Hope not lost

Most of you reading this might still not have probably recovered from the ‘Christmas feels’ (Belated Christmas wishes!), after all December is the month of festivites – when every person scrambles for their last chance of the year at redeeming themselves.

The calendar tells me today is December 26, 2016. As I begin to write this, well past 10 pm, I cannot help but wonder how many of the 7.4 billion that I share this Earth with, share my thoughts. And trust me, if I were telling you this over a cup of coffee, I would be doing my best to read your face. I would be scanning it to check if the date rang a bell. I would be scouring for an iota of fear that I see in myself when I look in the mirror. Because the date still sends a shiver down my spine.

It was at about 00:56 hrs on the 26th of December, back in 2004, when one of the worst earthquakes ever recorded hit the Sumatra islands. It became catalyst to the deadly tsunami that took hundreds of innocent lives and left thousands of others in despair.

As the news hit me on that black day, I was gutted. I had just returned from the oh-so pristine Andaman and Nicobar islands and I hadn’t gotten enough of its often underrated beauty. Anyone who has visited the islands will agree with me when I say that it is the Eldorado of nature’s creations (let’s not forget those breath taking coral reefs). So when my parents told me that the place and its ocean floor will not be the same, it broke me.

And 12 years hence, I am as gutted as I was on that day knowing that these fragile ecosystems; the coral reefs and other exquisite natural bounties on this planet are on the verge of dying. The only hope remains in the few that care to be vocal about it. It bothers me that 12 years hence, nobody cares about the damage and its repurcussions, about the dads that never came home from work and the moms that never finished cooking supper About the pets that lost their master and the babies that cried uncontrollably that night. About the dreams crushed and the hopes lost. Or maybe not.

Even after Chennai (in India) spent two consecutive Decembers battling (and failing) the floods, and facing the wrath of the nature, it certainly doesn’t seem like it will be the last. If we haven’t learned from Chile and Sumatra I wonder if we ever will.

How easily we seem to have forgotten everything? And why did those of us who remembered choose to stay silent? It amazes me how it got so easily reduced to a mere dinner table conversation. My father at the Christmas dinner asked me, “was it yesterday or is it tomorrow?” and I replied, “it is tomorrow or tonight” (loosely). I thought to myself how we might see a small (unsensational and ignored) piece on the news tomorrow or how National Geographic would air those killer waves episode ‘tomorrow’ in their prime time slot. And to my annoyance I didn’t see any; I didn’t see anything on social media either. Maybe demonetisation is all that we are bothered about now. For a moment all I could think was: “you wouldn’t care unless you saw the place and fell in love with it, and know what has been lost; unless your father told you how bad it was when he volunteered for the relief program because you remember everyone packing all they could to take it those camps; unless you couldn’t eat out that night because Modi decided he didn’t like the 1000 rupee note; unless it stopped you from collecting your cash-on-delivery package arriving from Flipkart the next day; unless you loved the Earth as much as it loved you back.”

But sharing the thought with my dear friend, I realised I wasn’t alone. Over the years we have seen it all – the countries of the United Nations pledging to cut carbon emissions, to save energy campaigns, to introducing sustainable engineering in our curriculum, to Jack telling the world how important it is to save this planet and to prevent the melting of the very iceberg that killed his love story, in his Oscar speech.

I remember this one specific part from ‘Before the Flood’ (documentary hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio; must watch) wherein the man visits India. He asks his co-host why India isn’t pushing harder to switch to solar power and to which the latter loosely said, “We are a poor country, Leo. We still rely on cow dung and if we could do something we would end poverty first.” The answer amused me, I don’t mean to undermine how big an issue poverty is and how it is deterring the country from becoming a superpower. However, in the same breath, I wonder how a thousands of crores worth statue helps tackle the issue, which atleast in the opinion of some, is of more importance than protecting the planet. We might be a country that is currently developing and not financially very stable, but the flora, fauna and the culture we have is rich, that is to say the least. If hundreds of species of trees were uprooted in Chennai this December in a tiny display of fury by nature, I wonder how poor we will end up being if we have to witness even a mere demo of ‘after the flood’.

All this talk about making Mars our home, finding water and searching the possibilities for life, hints to me that we have come to realise that we have done irrevocable and irreversible damage to our beloved Earth that loves us unconditionally. And now, after all these years of abuse, we are too lazy to fix it. Or maybe our scientists have realised it’s too late. As Leonardo DiCaprio said at the Paris Climate Summit, “I am terrified of what i have seen…. A massive change is required right now. … You are the last, best hope of Earth.”

Leonardo DiCaprio was terrified by what he saw and I cannot but be terrified by the very thought of returning to places that once upon a time took my breath away.

The Odyssey: Blood, Sweat and Zeal

The other day I came across a post on Facebook that some page had shared. It seemed to be like any other – reminding me of the numerous pages with mindblowing(?) names like “SmOkieeZz HaHhaA” that I had ‘liked’ during the time my job according to Facebook was “noT yeT woRkiNg !! iM stiLl stUdYinG !!” (Don’t lie, I know you had that phase too. It’s okay, we all grow up). I silently thought to myself how I had to unlike those innumerable pages and unfriend the people who kept sharing their posts. But then I realized, this post was like no other. This one wasn’t about the oh-so-glorified concept of love or the even more glorified heartbreak. This one wasn’t about telling your often underestimated parents how much you loved them. This one wasn’t about siblings and how growing up with them was the best thing ever. This one wasn’t about how your friends are your asset for having stood by you through the thickest and thinnest of times. This one touched my heart. This one was different. This one made me cry.

The post had been shared by a page called “Athletic Vibes” and when I finished reading it, I found my eyes wet and a tear drop on my keyboard. I read it multiple times, each time hammering the words deeper into my heart, and I saw a ton of memories flash before my eyes – The time I first wore a jersey that bore my name on it, the time I was running temperature but threw myself out of bed to play an inter-school finals match, the time I cribbed about having to travel for 2 hours every day to my national camp, the time I played charades on the train with my teammates travelling to Calicut for the state meet, the time I helped paint the basketball court in our school, the time I first learned how to throw a javelin… the list could just go on and on. With all of this replaying in my head, I couldn’t help but realize that we didn’t know it then, but we were making memories for a lifetime.

Today when my brother comes to me and talks about how many periods he spent playing ball in school or how he’s improved his timing in the pool, or shows off a new technique he’s learnt, I try very hard not to show it but it makes me extremely jealous. With the demanding curriculum in college, it’s only once in a blue moon that I get to call myself a sportsperson, let alone be one. But then I realize, it’s not a tag that comes and goes, it’s something that stays with you even after you breathe your last. Once a sportsperson, always a sportsperson.

One of the major reasons I think the post hit me so hard (so much that it made me write this), is because I am currently recovering from an injury to my ankle – an injury caused during training, doing what I love most. Misdiagnosis and improper treatment of a nerve injury caused me to sit out of the event that I look forward to with most fervor each year. I was to take part in 4 sports and all I could do was sit on a hospital bed and read updates from the events’ official page and a number of Facebook statuses. I remember begging my parents to let me fly back to Bangalore and play because I was fine, completely fine. As healthy as healthy could get – except my lab results begged to differ. But that didn’t matter, I just wanted to play. I didn’t want to play for the certificates and medals; I didn’t want to play for the laurels or the praises. I wanted to play for the rush that ran in my veins when I stepped on court and held the ball, or stood before a target, bow in hand; the greed for the most underrated pleasure of yelling ‘C’mon!’ after sealing the game. My need for the adrenaline pushed me to step back onto court even before my injury healed completely but even when I had to stop midway and the pain left me crying in the arms of a friend, both of us knew that although I may have outward regretted my call to play, I was the happiest inside – I had felt that rush after months. The 20 minutes I spent on court that day confirmed my love for sport and made me want to dust myself off and come back stronger than ever.

Both of us authors have had our share of sports in our lives. It is where we have looked for support and inspiration and at the same time, gone through experiences, both happy and sad, but special nonetheless. We have tasted victory, swallowed defeat, rubbed many people the wrong way, and also made friends along the journey. We have even been fortunate to have been teammates and although that endeavor may have had its ups and downs, some moments have no doubt been unforgettable.

I know I may not be the best sports person out there. I may not be great. I may not be a match winner or a game changer. Sports may have been one of the numerous trades that I’ve tried a hand at. But it has easily been the reason I have wanted to push myself forward, especially through the non-conducive environment that is college. It may not have fully succeeded in making me a good human being, but has definitely taught me how to become one. It has given me hope and confidence, happiness and sorrow, awards and injuries, but most importantly, the will to be the best version of myself.

And all that said, I’ll leave you with the post itself:
“One day, you won’t be an athlete anymore. You won’t have those long bus rides with your teammates. You won’t have those bruises all over your body. You won’t have that routine you do before every game. Your teammates will become distant and your laughs will become limited. Eventually, the one thing you looked forward to will come to an end. The one thing you relied on to relieve your stress and allow you to escape from your problems won’t always be there. One day, you won’t be an athlete, you will just have the memories of one.”

Art, Heart, (not) Smart?

I had finally found some free time and was listening to a couple of songs when I happened to come across an interview with this particular singer whose melodies I was listening to. So I thought why not, let’s see it.

A few minutes into the interview, the interviewer asked him how he came into the music Industry and the fellow replied, “My parents said do your graduation (read engineering) and then you can do whatever you want. So I finished my engineering, gave my certificate to my parents and set out to pursue my musical ambitions.”

If I had a penny for every time I have heard a similar anecdote from someone. Sigh. This also, however, made me think, what if these artists had landed up in some some multinational company working desk jobs day in and day out? Here’s my two cents.

We often exclaim how there is a dearth of talent and quality as well as an oncoming monotony in the various arts. What we don’t realise is what’s happening is that the talent pool is, more often than not, made to do something that would secure their future and make them financially safe rather than what their hearts yearn for.

This isn’t the only aspect that has had its effect on the world of art and artists. Let’s talk about stigma; somewhere down the line, knowingly or unknowingly, the society views an artist as someone who has nothing better to do with his time and is of no particular good to the society and this pains me, immensely. Remember, their work has made you smile, comforted you, and been an emotional aid. While you were busy at work he spent all his energy, time, resources and creativity for a noble cause. Remember, I am not just talking about singers here, I am talking about the dancers, the sculptors, the painters, the flutist you saw near the bus stop, the make-shift-drummer drumming his way to glory by the slum.

We want them to keep cultural artifacts, murals, folk songs alive often ignoring how we judge them constantly, atleast till they grab the media limelight. Don’t get me wrong here – critiquing something is very, very different from judging the piece and its maker. Criticism is what helps hone an artists skills, but judgement…? At the grass root level, we try very hard to project our negative attitudes onto budding artists, discouraging them and crushing their dreams.

The perfect testimony to this horrible attitude can be seen in the comments section of any artists work – the personal abuse and derogatory comments which has nothing to do with the work itself. It pains me, everytime I see this. Don’t like it? Put it up kindly. It is extremely normal to not agree with everyone else regarding the beauty or quality of a piece of art, however, inflicting extremely hurtful remarks at the artist is in no way helping your cause – it merely portrays you as a jealous onlooker who a) has nothing better to do with your time and b) is frustrated as he will never have half the talent that as the artist himself. As a viewer what one seems to have forgotten is that each and every artist has his own taste; sometimes which might not be yours and this necessarily doesn’t mean it’s bad. As artists they don’t inflict their opinion on the world. And as we relish their work let’s try to be respectful.

When any child decides to take up fine arts, the society starts making wild assumptions about them. His marks might have been low, why don’t you do engineering/ medicine/law, you won’t be successful if you don’t take up a white collar job. Having had friends who have faced these questions, we’ve all had no better reactions but to look clueless (as we always do in our engineering and law classes).

Here is that side of the coin they failed to see; They are following their heart, which only a fraction of the population has the guts to do. I didn’t. Their roads are difficult and it takes so much perseverance to reach that end goal. They are trying to make a living out of something they are really good at, what they genuinely enjoy doing. They are much more productive than all those who keep questioning themselves when at work,”What on Earth am I doing here?” (which, sadly, is a LOT of people.). At a popular college cultural fest, a student was heard asking an artist, “Are you happy being an artist? We all know that you have had to make a lot of sacrifices for this.” To which he replied – “To make a living doing what you love is another joy all together. Yes, it is difficult but achievable for anyone who is willing to work hard.”

The double standard that the world shows to the art world is quite apparent. The worth of a dead artist’s work runs into millions and trillions. Once they leave for the heavens, we adorn them with glory. But when alive, the controversies are never ending (to the point where if you’re an artist and haven’t had a controversial work, you’re probably no good). Choosing not to buy an artists work is your liberty, but do keep in mind what they say – Buy art from living artists, the dead don’t need the money.
Let’s not forget that every job, occupation or minority is important and contributes immensely to the diversity that humanity boasts of.

As a leaving thought, I cannot but quote Robin Williams from the film Dead Poets Society -“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Weaving Illusions Since 1980’s.

There is this one thing that gets all the attention, no matter what the situation is, especially in every Indian home. Yes, that ‘thing’ I am talking about is the idiot(‘s) box!

The health issues caused by sitting in front of it is an issue by itself. The negativity it spreads is another one. How does it affect an Indian family? Well, those Indian soap operas can kill the humanity in every human being who watches it. The addiction to television can make one forget reality. And for a country like India, forgetting reality is not an option. Spending more time on T.V also means lesser interactions and stuns social development of adolescents. All the things mentioned above are just one end of the spectrum that is always highlighted, which we don’t intend to repeat, at least in this post.

Ever since its introduction in Indian homes, trust me, it has done more harm than good. Gone are the days when we rely only on Doordarshan (Government Owned) for news and entertainment. Today, Indians have access to about 800 channels. We have it all, from regional channels to national channels and the international ones like BBC. News channels, entertainment channels, educational channels or the sports ones, you name it, we have it.

If Mr. John Logie Baird was alive today, he sure would be stupefied by the state of affairs. What must have been one the most useful inventions ever for humankind in the field of mass media and communication, has today turned into something that is merely a goldmine.

The Indian channels essentially run programs to have a high TRP(Television Rating Point). Sometimes you cannot stop thinking that they care for nothing other than TRP. Lately I had the privilege to attend an international event, which had come under huge criticism from the Indian media. Amidst all the chaos(or that’s what the media kept saying) I made it a point to go to the event and that opened my eyes as to how exactly the media worked.

The amount of negativity that was being pumped was amazingly high. During my journey to the venue, I realised how the media had corrupted many minds. The aunt sitting next to me enquired why I was making this journey and I told her the same, and she asked “Are you seriously going to attend that event? I am all against it!” I told her the other side of the story. She listened keenly but maybe it wasn’t enough to undo the brainwash mission that the media had undertaken (and quite successfully at that) for about two weeks. It made me think about all the “paid news” stories that I had ignored in the past. It also made me think how much of what we hear is true. I wondered if professional ethics had become nil in this industry, which caters to a population of 1.2 billion.
I have never been a fan of The T.V(and will never be one!). Switch on the T.V and check a local channel , I almost assure you (especially if it’s a weekend) a movie is being streamed and god bless you if its not a dubbing of a english or tamil movie. Now you move on to the news channels ; local news channels especially in kerala are only worried about what the political leaders’ are doing, who is conspiring about whom, and moreover they keep replaying the third rate comments one made about the other. There could be people dying, diseases spreading but they will simply turn a blind eye to all that.(If anyone in the media is reading this, Boss we don’t care what they say, rather let us know what they are doing(or not doing) for the nation.) Now we switch on to national ones. Every Indian knows what happens in them, there is always the mediator who is screaming as if the entire nation is deaf, and then there are 5 to 6 politicians and other eminent personalities who are supposedly debating, but mostly all they do is not letting the other person speak or make an important point. Every time I see this, it reminds me of the “proper parliamentary behaviour”, The youth are watching , Ad by The Hindu. All those people, who switch on the T.V to see a particular show , especially educational or historical (basically the useful ones) the message you are most likely to see on the screen is “No signal” or “This channel is locked/ not subscribed”. Moving on to entertainment ones, there is always a reality show to watch. There might be no original ones but you might have the “Indian version “ of almost every other American reality show being aired. Oh, I nearly forgot those Saas-Bahu serials! You can catch them in between 7-10 pm in almost every other Indian channel.

Sensitivity is something the Indian media does not understand, privacy is something it does not respect especially ,if their targets are victims of an unfortunate event and specially if the victim is a common man. Their immaturity was for the entire world to see, during the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. They live telecast the entire episode just for TRP’s sake. For them TRP was more important than the national security. They shamelessly highlighted The Delhi rape case and kept nudging the victim’s parents to give them interviews. They have continously failed to do their duty or support any social cause. If only they had pressurised the Government to act on important issues, make trial’s faster, take up the issue of women’s safety and national safety and keep their promises instead of what they are currently doing.
All in all, Indian T.V is more about quantity over quality, TRP, monetary and unhealthy competition. It is knowingly or unknowingly corrupting minds, killing productivity and being used to influence people in a way that is scary. Moreover it is incredibly addictive because it provides high voltage drama. For Indian channels its all about playing with the emotions of the nation, it feeds on the uneducated, the easily influencable and the emotionally vulnerable.

Sometimes one cannot stop wondering if the media people themselves watch their shows, cause it carries so much negativity. Sometimes you cannot stop wondering if the people in the industry feel guilty, if they have sleepless nights because what they are doing pricks their consciousness.
At the moment, only way we can nudge them to be more honest is probably by not supporting them. That is the least we can do to catch their attention. Atleast when the TRP goes down, then may be they will ask their veiwers what they actually want. For a country like India it is essential that the media maintains atleast a minimum standard of integrity as the masses rely on them for crucial information and social development.

Misguided Pedagogy

I’ve always wondered how much of what we learnt at school we need in our daily lives. And what part of what we learnt at school remains with us forever. Is it what our teachers spent hours reading out of our textbooks? Or is it what we mugged up for our annual exams and blurted on the paper? Or is it the bits and pieces of life gyan that your friends and sometimes teachers pass on to you?

You often hear people criticizing the education system in this country of ours. But this criticism has been restrained to merely calling out the ruling party’s shortcomings rather than an actual concern over the manner in which we as a society have been and continue to bring up the future generation. What exactly are we doing wrong here? Every child in his formative years is TAUGHT to decide between a career in either engineering or medicine. The year is 2016 and yet, it takes even the educated sections of society to look beyond these (and a few other limited options) when it comes to deciding what their child does for a living. We often forget that the choice ultimately must rest with the child – it is he who has to pursue it for the rest of his/her life. This topic is an often debated one, and almost always, people, especially parents, admit that children should be allowed to pursue a career of their choice. But when the time comes, for your child to make the all-important step, you step in and make decisions. Hypocrisy much? Being students who just (probably) made these life changing decisions less than a year ago, I think we are best placed to talk about what and why things go wrong.

A lot of countries other than our own, offer the opportunity to students to pick and choose the subjects of their liking rather than from a handful of predesigned combinations which almost always, needn’t be the right mix for each student – one that caters to their needs or gives them the right launch to the career of their choice. But wait, whose choice? And is there really a choice if you are to choose between two heads (with their diverse sub divisions, no offence)?

If every person on the planet pursued a handful of jobs, how can we build a sustainable world? Where will all the creativity and art go? It cannot be asserted that any field of work does not involve the creative mind – it does, but at the same time, imagine a world without artists, singers, poets and dancers? Wanting a secure future for your ward is an understandable concern, but the means you seek to achieve the same is of utmost importance, isn’t it? In the process of ensuring that you child has a bright prospects ahead of him, most parents and teachers forget the other talents in the child that undergo a slow death. The child himself may not realize this initially, but eventually when he does, the heartbreak and sense of loss is irreparable. Does the end that the assignments given to us seek to achieve ever materialize? Certainly not. Copy-paste of the internet is the way to go when you have a deadline; not much to learn about that, is there.

Another major indicator of the failure of education system has to most definitely be the system of marking for attendance (Both authors have very strong thoughts about this – do check their attendance records for proof). Having to threaten students with a bar on writing exams to ensure that the professors don’t end up teaching an empty classroom is pitiful.

What happened to the age-old gurukul system that we had with students residing with their gurus and learning all about life under their guidance? We often boast about the Indian culture and its traditions, we remind the younger generations to hold on to it, but why do we, ourselves not do the same? In a haste to ape the West, we turned a blind eye to the fact that they were constantly bettering themselves, to develop a more accommodating system to ensure that they bring out the best in their youth.

What about the innumerable student suicides that fill our newspapers? They grab media attention for a couple of days but eventually things are back to square one. Be it the 31 suicides over a year in Kota – arguably the go-to place to ‘secure’ your future, the very place that manufactures a far from significant number of children who have lost all hope in life culminating in either suicide or sever clinical depression. Ironic, don’t you think? The looming dream of IIT over the heads of every middle-class family of India, the distasteful reaction to a child pursuing a career in social sciences, the ever so meted out second degree treatment to Arts and other courses are all testimony to the attitude of the people on this regard.

Every child of 12 or 13 in India today grows up in an atmosphere that teaches him to limit his thought process to lucrative paychecks and job security, but isn’t it high time we let them know that there is so much in life beyond their career choice? That their grades are not reflective of their abilities nor a measure of education? That they may not always make the right decisions but never fail to learn from their mistakes? That even the sky is, quite literally, not the limit?

Maybe it’s high time we look into what’s wrong and fix it if we are to realize our former president Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam’s dream of India being a super power by 2020. What say?

The Queen(‘s) Love

They say every person, family, place, country has a story; And at times I can’t stop thinking how blessed we are to be born in this era, in this body, in this certain family, in this place.

We are immensely attached to the place we are born, emotionally. The nostalgia that gets to you when you revisit the place which was once your abode is inexplicable. It is astounding how humans can remember so many detail of things we like love, something they are eternally grateful to.

All three of us were raised by Queens; Our mother and The Queen of Arabian Sea.

Having been part of the city since birth we take immense pride from where we come from. What makes us so madly and blindly in love with the place? Because we are traditional yet modern; we have a history and we make history.
Legend has it that a strip of land emerged from the sea when Parashuraman threw an axe into the Arabian Sea and hence Kerala was born and in it, Kochi. The place boasts of a hoard of cultures – the Portuguese, Dutch and English influences (particularly the stellar architecture they have left us), especially in Fort Kochi, are evident. And better still, people still continue to celebrate each of these cultures in full zeal.

Having had the privilege to travel to quite a lot of places, I dare say that there is nothing like spending the evenings at Kochi. The Fort Kochi Beach , the Willington Island, Cherai Beach, the walk way at Marine drive and sipping tea from a thattu kada; evenings in Kochi are pure bliss. Kochi also spoils you for choice at everything and anything – food being the best example. From The Gateway (previously the Taj and yeah, we have two of those) to Pai Dosa, from pizza huts to shappu food, from cafes to thatu kadas and dhabas. This ensures there is always an argument on where to have food from.

Our diversity is our forte. The place witnesses people from every other state, caste, religion and sexual preference leading lives in harmony. We also make it a point to celebrate all festivities from the pooram at Ernakulathappan temple to novena at Kaloor palli (church) to ifthaars to community lunch at the local gurudwara: being a Kochiite means you are not just exposed to one religion but to the best of each one, which in turn teaches you to respect them.

Amidst our celebration, the rest of the world started calling us a metropolitan city. Our IT parks, extensive modernization, the world-class (solar-powered) airport, malls and cruise ships making halts at Cochin, put us on the international map. If that wasn’t enough, we host India’s first and only biennale, the Kochi-Muziris – the world just can’t ignore us.

But guess what we, and every other person who lands up here, can’t ignore?
The Cochin Carnival, the fact that Wellington island was one the first manmade islands in India and one of the earliest few places to have rail, water, road and air connectivity, the Navy week show, the view of the city from Vallarpadom terminal, the jangar rides, the local transport experience, the nadan food. What more can one ask for?
A city that loved us expecting nothing in return. A city whose residents have lent us a hand in times of need. A place that is home not just to us but people we love reside. For us the Queen is love. And like every Kochiite would know, Ernakulam for us, is just a city, but Kochi is a feeling.

Looking back, the three things that have had the most influence on us are family, school and our home town. As we look ahead into other matters to share our experiences and thoughts on, we want you to know, that these are and will continue to be the strongest impressions on our souls and we are eternally influenced by them – knowingly or unknowingly.

The Metamorphosis

“Remember where you come from and where you are going and why you created the mess you got yourself into in the first place.” – Richard Barch

I was in school the first time I heard this quote. We , the then 11th grade, were desperately searching for a sentence that could lead the teams to the last clue. Why desperate? Well, it was way past midnight and this was for the first event scheduled for our Cultural fest, to be held at sunrise.

After almost a year since then, standing in front of the mic to give a farewell speech, this quote kept playing in my head; on repeat mode. I instead, chose to say another short one (you aren’t to keep the audience waiting right? Send them laughing is supposed to be the golden rule); but my mind was elsewhere. The flashback film had already begun.

I honestly can’t remember the first day of school. The excitement of enrolling into a new place and the pain of being separated from your parents as a first standard kid; I remember very little or none of it, maybe because I had been to this building, the so called school many a time before and many faces were already familiar to me.

Humans, they say, are molded by what we see and experience. And young minds, they say, store these impressions quickly. School, therefore, has played a crucial role in what we are, and has shaped our beliefs and thoughts. This isn’t surprising – after all we spend 7 hours a day at school. (By 11th grade you will be there from sunrise to sunset but I can’t remember complaining!)

Looking back, it feels like a different era altogether. From going to our first inter school cultural fest with chettans and chechis (chettan means brother and chechi, sister in Malayalam) to being regulars at every one of them, to radio shows, tournaments, sports days, Magnum Opus (Our cultural fest) , the responsibilities of being badge holders, to the very last day of school – each and every day at school was an experience to learn from and an anecdote to remember.

For someone who attended bare minimum classes, (there is always something happening in school that you can participate in, just be determined not to sit in class – Tips from Alumni #1) I never thought I would miss it when it’s over, but I realize sometimes the heart and the head does runaway to that place that was introduced to us as ‘second home’ and later became ‘home’.

Our school was right at the heart of the city, which meant space was always an issue. But that was never a restriction – we’ve played every possible game in it. Quick lunch break games, PE periods and in fact every other period (yes, bunk and go to the ground at the back if there is already a class having PE period or play basketball and run for your life when teachers stare! Tip #2) have all been memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Even after all the pranks, mischief and mess you create the teachers will still have your back. They were always way more than just teachers, they were mentors, family, companions and what not. Friends will always be there with you when you are getting punished. Seniors will tell you to enjoy it while it lasts. In short, over your time there, teachers become your fathers and mothers, your friends become an integral part of your life, and the non-teaching staff is there to take care of you at every point of time.

For us, school has been not just a place where we were taught our curriculum. It was a lot beyond that; NCERT textbooks were just a grain in the godown called school life. It was the place where we were taught not only to dream but to chase it. A place where “Follow your heart and passion” were not just words in air but something that was genuinely encouraged. Where patriotism was imbibed and working for the nation’s growth was encouraged, where every culture and festival was celebrated, a place where diversity was cheered and opinions were free to be expressed, a place where constructive criticism was exchanged, a place where respect for rules and authority was cultivated, a place that taught us that injustice should be questioned. A place where “Noble thoughts come to us from every side” was the mantra chanted everyday.

This school has not just been a place we spent our morning hours. It has been the place we made best friends and not-so-very-good friends, people who have influenced our lives infinitely and have made us strive for perfection. It is where we set and met role models; people we would die to be like yet have taught us that being oneself is what makes them so unique. It is where we were taught not to set definite goals, but to challenge our abilities and achieve the unthinkable.

A week ago when a super senior (atleast 8 years older) walked up and said hi, I was partly happy and shocked because I never expected the person to remember me. And what was even more shocking was that the person remembered much more details than I ever expected (like family and friends). That was the bond every individual associated with school had to one another.

Being in this school has definitely made us realise that it was never supposed to be about learning, it still isn’t. It has and always will be about experiences – priceless ones- that you shall get nowhere else and I can safely say that this school has taught us that “Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you”.

Walking out of school was like hitting a brick wall. The only option was to leap over it. As much as they tell you to look ahead you simply cannot stop looking back. When it’s over, all you can do is remember it, feel nostalgic. No amount of words can describe it, it will always fall short.

All we can say is we shall forever be grateful to everyone who was part of this wonderful journey. A journey whose reflections will unknowingly creep into whatever we do, including this one.

Unparalleled Menage

We are all born into a family. Yes, I know I said family and not the planet or anything even remotely close to it. I said so because we all spend a significant time with them and they play an integral part in shaping a human. Also, there is no denying that over the years we all have had a love- hate relationship with them.

Like every other person in their late teens, I too couldn’t wait to go off to college in another city, away from home – my first taste of freedom. But was I ready to step into the ‘real world’ as they call it, all by myself?

Human beings are the only mammals that take care of their offspring for such a long period of time after birth, protecting and nourishing them. We have all been or are currently going through that phase of our lives, the one we spend with family. People often tell you that the time at school is the best period of our lives but we tend to forget that more often than not, a substantial part of that ‘period’ is spent at home with family. If you are one of the (un)lucky few like me, by the time you’re in college, home merely becomes your monthly getaway from the tensions of hostel and college life.

When I hear people talk about becoming an adult, I wonder, in a split second, at the stroke of midnight of the day that marks 18 years of your existence, society decides to give you a lot more responsibilities (atleast that’s what they claim). They let you choose who you want to be ruled by, they trust you with vehicles, they let you marry if you’re a girl and most importantly, let you have that tag that every child craves for – Adult. What changes in that one second is beyond me.

Like every other person that turned 18 that year and the years before that, I exclaimed on my 18th – I’m legal! (Yay). Pat came the prompt reply – ‘So what?’ Even I didn’t have a clearcut answer then. Thinking about it, nothing changed. I was still the 5 foot something girl, as clueless about life as much as I was at 11.59pm the previous night.

After going off to college and becoming a mature adult, you and everyone around tend to convince you that you’re now capable of facing any challenge the world throws your way. But that feeling, I’ve realised, is the greatest immaturity in itself. After living 17 years of our lives inside the protective cocoon that we call family, it is close to ridiculous to even imagine that one fine day, we don’t need to be taken care of.

Yes, being recognised as old enough to make your own decisions is great, but at a later point in time, I bet you will miss the guiding and correcting and the confidence at the back of your mind that you have someone to fall back on when you falter. And to be honest, I don’t think that’s half as bad ; maybe you don’t make the right choices, maybe you make mistakes, maybe you cant ‘adult’, but that’s exactly how you learn after all, right?

For being legal might make you independent, open an array of choices in front of you, give you an opportunity to explore. But always remember that in the end; Family is family, Blood is blood.