularly down and descends to an altitude of 13,500 ft now. Only now did the oxygen level in the cabin normalize and the passengers in the plane were able to breathe properly. Around 8:56 PM, the captain made one last attempt to start the fourth engine and to his surprise, the fourth engine started and miraculously so did the other three engines.

The captain’s ecstasy at that moment was inexplicable. At the current low-end altitude at which the plane was flying, the mountains were still a peril. So, the captain deftly lifted the plane to a decent sea level to elude the mountains. Minutes after the lift, Elmo’s fire phenomenon recurred and the second engine failed again. Not desiring the other obnoxious series of events to repeat and before the other three engines could fail, he steered back the plane to a lower altitude of 12,000 ft. 

After tackling several other hindrances, the flight finally approached the Jakarta airport. The fact that Elmo’s fire obfuscated the windshield and the landing wheels weren’t functioning perfectly didn’t make their landing any easier but the pilot succeeded in making a not-so-smooth yet safe touchdown. Thrilled by the successful landing the crew members let out sighs of relief and giggles of happiness and the passengers safely exited the plane with no major injuries.

Later, the investigators came up with plausible theories to explain the weird behavior of the aircraft. The airplane happened to have flown right over the Mount Galuggung Volcano. The ashes from this Volcano had formed a cloud at that particular altitude in the atmosphere where the plane was flying. Since the ashes were dry, the layer was invisible on the radar and the pilots were ignorant of the existent threat. The ashes of this Volcano, when it encompassed the aircraft, was liable for all the factors from Elmo’s fire to the engine failures. 

This route to Auckland was shut down for a while after this incident. A couple of days later, after a Singapore airlines flight encountered the same issue while flying over java island, this route has been permanently banned and an alternative has been provided for the pilots to fly.

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Pronounsville

by:Tharun

There once lived a people, in a quaint little town. Called by the name Pronounsville, on no map could the place be found. The people couldn’t care less about, because neither was anyone moving in and nor anyone moving out.

Every facility here was common for all, be it the gym, the school, or the newly opened mall. The people of Pronounsville were an interesting lot. “Our is the mechanic, sturdy and tall.”, shouted out Them, spouse to It and chairperson at the Pronounsville Town Hall.

“Nothing in this town is owned, yet nothing is free ”, is the motto every Provillian follows to the T. Everyone looks out for Eachother, partially because Eachother makes Everyone’s heartbeat with glee. “Please do not mistake us for communists!”, peeped out Who, trying a hand at comedy.

But just as every happy story has to come to a close, the people of Pronounsville were leading down a rocky road. Out of nowhere, Us, the gatekeeper of the town heard a knock on the door. “Can I get your name to alert the chairperson?”, asked Us with an unassuming force. “The name is I. That’d do the job I suppose.”

“Pronounsville is a place unknown to most and visited by none”, said a puzzled Them, trying to put together one and one. “We have our own means and sources to get the job done.” We? “Yes of course! It’s not just I who’s come. Along with I are Me and Myself, and we’re here to have some fun.”

“The town’s motto is quite nice and sweet. But if I were, to be honest, this motto has become slightly obsolete.” For the first time ever, the Provillians were outraged and fuming with heat. “Please do not get offended, by all of this nothing personal do we mean. With Me in town, I (and) Myself will spruce things up and get Provillians back on their own two feet!” 

As naive as they come, Provillians entrusted the trio to complete the task. With no one to object and no one to ask, Me, Myself, and I tore the town apart. Now nothing was common and nothing was shared, “mine is mine and yours is yours” was the new motto to chant.

Soon enough Pronounsville fell out of rhyme.

I was oblivious.

Nothing mattered to Me.

There wasn’t anyone but Myself to blame. In the process of playing with Prounsville’s future, I had forgotten the name of the game.

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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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Literacy and Pandemic

by:Viraaj

International Literacy Day occurs on September 8th, founded by the proclamation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO in 1996 “to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights.” UNESCO continues to play a leading role in improving global literacy and promoting International Literacy Day with governments, communities, etc.

The day brings ownership of the challenges of illiteracy in the local community and the globe, starting with one person at a time, and is celebrated to promote human attention towards literacy and know their rights for social and human development. As food is important to be alive and success the same literacy is also important. 

It is a necessary tool to eradicate poverty, lowering child mortality, controlling population growth, attaining gender equality, etc. It is correctly said that literacy could raise the family status. Therefore, this day is celebrated to encourage the people towards getting continuous education and understand their responsibility for the family, society, and the country.

Through themes and several programs, it aims to highlight the role of literacy and skills development in the context of a changing world. For this year, the theme for International Literacy Day is “Literacy for a human-centered recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”.

International Literacy Day (ILD) 2021 will explore how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centered recovery, with a special focus on the interplay of literacy and digital skills required by non-literate youth and adults. It will also explore what makes technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and meaningful to leave no one behind. By doing so, ILD2021 will be an opportunity to reimagine future literacy teaching and learning, within and beyond the context of the pandemic.

We’ve talked a lot about International Literacy Day, but what exactly is literacy?

Well, the Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines literacy as the quality or state of being literate, educated, and being able to read.” But this ability is often taken for granted because we’ve been reading and writing most of our life. Being literate makes it that much easier for us to navigate the world, do tasks like reading a restaurant menu, a road sign, an exam, or even a novel without it being a blockade for us.

Literacy goals are a key part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDG agenda contains 17 goals and 169 targets, adopted in 2015 to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000. The SDGs are meant to be achieved by 2030, and the UN Resolution of which they are a part is called “The 2030 Agenda”.

These SDGs include ending poverty of all forms, ending world hunger, achieving food security for all, and improving nutrition for the people, promoting sustainable agriculture and its practices, and ensuring that everyone gets an inclusive, equitable, and quality education among others set by the United Nations.

Every International Literacy Day, organizations and individuals take charge and use their literacy to encourage and assist those who are facing difficulties on how to read and write. Students and employed people alike, volunteer to tutor children in the community, donating their books to libraries, and a student’s tuition and learning are sponsored to launch their life-long success. 

Literacy in the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the learning of children, young people, and adults alike,  magnifying the pre-existing inequalities in access to meaningful literacy and learning opportunities, disproportionally affecting almost 800 million non-literate young people and adults. Youth and adult literacy were absent in many initial national response plans, while numerous literacy programs have been forced to halt their usual modes of operation.

Even with the pandemic negatively affecting the world, efforts have been made to find alternative ways to ensure the continuity of learning, including distance and online learning, is used in combination with in-person learning.  Access to literacy learning opportunities, however, has not been evenly distributed. 

The rapid shift to distance learning also highlighted the persistent digital divide in terms of connectivity, infrastructure, and the ability to engage with technology, as well as disparities in other services such as access to electricity, which has limited learning options.   

However, the pandemic has shown us the importance of literacy. Beyond its intrinsic importance as part of the right to education, literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives by expanding their capabilities to choose a kind of life they can value. 

ILD 2021 explores the contribution of literacy to building a solid foundation for a human-centered recovery, with a special focus on combining literacy and digital skills that are required by non-literate youth and adults. It explores what makes technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and meaningful to leave no one behind. In doing so, this year is an opportunity to reimagine future literacy teaching and learning, within and beyond the context of the pandemic.

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Teachers Day

by:Aanchal

Ohh well, it’s a teacher’s day. When does it fall? I am neither thankful nor unfeeling that a special day
has been dedicated for teachers, to thank them and to honor them for what they do. That too, the
day falls on the birthday of a very special person, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. No, I am not good at
remembering dates and events (and that is clear from the first line itself), it’s just that I loved his name
and went on to remember this.
My faintest memory of a teacher’s day is us going to school only to find our seniors dressed up as
teachers and taking charge of their duties for the day. All the teachers were sent on a trip to someplace, giving them a break from their schedule, a day to enjoy and have fun. Growing up and
changing schools, I witnessed a change. The teachers were no longer sent to trips, rather we wished
them a “Happy Teacher’s Day” in a monotonous sing-song every time the periods changed and a new
teacher entered the class. And yes, I was one of those enthusiastic kids who would make cards for my
favorite ones, expressing how much I loved them and what their presence meant to me. Our
relations with them kept changing, from us talking about fighting with friends or getting a scolding
from mom to us getting periods and assumed mental breakdowns that we thought we experienced,
to talking about what we dreamt of a university and how we would enjoy the freedom we would be
entitled to (although we didn’t get any freedom, thanks to the pandemic). Every phase began with a
new face, a new personality, but all of them were equally understanding and equally supportive. I can
closely relate to the quote, “We are who we are, because of who they are”.
From scolding us for laughing and talking in class because they thought we were wasting time, to
allowing us to cry silently even when sitting on the first bench because they somehow knew that the
tears were uncontrollable and that it was the only way to let things out. From arguing with them for
giving us fewer marks in tests, to thanking them after a meritorious result on the boards, we all grew up
and so grew the respect for a sometimes-motherly-sometimes-fatherly-and-sometimes-friendly figure
called teacher.
Now, now, I don’t have all the sweet memories of school and teachers. We all have faced some form
of punishment, be it not bringing a notebook or cheating on a test, or not doing homework, and I am
no exception. I have had strong, well-conveyed disagreements. But just one teacher not behaving
properly cannot overshadow the love of all the others, the well-deserving-worth-mentioning ones.
And now I have a change of mind, I am so grateful that they have a special day dedicated for them.
And why just a day? Why not a year, an entire lifetime of thanking those who shaped our lives and
thoughts and to whom excellence and brilliance meant much more than an A+ grade.

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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?