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The love-hate relationship

by:Aanchal

I remember the day when my brother took me along with him to an old temple dedicated to Lord
Hanuman. I had been reluctant to go at first because I thought the place would be as creepy as the
area where it existed. It was late in the evening and as we were nearing the temple, the place and
the people were already giving me creeps. Every now and then motorcycles and cars would trudge
past us and for some reason I could not be convinced that the place was safe. He parked his bike in
the parking lot and I accompanied him there, for I refused to be left alone at such a place. We
walked up the gentle slope to the main temple premises. It was crowded but not as crowded and to
my relief, most of them were children. I saw the five-faced idol of the deity and thought about how it
could be scary to look at it, sometimes in the dark, when everything is silent and empty. I was still
not quite much impressed by the place and I only thought of going back home. It was only after the
pooja that he showed me the real thing – A sky full of heavenly pink clouds, all filled up to where my
eyes could see. I could not help but stare, in bewilderment and awe. I wanted to be there forever,
not letting my eyes lose sight of what I had just seen. All my life, I had wanted to see sunsets, the
most beautiful ones, but provided the pollution and crowdedness of the city, the lack of time these
days, and the towering buildings that surrounded our house, the sunsets eluded me. They still
continue to. But for the moment, it made my day, my entire year full of harshness was melted into
this moment of immense serenity, of divinity, of peace. All I could think of, on our way home, was
how my brother happened to discover such places only to astonish me later. As to how he did so
much for the things that made me happy. He has never been the expressive one when it comes to
love and affection. We fight like we are the biggest foes of each other. I tell him sometimes that I
wish I were alone, I had no sibling at all. But then, I look up to times like these, times when he makes
me laugh when I’m crying after a long, rough fight, times when I reach for his shirt when I see dogs
coming towards me in the street, times when I rely on him to make the school bus wait when I’m
late in the morning, times when he does not let me lift heavy things, saying he is stronger than me,
times when I look at him with a babyface when it’s already 11:50 and I have a DA deadline, times
when he smiles softly but says nothing when I achieve something, times when he does not return my
“Bye” when he is headed to his office, and all those uncountable moments and memories which
can’t fit into words. I think about how we are just a year apart but he seems centuries wiser. I have
seen him at moments where he supported me to learn things I could not learn otherwise, I have
seen him take a stand for me in front of my parents. One more thing that comes to my mind when I
think of his un-expressive nature is how he never said a good word about me when I got ready for
an event but how he told me that I looked beautiful, the way I am, for the first time when I wore a
suit. I think of how the love-hate relationship continues to grow despite everything that falls in the
way and that I’m glad to have a brother like him, but hey! Don’t get carried away, we just had a fight
and I’m writing this with my left ear still ringing. XD

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Marie Skłodowska Curie: The woman that defied ‘normal’

By: Johann

Cancer awareness day is recognised every year on November 7 in honor of Marie Curie, who was born on the day. Her story will long be remembered, not only because of the countless breakthroughs on the scientific front but also for the role she played in breaking the stereotype of what a woman can do. Her contribution goes much further than what can be put in words, but in an attempt to pay my tributes, I will try my hardest.

To start her story, we must travel to Warsaw Poland, a time where the nation was in the throes of nationalism and affectation. It was a time of radical change and transitions. Poland was not an independent country and was partitioned by Austria, Russia, and Prussia. To a young Marie Curie, whose family came from the poorest sections of society, the nation seemed to be a prisoner in chains. As she grew, so did the nationalist movement. Like her parents, she was a patriot and held the same pro-polish sentiments, which were in part, responsible for the family’s financial woes.  At 24, she left for Paris, as the University of Warsaw did not accept women. Since women and academic work were frowned upon in Poland, she fell behind, due to which she went out in search of actual laboratory experience. As fate would have it, she met Pierre Curie. Together, they opened up the world of science and changed its face. In 1911, she received the Nobel prize in chemistry, becoming the first person to do so.

On the occasion of Cancer awareness day, her scientific work takes on an even greater significance. As knowledge on radioactivity grew, radiotherapy was introduced as a possible means to cure cancer and is used in nearly 40% of all successful cancer treatments today. In World war I, she famously donated her Nobel prizes to raise funds to diagnose soldiers. However, being unaware of the harmful effects of radiation on herself, often kept Radium in her pockets or in a desk drawer. In line with her life, even her death has standardised several safety procedures that continue to save lives. The next time you hear of a person being treated for cancer, your mind will return to the amazing woman who made it all possible.

In the societal sphere, she broke down barriers, both in Poland and around the world. Peers were forced to stand up and take notice of her work. The Polish government was made to rue the fact that none of her scientific accomplishments could be affiliated with them. Without being the torchbearer, Curie was like the smoke that rises before the fire. Without her contribution, it could well have set back women’s movements a couple of decades.

Perhaps what makes her so appealing and intriguing to the young scientist is the simple romanticism that surrounded her like a halo. Her work was often conducted in wooden sheds, under skylight roofs, with her soulmate. It is the very fabric of what an aspiring scientist’s dreams are made of. It is this level of Utopian fanaticism that carves a niche in the mind of everyone that knows her story. Even the fact that she named Polonium in honor of her homeland and her work with radioactive elements caused her lifelong health issues can’t help but stick in your mind. People can see themselves in the person that was bundled up in the freezing attic in Paris, skipping sleep and meals to study. There are real movie protagonist vibes that one cannot help but feel empowered by.

In her story, there is renowned hope and belief that the grind eventually does cut it. And long after she has parted ways with her mortal self, her legacy continues to live on and inspire. Marie Curie is everything a student who is starting out dreams to be. And for all her contributions to Physics and Chemistry, while she was alive, there is a sense of irony that she cannot witness how her grit and dedication are saving lives all around the world. Finally, and perhaps most importantly (if there wasn’t enough already), there will never be a number for the number of lives of women she has changed just by being that hard worker who never gave up.

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Disconnected in a connected world

by: Keerthana

“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. ”

In this day and age, technology is indispensable and even considered a basic necessity for business, social connectivity, and even education. It has made us “connected” to one another and has been integrated into our lives more than ever before. According to reports from Statistica, there are around 4.66 billion users that are actively using the Internet.

The 21st century has been termed the “Digital Era”. Technology has beneficially influenced every aspect of our lives. We are able to gain access to information from every corner of the world, chat and interact with friends and family from wherever we are, and even improve the lives of the disabled. With the current situation of the global pandemic, it has helped enhance the educational sector by enabling remote learning and has also supported online medical consultation.

However, as technology keeps on expanding there is an increased feeling of loneliness amongst users. Along with feeling alone, reports of anxiety and depression have surged. Social media applications like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp have made it possible for us to talk to people from different parts of the world. Half a billion users have joined social media in 2020 alone. 

So if we are able to connect with more people online, why is there an increase in the feeling of isolation over the years?

Psychologically what is happening is that people are becoming more dependent on virtual connections than real-life networks. Many find it easier to interact virtually than in real life. It leads to an endless cycle, where a person uses their phone because they feel lonely and then after using it they feel even worse. To make up for that, they start using their phones again. This ultimately leads to an increased amount of screen time, which over the years has increased to 11 hours per day. 

Social media exposure has contributed to loneliness. A report found that social media users were three times more likely to feel socially isolated than casual users. Social media conveys this idealized expectation of life and friends which only leads to more social comparisons. 

A professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as dangerous as obesity. Loneliness adversely affects mental wellbeing as it leads to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, reduced confidence, and motivation. A decrease in concentration and energy can be detrimental to work life. It may result in some people relying on alcohol and drugs for comfort. Prolonged loneliness can even alter brain functionality and bring about diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Social connections are a primal human need. For that reason, we have to discuss ways to decrease the feeling of disconnection and promote “healthy connections”.  One could replace screen time with meeting friends or even going out with family. Physical activities like cycling, doing some yoga, or going for a walk can help improve your mood, energize and promote a better quality of sleep. Putting devices away, 30 minutes before you go to bed, can effectively help in preventing disruption in the circadian rhythm. It’ll boost melatonin levels which can help you to start your day better. 

We, humans, are hardwired to interact and connect with more people. On the way to forming “social connections” through technology, our “real” connection with friends, family, and ourselves get disconnected. Only by being aware of the detrimental impact that technology has, can we achieve a perfect balance of real and virtual connections. Only then can we get rid of this loneliness epidemic and be more humanely connected than ever before.

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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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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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Confidence is key

by: Keerthana

“With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.”

Self-confidence is unequivocally essential to living a fulfilled life. Self-confidence is about having faith in yourself and your ability to achieve what you envision. Confidence originates from the word ‘Fidere’ in Latin which means “to trust”. So, self-confidence amounts to trusting oneself. It broadly comprises attitude, body language, habitual behaviors, and response.

Is it really that important?
Being confident in yourself makes others have a sense of trust in you. People that often lack this confidence follow or believe the ones that have greater self-belief. More often than not, having low self-confidence is unappealing in a social or work setting. According to a report, 40% of interviewers reject unconfident candidates from the first stage itself. Confidence plays a big role in furthering your career. It helps you to get rid of activities that aren’t needed to achieve the bigger picture. So, effectively it saves time and extra effort.

So, how do you know if you have low self-confidence?
If you often hesitate to pitch in your opinions or ideas in conversation, you might have poor self-confidence. People may quit on their goals before they have even started working on them because they lack the belief that they could accomplish it. It can even come in the form of feeling worthless or thinking poorly of yourself. If you always find yourself agreeing with others when you don’t truly feel that way, it may be a lack of self-confidence.

Then what causes this doubt?
Surprisingly, according to studies, some people are just born like that. They produce less of the ‘Serotonin’ hormone which adversely affects their behavior and personality traits. But, obviously, their confidence too can be improved.
People diagnosed with anxiety or other mental health issues mostly have a poor self-image. Being surrounded by negative friends or family members also affects self-confidence as it can damage the way people see themselves. Sometimes, people set unrealistic goals and they get upset that they haven’t been able to achieve them. This ultimately, makes them feel like they can’t achieve anything right.

What are the traits of a confident person?
They take the necessary risks to achieve their goals.
They are strong-headed and stand by what they believe.
They aren’t afraid to take help when needed.
They don’t give up trying too soon.
They don’t tolerate being disrespected and set standards for how they want to be treated.

Finally, let’s talk about how we can be more confident.
People around you influence your thoughts and feelings about yourself. Ensuring that you’re surrounded by more positive people can help change how you see yourself.
Studies have shown that exercising and meditation improve your confidence. It improves body image and even helps to recognize and accept yourself.
Catching yourself when you’re having negative or deprecating thoughts is important. This is because if you aren’t cautious, the thoughts just keep on accumulating. After catching these thoughts, the best practice would be to replace them with reassuring and positive statements. Over time it would help you to feel more confident.
Accepting failure is important. This would help you to set goals and not be too hard on yourself if you can’t achieve them. You would feel more confident in yourself and your ability by accepting that you might fail but you will come out stronger than before.
Acknowledging your past achievements are equally as important. It will remind you that you have made it quite far and you should keep pushing.
Talking to psychologists or counselors can help you strategize how to develop your confidence. By speaking to them, you would discover any issues that might have been holding you back.

Building self-confidence can be a tough process but not an impossible one. By giving yourself time and energy, you can improve your overall self-image. By understanding the importance and how to build self-confidence, you can improve the quality of your life and those around 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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Onam:A perspective

by: Joshua

I don’t really know how I’m gonna start this but let’s see how it goes?

I’m not a Malayali, so I was clearly shocked when I was tasked with writing a piece on Onam. I was asked to write about Onam from my perspective and thanks to my ‘mallu’ peeps I have some content.

Also, I’m guessing almost everyone knows why Onam is celebrated but just in case someone is unaware, I shall specify. Onam is a harvest festival usually taking place around August and September. It is celebrated for 10 days with various festivities and activities. 

All the knowledge I have about Onam is from my ‘mallu’ friends(all “amazing”). My best friend is a Malayali, so growing up I spent a fair amount of time at his place, chilling. I spent last Thiruvonam(last day of Onam) at his place and I was a bit surprised looking at the food(Obviously I’m gonna talk about the food). Essentially, I don’t really eat vegetarian food much and it being a festival day, well….there was only veg food, so I was a bit like umm…okay…

The meal is called Sadhya and is eaten over a banana leaf. I sat at the edge of the table, getting ready to eat when one by one the dishes were served and instantly filled the entirety of the leaf. The amount of variety was insane and really overwhelming at first. I don’t remember what the dishes were called but I have to say, they were DELICIOUS. I rarely say this for veg dishes but they were amazing and I was stuffed to the point where I couldn’t move(whew). 

In school, all our teachers would wear the traditional white and gold saree and we would have a huge pookalam(flower rangoli is my best description) in the lobby. The best part was even the teachers who weren’t from Kerala would join in and celebrate, showing their love for Onam.

Okay, so I took a break in between writing this piece since I was out of ideas but I think I might be onto something small.

Since I joined VIT I’ve met a lot of new people and made quite a few mallu friends. These people are so annoying yet so chill, especially this one character(inserts upside-down head emoji) but I’ll tell you about them some other day. So essentially they’ve introduced me to Malayalam media and I wasn’t really expecting it to be so good. From movies to songs and even a youtube channel. Coming to my point, so the aforementioned channel is named Karikku and they make hilariously funny videos in Malayalam(since I don’t understand a lot of it, I use subtitles) and they have like two videos based on Onam which feature short stories. They show how bachelors miss celebrating Thiruvonam with their families and try to make things work among themselves but don’t really succeed. It also involves various plot points which make it hilarious. Towards the end, they are shown united and together and how the spirit of oneness bonds them together. Just like it’s shown, Onam is a festival that is fun when celebrated with one another, with friends and family. My friends have opened my mind to new experiences and I thank them for that(if not for them I don’t know how I would’ve written this piece). Unfortunately this Onam I won’t be able to go have Sadhya(inserts crying emoji). I do not exaggerate when I tell you how tasty it is but it is yummmmmm. 

I don’t know what more I could add to this but considering I went from eating Sadhya to talking about a Malayali youtube channel and I am surprised I had things to talk about. Honestly, never have I struggled to write a piece like this but at the same time, I genuinely loved writing this. Lots of memories came running back to me while I was thinking about this, made me a bit happy 🙂

Happy Onam to everyone and especially to my Mallu Kuttis( the word means small)<3. Hope y’all have an amazing time!

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No monsters, only man

by:Harika

A few days ago, I was watching the Tokyo Olympics Swimming 100m finals and I was reminded of an incident that happened at our community’s swimming pool probably 5 or 6 years ago. What happened there transformed and shaped many of my opinions on humankind and I can never look at a swimming pool without being reminded of the mortifying sequence of events I had to witness that one dreadful day and I’m writing this because even to this day, I think of the boy who was there to swim just like me but became the victim of humankind’s nefariousness. 

And this is what took place on that one cathartic day.

As I see it, the swimming pool is an aggregation of not just water but a hundred thousand particles ready to conquer your throat and lungs, submerge you to make you their own: drifting, silent, dead. I stand in it, between the colliding currents that sway my knees, the blue grasping at my waist. A few meters away a man is wading through the thrumming liquid, his greying hair spots on his head, his bloated gut a ship’s hairy bow. Behind him a boy stands, his pale face twisted, black hair in wet, drooping spikes.

“Why did you throw your goggles and cap? What are you going to do now?” demands the man, turning to the boy.

The boy stays silent, or he mutters something unheard.

Either way, the man continues. “Listen to me. Your mother…”, and the man stops roaring with fury but I think what he wanted to continue saying was that ‘your mother is observing and listening, she is right over there: shut up, listen and behave. Your mother is watching, get yourself together and start swimming, with or without your gear.’ The breeze twists the other way or the water enters my ears, either way, I am too shocked by what just happened so I don’t hear what the man says.

Maybe the boy is now weeping silently, silver streams of tears bulging scars on his cheek, for the man erupts, waving his arms, “Why are you crying?”

The most entitled question: why are you crying? Why have you handed me a consequence, after I rammed the cause down your very throat?

The man inhales the wind, and in a sudden exhale it bursts out through his mouth. “Are you crying for sympathy? Pity? Let me tell you, boy,” and this he shouts, “the more you beg for the pity the less of it you have! Who will pity you?”

My shoulders shake. The boy, stunned, stands unmoving, his head bowed, his back bare. One day he will thank his wounds for being invisible.

“Retrieve your goggles. Retrieve your cap.” The man grabs the boy by his head. “I want you to succeed! What are you doing? Crying? I don’t want you to be a loser! Loser, do you hear?” The man’s booming voice bounces off the pool walls and pries into the boy’s ears, my ears, everyone’s ears, the ears of my cousin who spoke back to his father, my mother’s friend whose husband who would return home drunk at 3 am, all these generations and all these lives until the last hearing ear has been deafened. In his rage, the man spoke the language of humanity.

Then, the soft afterword. “This is for your own good,” the man finishes, calmed after an outburst. “Retrieve your gear, let’s swim.”

This is the thing with people: they vow on your life, praise Satan, talk about helping you get your life on track while all they do is ruin it, and then end with a smile, saying, “This is for your own good.” No, this isn’t for their own good. The boy is going to remember this incident for a really long time, probably even for his entire life, and even begin to detest swimming. For all I know, he could’ve been an Olympic swimmer if not for the man scaring him for life. And I think to myself, in a barbaric world where people are dreadfully cold, there’s no one who will do anything for ‘your own good’. That is when I came up with survival rules for the boy and for myself; rule number one, I think to myself and the boy, don’t believe him. Rule number two: hate him but don’t fear him. Rule number three: smile at him, smile and obey, smile and listen and nod, this is your life, you can change it but not now. These are the rules of the game.

While I watched the entire incident unfurl in front of me, I haven’t seen the man showing an ounce of love or empathy towards the boy instead all I could see was the man’s envy, anger, and hatred. 

Envy is a vice. Instead of focusing on your own goals, your goal becomes to throw other people’s goals off the rails, and at the end of the day, you gain nothing but a mischievous satisfaction that you have destroyed someone. 

It has been years since the occurrence of this incident but I can still recall the fear in the boy’s eyes. What was supposed to be a fun day at the pool changed my perception of the world entirely and a swimming pool, to me, was never again just an aggregation of water but a hundred thousand particles of human piss, saliva, snot, and tears, scoldings, quiet rivalries, and violent pledges, gushing into your gasping mouth and open throat. 

You swallow it and they make you their own.

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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.