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Why I’m now Comfortable with my Introversion

Let’s talk about getting more comfortable with being introverted, as I turn a year older today.

This post finds you on my birthday, the 10th of March or after and therefore, I am definitely another year older and am supposed to be, another wiser. That aforementioned wisdom is precisely what I will bring to your notice today and talk about in this very special birthday blog post(Am I too old if I cringe calling my own birthday “special”?)

Full disclosure: I know these are very first world ‘struggles’. I think it is still awesome to feel more comfortable in your skin, even if it is something quite minor, so, here we go.

I was always an introvert. Ever since I can remember, really. I was the shy kid who grew into a reserved teen who is now the “selectively-social” adult before you. It wasn’t something I felt super comfortable with or happy about though, as a child. It was hard being so shy when being social came so naturally to other people. I was always happier with my books, to sit and get lost in imaginary worlds rather than being around other people.

I completely get why I was uncomfortable, now that I can look back as an adult. It is an extrovert’s world and people who are naturally confident and social are the ones who thrive in it. That was true then and it is true now. It is a bit of a controversial take, but I stand by it. As I grew older, the reading stayed as my escape but I worked on breaking out of my bubble. I tried really hard to fit in and even eventually found myself in the “popular” group as a teen.

As you might have guessed, it didn’t magically make me happier and if anything, putting on this act of being hyper-social was exhausting. I eventually burnt out and couldn’t keep up, dropping from the popular group to my standard 1-2 friends, a.k.a what I could manage. It didn’t mean I was upset, in fact, having a few close friends is usually where I’m happiest. You’d think I’d learn from my experience but guess what, (oops) I did it again. (Look at me sneaking in that Britney reference, are you impressed, yet?)

When I started at university around 4 years back( I graduate this year!), I once again felt that pressure to be happening and put on that act of extroversion, for how else would I have the kind of college life we see in movies or tv shows? And once again, it worked for a while. I was popular and I had many “friends” but I was completely and utterly burnt out from having to keep up this facade. It is a precarious road to take, indeed.

You can guess what happened. I eventually couldn’t keep up and was left with my singular best friend, just the way I like it. (Let’s have a show of hands to see who is surprised. No one, right? ) The only difference is that this time, the message really sunk in: I was not an extrovert and no amount of faking was going to make me one. It doesn’t mean I was happy about it, just that this was the undeniable truth.

Now, I write to you, as a much older 20-something who is ready to leave college, already starting my first job and am by all comparisons, pretty grown up. It took lockdown and a pandemic for me to really understand that my introversion was not only a personality trait I had but it was one I had found pride and comfort in, finally. I am okay with not having that happening, social, popular kid life. I am okay with having only a handful of really close friends over many not so close ones. I still love the escape reading brings. I am genuinely completely, perfectly okay with being an introvert. I daresay I’m actually happy about it.

This is not saying that there is anything wrong with being extroverted. If you are one, more power to you! It was amazing being one, even if I was just faking. You can feed off other people and seem to have an unlimited social battery, how fantastic is that! To have the ability to be the life of a room or a party is such a talent; go you! All I’m saying is: I found comfort in my introverted nature only in the last year.

That is not to say that all my efforts over the years to “fix” myself or “fit in” went to waste. Working on my shyness has made me better at talking to new people and my communication skills are one of the first things that are noticeable about me. Trying to be more confident has also in a way, worked. It may not work for extroversion but I promise you, the ‘fake it till you make it’ formula totally works for feeling and being more confident. I found my passion for engaging with people(one on one only, sorry for my crowd-phobia) through my efforts to better myself. And, I truly believe that in many ways, I did better myself.

Also, this might be a good time to sprinkle in a little anecdote so, here we go. I managed to overhaul my personality to such an extent that now, people who have just met me almost always assume I’m extroverted. Not the end of the world, but it is quite hilarious and what I imagine is a rude awakening or them when they realise I am as far from an extrovert as you get!

I feel so ecstatic about being comfortable with my introversion, finally. The guilt of wanting to be alone Netflix-ing or not want to go to parties or just anything and everything social is gone; just because I accepted myself. I am writing this post because I believe my birthday is the perfect day to talk about learning to love myself more as I grow up but more importantly, it is the post I wish I had read when I was younger.

To know I wasn’t alone, to know that it will be something I will be okay with eventually and to just find comfort in who I was; I think it would have made a real difference and I hope to be able to make that for someone through this post. Either way, it is lovely to be more comfortable with who you are and I hope you get to feel the same way for as long as possible. Have a good day, everyone!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

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Movies Uncategorized

My Top 5 Chick-Flick Recommendations

Let’s talk about chick flicks today.

Chick flicks, for the uninitiated, are a slang term for the film genre that is considered especially catered to women,i.e., literally ‘flicks’ for ‘chicks’. Though they can be enjoyed by everyone, they are usually marketed to younger women (Think teens and young adults). In simple terms, these are great women-centric movies with a lot of heart, meant to entertain and not to be looked at from a critical lens, at least not in a typical way. These movies are great for a chill movie night, sleepovers or even for when you just need a good laugh. They are also popular culture staples, and many references you might not even realise are born from these highly iconic films.

Chick flicks are one of the most successful kinds of movies out there but the genre itself is still hugely underrated, being thought of as not “serious” cinema. They are also often severely judged, underestimated, considered foolish and even the term “chick flick” is used in a derogatory manner, all because the target audience is women. This is one of the many ways society’s internalised misogyny seems to shine; putting down things because the majority of their fans are ‘stupid’ young girls. So what if these movies are not “serious”? Every movie does not have to be. They may seem frivolous but are usually great learning experiences for young girls(and everyone else), speaking from personal experience. Whatever is wrong with making and enjoying light-hearted cinema?

With that, I come to my point that while these movies may be called “chick” flicks they aren’t just for “chicks”. Men can, and in my opinion, should give the genre and these movies a try. They can be educational and that kind of education is hard to get from regular life. They are also just super hilarious and fun, so you would be entertained for the hour or so you sacrifice if nothing else. This list would be a great place to start if you need one to begin or just find one suited to your taste from the many such lists online. With that, I think its time to get into my current top 5 recommendations, in no particular order (Okay, this is not entirely true. I do have favourites but I will disclose them, I promise). As always if you do end up giving any of them a shot please do tell me. (You can comment on my blog, email me or contact me @musingsofwhimsicalsoul on Instagram) I swear, I can even take the hate, I’d just really love to hear from you.

MEAN GIRLS

Mean Girls is the queen of all chick flicks, the OG and my unabashed favourite. It came out in 2004 and was hilariously written by the uber-talented Tina Fey. It had quite the stellar cast including the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and of course, Ms. Fey herself. It stars Lindsay Lohan at her peak, as a homeschooled girl who has just moved back to the USA from Africa for high school and is suddenly thrust into the “girl” world full of cliques and unexplainable rules. My favourite thing about the movie is how grounded it remains, despite having some totally outlandish moments; it toes the line between humorous and ‘too much’ so well. It also is ridiculously quotable, has an iconic wardrobe and soundtrack, and remains fresh in pop culture to this day. 

CLUELESS

The 1995 movie, considered a loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma is the “Mean Girls” of the previous decade. Ridiculously quotable with excellent outfits to the boot, this is the story of Alicia Silverstone’s Cher, a popular, rich, beautiful and totally self-centred high school girl who befriends the ‘hopeless’ new kid Tai Frazier played by Britanny Murphy and decides to help her be less ‘clueless’. It has it all: a makeover montage, great music, hilarious moments, excellent fashion choices, famous pop culture quotes, a young Paul Rudd, what more do you need?

LEGALLY BLONDE

Legally Blonde is the best example of chick flicks being empowering for young girls. In this 2001 movie, the typical ‘girly’ girl Elle Woods played by Reese Witherspoon, when dumped by her Harvard bound boyfriend for not being ‘serious’ enough, takes admission in Harvard Law school to win him back but ends up proving herself a successful lawyer, all while staying true to who she was. This movie is another pop culture icon, with many famous quotes and moments, both fashion and otherwise. I particularly love the fact that Elle is proud of who she is, never changes to fit in and doesn’t have to; she can stand out for all the best reasons instead.

10 things I hate about you

The 1999 modernization of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” gave us the most badass female protagonist Kat, played by Julia Stiles, who basically defied every stereotype there was and was happy to do it. (Another character to learn from!) The movie was about a new student Cameron, played by a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is totally smitten with Kat’s younger sister and decides to set Kat up with the school’s bad boy, Patrick Verona, a.k.a young Heath Ledger to get around the sisters’ father’s strict rules on dating. The movie is also up there on the quotability quotient, has a strong female lead, hilarious moments and remains a pop-culture staple. (It’s also as old as me, which will always be a way of measuring time in these posts!)

Easy A

The most recent one on this list and in my opinion the best chick flick to come out in recent years, Easy A came out in 2010 with a screenplay partially inspired by ” The Scarlet Letter” and is still fresh as ever. Emma Stone plays Olive Penderghast a “clean-cut” high school student whose one lie is blown out of proportion by the school’s rumour mill and gives her a ‘reputation’, one that she embraces and owns, at least till she can. Olive might be one of my personal favourite teen movie protagonists and is definitely the most relatable. I love this movie and believe it is quite underrated, at least when compared to its more popular peers on this list. Definitely give it a watch, for the witty writing, Emma Stone’s brilliant acting and Amanda Bynes in her most recent movie role, if nothing else.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What is your Top 5 list of chick-flick recommendations? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Books Uncategorized

Pride and Prejudice, and I

Let’s talk about Pride and Prejudice today.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a human in possession of the Pride and Prejudice novel must be in a state of obsession. “

Take it from me, I am living proof. Be warned that this post will just be me singing praises and raving about how magnificent a story Pride and Prejudice is. This entire post could just be me going “eeeeee”, for a thousand words and the point of the post would be exactly the same but I’ll spare you and try to put forth in a coherent manner, exactly why this 200-year-old novel is the best book I have read recently and my new favourite book.

I know you don’t believe me. You don’t get it. (Unless you’ve read it, in which case you do, please comment and rave with me) I have been there. I have had some disdain for “classic” literature over the years, so much so that I even wrote a blog post about it many years ago. Although as I grow older, I have slowly been opening my mind to the idea of re-reading classical literature and giving it a proper shot as an adult. I have also always loved the story behind Pride and Prejudice, never actually having read the original novel in its entirety but being in love with the 2005 movie adaptation of the same for as long as I can remember. Then, I happened to get my hands on the most gorgeous collector’s edition of the novel(As seen on my Instagram reels) and it was meant to be. I was reading Pride and Prejudice, wholly, fully and finally.

Surprise surprise, I absolutely devoured the book. As someone who has been struggling with finding a reading groove, that is insane. I couldn’t help it; Austen’s writing is so gripping and so refreshingly modern! She was so talented and her writing style is so engaging, it keeps you interested the whole time despite the subject matter being seemingly mundane. The book was also ridiculously hilarious and witty with the balance between satire, social commentary and the story itself being just perfect. It was so thoughtful, so surprisingly in-depth! There were no loose ends and it was so well written that I understood why it was a classic. I also learnt that Austen was a rare talent, one of the greats and so criminally underrated.

As a testament to the modernity of the novel, I found myself in Elizabeth Bennet and aspects of her personality in so many ways, even though she is a character I should have nothing in common with; she lives in Regency-era England and I’m in 21st-century India. She is also by far, one of the most well-developed female characters and/or protagonists I have found in literature and had the true pleasure of reading about, despite having been written in the 1800s. If that’s not contemporary writing, I don’t know what is.

Another fact in the same vein is the character of Mr Darcy and the wonderfully written relationship between him and Elizabeth Bennet. He is the ultimate male romantic interest: he admits to his faults, corrects them and is happy to be humbled by Lizzy for nothing to return. His transformation is so amazing and is written in such a nuanced manner, a testament to Austen’s genius. Their relationship also checks off all my boxes and absolutely kills me: the slow burn development, the enemies(ish) to lovers transformation, a healthy and lovely relationship built on so much love and respect. It is, without question, the ultimate ship and the inspiration for so many couples in fiction. Also before I move on, I have to give a shout out to Mr Bennet and his dry quips, they’re my exact brand of humour and I loved them and his character so much.

My next point is going to seem very reminiscent of English literature classes and for that, I apologise. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the sheer genius of the title itself, it’s so so brilliant! It perfectly encompasses the journey the characters take over the course of the story, Darcy viz a viz his pride and Elizabeth with her prejudices while remaining ambiguous enough and not giving the plot away. I am a sucker for a good play of words and even the title of this delightfully written novel is a work of art in and of itself. How rare and special is that?

Now, onto the adaptations; the obvious next step in loving any story. I have seen two and I love both, for different reasons. One is the 2005 movie adaptation by Joe Wright starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, the other the 1995 BBC TV Miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The 2005 movie is special to me because it’s how I discovered the story in the first place but I also believe it does a wonderful job for what it is: not a faithful recreation of the novel but a contemporary take on it, to present the story to modern viewers. There are some liberties but I think it manages to remain true to the love story at heart. Plus, the cinematography and the soundtrack of the movie are so utterly beautiful. The 1995 BBC Miniseries is on the other end of the spectrum, the absolute gold standard of book adaptations. It is so authentic, almost exactly word-for-word from the novel and you can see how much effort has gone into making as Austen imagined it. It definitely manages to take you back to that time and place and is as proper as an adaptation can get.

Luckily for me, this book is over 2 centuries old and has been in the public domain long enough to give rise to a plethora of adaptations, recreations, retellings and what not. So as I close this post, know that you can find me binge-watching all the Pride and Prejudice content I can possibly get my hands on, for as long as possible and also diving into more Austenian fiction because Jane has made me a fan for life. (Help a girl out with suggestions please!)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you read Pride and Prejudice or any other of Austen’s works? How did you like it/them? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Life Uncategorized

The A-Z of 2020

Let’s talk about 2020 today.

I’m just going to say it: 2020 was A LOT. We all had our own issues to get through and had a rough year. With the longest year of all time finally drawing to a close, I thought it would be good to look back at the year and draw closure from it. Then I had the idea of going through the alphabet with one word for each letter to capture what it was like living in 2020 and it was kismet. So, without further ado, I present, the A-Z of 2020; the emotions of living through ‘unprecedented times’!

2020 has been a year of:

Adaptation, to the ‘new normal’, to the complete 180 that life has made, to the many challenges 2020 has thrown at us. Growing under adversity has made us all evolve and get stronger and I am so proud of us.

Being, existing and persisting in such difficult times is a big deal in and of itself. We get points for just making it through and not being ‘productive’ in the middle of a pandemic.

Change, in the way we live, communicate, socialise and celebrate important life events. Zoom has turned out to be the real hero and staying connected while physically apart from a proper skill.

Difficulty, with all of us trying to navigate this never-before-seen situation. Many lost their loved ones and their jobs, many had to make difficult decisions, quite a few let go of their dreams.

Exhaustion, from trying to stay afloat, from being separated from loved ones, from being stuck at home, from not being able to live our regular lives and from living through the longest most never-ending year of all time.

Firsts, be it your first time baking banana bread or your first Christmas alone, there are so many new experiences both good and bad, that we’ve gained this year. We are living through history and these memories build our personal stories of it.

Gratitude, for the ordinary. Personally, this has definitely been my biggest lesson and I leave this year much more thankful for the littlest of things, like being able to hug my friends or just attend a class on campus than I was when I entered it.

Hope, for better times to come, of coming out better, of learning new skills. Our humanity shines in moments like these and our seemingly indomitable hope and spirit is what makes us special.

Ingenuity, shown by everyone everywhere. This year was, unlike something that had happened in most of our lifetimes yet people came up with the most creative solutions to the unique problems they faced.

Juxtaposition, of people discovering their old selves again and people losing their old selves completely because of the hardships they are going through. Of people finding appreciation for the little things while going through a major event. Of so much more.

Kindness, for everyone. People have really come forward with compassion for their fellow beings all over the world and hearing these stories really fills my heart with joy.

Love, of all kinds. Families, relationships, friends and more, everyone understood like never before the kind and depth of love they held for the people in their lives.

Mankind, of all of us. We have gone through a collective experience like no other, and it has been a truly transformative time for all of us.

Nostalgia, for the familiar. Many of us went back to our old hobbies to deal with a difficult situation and I think I speak for all of us when I say we all yearned for aspects of our ‘normal’ life that we didn’t appreciate enough before.

Ordinary. This year is not the year of being extraordinary or doing outlandish feats. It is one where even doing the most regular things is a feat in itself, and something to be proud of.

Patience for the people in our life, for our normal lives and for ourselves too. This year has taught us to slow down and be patient, whether we like it or not and has made us all see the virtues of slow living.

Quiet. If you live in a city like me, do you remember the deafening silence the pandemic brought on initially? That haunting quiet? The silence of the kind that seemed impossible before but has characterised so much of the year. In 2020, no matter where you went, silence was golden.

Reflection, on our past, our present and even our future. Many of us were compelled to think about the kind of lives we were leading, what we envisioned for ourselves and what we had to do to get there. This kind of reflection is very rare, and while forced was something I quite learned to embrace.

Sharing; your emotions to make the load lighter, your resources if you were privileged, your gratitude to the ones really sacrificing it all for our safety and most of all, for many of us, our true selves after a long, long time.

Togetherness. We may be separated physically but every single one of us is united by the experience of living through a pandemic and at some level has been affected by it.

Uncertainty, for the future. 2020 meant a lot of us had to reassess our life goals and were suddenly thrown into a lack of clarity about what the future would bring. The future is looking brighter now, with some vaccines on the horizon but still, hugely uncertain. We can’t know for sure what a post-COVID world will look like.

Vulnerability, of opening ourselves up, of emotionally exposing ourselves and of sharing the hidden aspects of our personality with people close as well as distant.

Weirdness. Truly. It has been such an absurd year; so much has happened and all of it is so different and unrelated from each other. It has been a truly wild year.

Xenia. Yes, I had to get a little creative and look a word up for ‘X’. I found this wonderfully apt though. ‘Xenia’ is the ancient Greek custom of generosity and friendship shown to those far from home. Through blogging and my blog Instagram, I have truly felt the gift of ‘Xenia’ manifold.

Yearning, hankering, hoping, wishing for better more comfortable times, for experiences of an age past, for people that are far.

Zen. I think 2020 really bought the importance of self-care forth and I’m really hoping we take this focus on maintaining our mental peace with us into the new year.

And that’s all, everyone! The best thing is that as hard as it was, 2020 is finally ending. So, pat yourself on the back for having survived through a very gruelling year and let’s bid adieu to never having to hear the phrase, ‘New normal’, Happy new year!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What is one word to describe your emotional journey in 2020? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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Movies Uncategorized

My Top 5 Rom-Com Recommendations

Lets talk about romantic comedies today.

Romantic Comedies. Rom-Coms. Considered a sub-genre of comedy that focuses more on romance, but in my opinion, deserves way more credit than that. Rom-Coms remain one of the most universally likeable films and are as a genre, quite open and accepting. Yes, it has its tropes and cliche’s but which genre doesn’t? The important thing to remember is that we all like ’em. That’s how they became a cliche, in the first place, is it not?

Any and all scoff of romantic comedies, originates from a disdain for ‘romance’, rather than the comic aspect of it all. Yes, people are allowed their opinions but I think most romance hating is a trait adapted to look socially ‘cooler’ rather than actually being innate. (Believe me, I’ve been on both sides of this argument) Rom-Com hater or lover, either way, I think the most important aspect to remember going into watching a romantic comedy is to put that dire need for realism aside and just let fantasies fly for the next hour or two. It will help you and those with you actually enjoy the movie and you’ll all be happier for it.

Obviously, as with all things, not all romantic comedies are built equally. Some are wholly bizarre and frankly, leave you wondering why you ever chose to watch them. Others are so, so. Not too amazing, not too ridiculous; a great one time watch. However, there are a few select others, that are so special and take you on an emotional journey; the best kind of movies. Today, we will be focusing on that kind. So, without any more fuss, let’s get into my current top 5 rom-com recommendations, in no particular order. If you do end up giving any of them a shot, please do tell me. (You can comment on my blog, email me or contact me @musingsofwhimsicalsoul on Instagram) Even if you hated the film, I’d be too stoked about having managed to sell someone on trying out a movie to care. I swear.

Notting Hill

Notting Hill is a classic romantic comedy that’s as old as me! (What a completely normal way to measure time!) It came out way back in 1999, and stars *wait for it* Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. It takes on a very relatable fantasy of what you would do if a famous actor/actress suddenly bumped into you. Hugh is, well, his usual character of an affable, adorable British man who lives with a quirky roommate and owns a bookstore, which the famous actress Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts, walks into. A very genuinely sweet movie and the one behind the mega-famous, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” monologue.

Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman is another even older classic rom-com with Julia Roberts! Julia, in my opinion, absolutely ruled the rom-com market in the 90s and deservedly so. In Pretty Woman, she plays a down- on-her-luck prostitute, who is hired by a wealthy businessman, played by Richard Gere, to be his escort for business and social events for a week. The movie is about the relationship(Wink-wink, nudge-nudge) they develop in this week and also, how cute they both are. (I’m not kidding, this is the official summary of the movie, ask Wikipedia) In other highlights, it has an excellent shopping/makeover montage and an adorable ‘happy ending’.

About Time

About Time is more about-our-time. (Did you laugh?) It’s a 2013 romantic comedy featuring Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams in one of the sweetest romantic comedies of the last decade. About Time is what you get when you combine time travel, a very sci-fi trope with a rom-com. I think its most winning quality and what makes it stand out is the focus it gives to the other relationships apart from just the movie’s romance. The romance gets its time and rightfully so, but the familial relationships really set the movie apart. As a bonus, Rachel McAdams is playing yet another time traveller’s romantic interest (That brings the count to 3, right?) and the soundtrack is wonderful.

Dirty Dancing

Going way back to 1987 brings us the ultimate classic that is Dirty Dancing. Supposed to be set in the ’60s but really just people dressed in 80’s clothes doing 60’s things, like going to the Catskills. It is the OG dance movie with Jennifer Grey playing ‘Baby’, who is visiting the resort and Patrick Swayze as the dance instructor she falls in love with. The movie is super iconic and surprisingly modern, despite its flaws. It has spawned many pop-culture references, think ” No one puts Baby in the corner” or the very oft-referenced “Time of My Life” lift. Watch it for the dancing and the soundtrack, if nothing else. (And Patrick Swayze, did I mention him?)

Crazy Rich Asians

And finally, Crazy Rich Asians! The most recent of the bunch, this 2018 rom-com stars Constance Wu as a Chinese-American professor who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend a.k.a Henry Golding to visit his family in Singapore and discovers that they are *spoiler alert* ‘crazy rich’. It’s a very entertaining movie, great PR for Singapore and one of the best rom-coms to come out in recent years. For me though, this movie is special because it represents the future of romantic comedies that I stand by; more inclusive stories about all kinds of people and cultures. It was a milestone in the genre and I’m so excited about the wind of change it brings!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What is your Top 5 list of rom-com recommendations? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

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Mythology Uncategorized

De-myth-ify: Kurmavatara (Part Three)

Let’s talk about Hindu mythology and the story of the second of Vishnu’s 10 incarnations or Dasavatara, the Kurma or the tortoise, today. This is the last part of a three-part series on the Kurmavatara. If you haven’t read the previous parts, do go and read Part One and Part Two before you continue here.

Now that the story is done, let’s talk about it.

This was quite an elegant series, was it not? Even if I do say so myself. It is definitely a much more complex and richer story than that of the first avatar, Matsya. This myth is also a very classic tale and a solid jumping point into Hindu mythology. 

One of these typical tropes is that Hindu myths always tend to have ‘morals’ associated with them quite unlike the more entertainment-oriented Greek myths. This is simply because of the reasons the myths were written; Greek myths were performed for an audience while Hindu myths were typically used to impart a moral education across younger generations. This myth is no exception. There is the ever-so prevalent and oft-repeated, “Good always triumphs over evil”, the very Dumbledore-esque, “Help will always be given to those who ask for it”, the downfalls of greed contrasted with the virtues of patience and hard work and many many more lessons that I have probably missed.

This avatar in itself is also a level up from the first one. This tends to also be a theme with Vishnu’s avatars, with each Avatar becoming more powerful, with a more complicated story and more human. I think it is quite underrated though, as far as the Dasavatara go, overshadowed by the more pompous later avatars. It is quite undramatic, kind of anticlimactic and just simply, focused on the need of the hour. That is not to say that the Kurma is unimportant; there would be no Samudra Manthan without it, just simply appreciating the no-frills attitude it had.

The myth though is quite the opposite. You have way too many contenders for both the protagonist and antagonist positions, issues at every turn and all these new people turning up to resolve those issues constantly. It makes for good storytelling but is definitely not quite as unproblematic as the Avatar whose story we are telling.

The fact of the matter is that while the Kurma itself can be thought of as a tiny part of the ocean churning, the god behind it,a.k.a Vishnu was the orchestrator of the Samudra Manthan. It was him that gave the gods the idea in the first place, him who told them to involve the Asuras, him who took the form of the Kurma to make it possible and him who ensured that the Amrit was given to the Devas, finally. This is very classic Vishnu, the Preserver God, who is often the brains behind many such myths. I also have to mention that he did get his wife out of this, as the Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, who came out of the ocean during the churning, chose him as her husband, so you know, good for him.

Another important point to make here is that there is no western counterpart for this myth, quite unlike the Matsya, which was quite biblical from the get-go. Things like the Ocean of Milk and using a mountain and a snake as churning equipment are very quintessentially a part of Indian mythology and can not be found anywhere else. It is these totally different and unique stories that set it apart from most western as well as quite a few eastern mythologies and it is this aspect that makes up, for me, the charm of it all.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: As this is the first ‘classic’ Hindu myth we have discussed, what do you think of it and the tropes we have talked about? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

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Mythology Uncategorized

De-myth-ify: Kurmavatara (Part Two)

Let’s talk about Hindu mythology and the story of the second of Vishnu’s 10 incarnations or Dasavatara, the Kurma or the tortoise, today. This is part two of a three-part series on the Kurmavatara.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

I last left you on a note of suspense, with a comment about how the Samudra Manthan’s problems were far from over. With Kurma supporting Mount Mandara on his back and Vasuki acting as the rope, the Devas and Asuras were able to commence the churning of the Ocean of Milk. This, of course, led to the next series of events.

During the long and strenuous churning process, many things were released from the ocean before the Elixir of Immortality or Amrit. These included supernatural animals like the wish-granting cow Kamadhenu, valuables like Kaustubha, the most divine jewel, nymphs or Apsaras, and the goddess Lakshmi. Most of these were equally divided between the Devas and the Asuras. However, not all that came out of the ocean was good(Dun dun dun).

The Samudra Manthan also brought forth Halahala, a deadly poison or Vish that threatened to cease life in all the three worlds,i.e. Swarga (The skies, home of the Devas), Dharti (The Earth, where regular folk lived) and Patala (The underworld, home of the Asuras) The Devas and Asuras were being suffocated and weakened by the poisonous fumes and beseeched Shiva, considered the destroyer and protector in Hindu Mythology to come to their aid.

Shiva, upon hearing these cries for help, came and took the Halahala in his mouth to protect life and save all three worlds. Instead of swallowing the poison, he held it in his throat, giving it a bluish hue and him the moniker of “Neelakantha”, the blue-throated one. ( Can we just talk about the heroics of it all? Shiva, in a surprise move, takes over from Kurma as the hero of the tale. What a twist.)

Thus, after everyone was saved by Shiva, the churning started again and soon, the fruits of the Devas’ and Asuras’ labour was upon them. Dhanvantari, the God of Medicine emerged with the Elixir of Immortality or Amrit in his hands. (Huzzah!) As soon as he emerged, the Asuras took control of the Amrit and began to run away. Do you remember how Vishnu had told the Devas to not be angry if the Asuras tried to steal anything forcefully? That’s right, it’s time for that part of the story.

The Devas turned to Vishnu, for once, actually remembering his words. (This is like, super rare for them, you guys. I don’t think you understand just how mature this is for them) Vishnu took the form of the beautiful enchantress Mohini, who then went up to the Asuras and convinced them to let her distribute the Amrit among them. With her wily charms, she managed to distract the Asuras while she distributed all of the Amrit among the Devas. (What a comeback. Such a power move. Vishnu is coming back for the hero spot, y’all)

Two Asuras did not fall for Mohini’s charms and disguised themselves as Devas and snuck in to get the Amrit. However, the Sun and Moon gods ended up identifying them as imposters and thus, Vishnu, taking his true form, cut off their heads with his Sudarshan Chakra before the Amrit crossed their throats. The heads of these two Asuras, named Rahu and Ketu are believed to still be flying around the universe and once in a while, they swallow the moon and the sun, as revenge. That’s why eclipses happen, according to Hindu mythology, anyway. (I find this a surprisingly neat explanation for what is a complex scientific phenomenon, although maybe slightly too gore)

Obviously, the jig was up. The Asuras realised that Vishnu had tricked them. They picked up arms and came to fight for what was promised to them. However, the Devas had now consumed Amrit and were at full potential and thus, defeated the Asuras and drove them away. So, the Samudra Manthan came to a violent end and goodness was restored. The curse of Durvasa lifted and the Devas brought peace and harmony back to the realms. All was well (Unless you were an Asura in which case, oh well).

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you think the end of the Samudra Manthan was truly a ‘happy’ one? Or is it a tragedy, much like the Greek myths we have dissected? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Mythology Uncategorized

De-myth-ify: Kurmavatara (Part One)

Let’s talk about Hindu mythology and the story of the second of Vishnu’s 10 incarnations or Dasavatara, the Kurma or the tortoise, today. This is part one of a three-part series on the Kurmavatara.

For the previous series of posts on the first of the Dasavatara, Matsya or the fish, click here.

The story of the Kurmavatara is usually considered a chapter of the bigger, way more important myth of the Samudra Manthan,i.e. the churning of the ocean. I, however, personally believe that there is no Samudra Manthan without the Kurma; that these stories are too tangled to be taken apart. The story of the Kurmavatara is the story of the Samudra Manthan. People may not agree, but how I choose to interpret this story remains my choice and one of the more lovely things about mythology and stories in general. So, without further ado, let us begin.

Last time we left Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe, he had just saved all of Earth and its inhabitants.(So you know,just a regular day of being Vishnu) This story is set thousands of years later and is a story that involves no mortals directly. It is one of the many Hindu myths that deal with the regular power struggle between the Devas, or the gods and the Asuras or the titans/demons.

Devas and Asuras, though cousins, were at war with each other all the time. (If you have siblings you get it, right?) One time, during one of these wars, the notoriously ruthless sage Durvasa(Also known as the grump of Hindu mythology) visited Indra, the god of the skies and king of the gods and offered him a flower garland. ( If you think that Indra sounds like Zeus, you are right. Indra is the Zeus of Hindu mythology) Indra, who had a bit of an ego problem, carelessly threw the garland to his elephant, angering the short-tempered sage. Durvasa cursed all the gods which ended up leading to them all losing their powers. ( Eesh, that’s extreme. If I was another god I’d be SO mad at Indra)

This meant that the Devas were now on the verge of defeat to the Asuras and were soon largely depleted. As a last resort, they approached Lord Vishnu and pleaded with him for help. He advised them to obtain Amrit, or the Elixir of Immortality by churning the Ocean of Milk to regain their powers. He told them to use Mount Mandara as the churning stick and the king of the serpents, Vasuki(Remember him from the previous myth?) as the rope.

The gods were unable to lift Mount Mandara without their powers and Vishnu suggested they ask the Asuras for help in exchange of a portion of the Amrit. He also warned them to not take anything except the Amrit that comes out of the ocean during the churning, or feel angry if the Asuras forcibly take those things. He also calmed their concerns about the Asuras stealing the Amrit at the end of the churning and promised them that that would not happen.

Thus, the Devas and Asuras set Mount Mandara in the middle of the ocean, wrapped the snake god Vasuki around it and each held onto one end of his body and began to pull. They soon realised, however, that the mountain was sinking into the soft ocean floor and again beseeched to Vishnu for help. This is where the main part of our story happens.

Vishnu took the form of a giant tortoise, or a Kurma and supported Mount Mandara on his broad back while the Devas and Asuras churned the ocean, until the Amrit was successfully obtained. ( Heroic,sure but also, mildly anticlimactic,don’t you think?) This, of course, is the second of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu and the titular character of our story. Thus, with the Kurma present, the churning of the ocean began in full swing and all problems were solved. Or were they?

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: This story seems pretty grey on who the bad guy is. Who do you think is the “villain” here: the Asuras,Durvasa or even Indra? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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Life Uncategorized

Lost in the Stars

Let’s talk about my love affair with space today.

I have always been fascinated by space and all things celestial. I mean, who isn’t? Who can stop themselves from staring at the beauty of a sky full of stars or a pale hanging full moon? Who can avoid having their mind be absolutely blown when they first learn about the nine(Now, eight) planets of various colours and sizes? When you hear that we are going around the sun and not the other way around? Unbelievable! Life as you know it is completely changed. Well, it is, if you’re me.

It started simply enough. When I was very little, I could not get over the magical phenomenon of stars. How those tiny twinkling lights came in the sky every night and disappeared before I woke up. How the moon was a different shape every day. How some stars were brighter than the others. How sometimes I would catch the moon in the day and feel triumphant, just like I felt when I raced the sun and moon from my car window. (And never won!)

Indian culture values star a lot. Hindus have their own branch of astrology and when a baby is born, a map of all the planet positions at the time of their birth is used to predict the kind of person they will become and the life they will have. Thus, my first celestial education was cultural, courtesy of my parents. I learnt about the myth of the pole star, called the Dhruva Tara, named after a little boy named Dhruva. I also learnt about the Saptarishi, the constellation named for the 7 great sages of the Vedic period and many many more fascinating stories.

Then, came to primary school, where I truly and firmly realized that I adored all things to do with space. I loved to hear about the planets, the galaxies, the suns, the moons and the comets. I bought encyclopedia on encyclopedia and read them cover to cover and more still. I thought, I never could know enough about space, and I still stand by that. I even bought a children’s telescope and spent so much time futilely tinkering away at it. (I lived in a metropolitan city and it was a pretty weak telescope, so there was very little hope.) By the time I was 11, I had decided that my life’s goal was going to space and decided that I just had to become an astronaut.

I eventually came back to earth and began to calm down my PDA with space. I expressed my love for it by reading science fiction, more encyclopedias (I was a big encyclopedia kid), watching for stars and constellations whenever I could and most importantly letting people I was comfortable with know every space fact I could remember. As I’m sure they will unhappily vouch, the latter is a personality trait that has still not changed.

As an adult growing up in the heart of urbanity, I hardly get to see the stars in the sky. I adore going on vacations to the mountains or the hinterlands and getting to watch a sky full of stars. There is nothing quite like it. On one particular vacation, we were lucky enough to be staying at a resort that had a high-resolution telescope at hand, and you bet your heart I had a gala time with it. I saw galaxies and the divots of the moon and whatnot, it was the highlight of my vacation, and that is saying a lot because this vacation involved lots of strawberries and I adore those.

I still love finding constellations, saying the random hello to Venus or Mars and if I’m lucky, Jupiter and most importantly, tracking important celestial events and trying my best to catch them, despite the suffocation of living in a concrete jungle. Recently, the big one I failed to see was the comet Neo Wise. I left my house for the first time since the pandemic in hopes to catch it, so you understand that I really tried. On a regular day, there are meteor showers that I rue missing and stay up at night to hopefully catch.

I long for a future where I can travel to catch these wondrous phenomena, where I can visit observatories and get up close and personal with stars, moons, planets, comets, solar systems and galaxies. As I bow out, I wish upon all the stars to always be just as mesmerized by a sky full of stars as I am today and I was at 3 years old. Here’s to hoping that the magic never ever dies!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Are you obsessed with space as well? Is it like my obsession or completely different? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

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Life Uncategorized

I’ve got ‘COVID FOMO’. Have you?

Let’s talk about COVID-19 induced FOMO today.

FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out is defined as social anxiety stemmed from the belief that others might be having fun while you are not present. It is usually attributed to social media, and in better, less stressful times has to do with wanting to live a life as happening as everyone else’s seems.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic though, what I am talking about is very different but is still, per se, fear of missing out. Take University for example. I am in the final year of my undergraduate degree, which is fully online, as of now. This unprecedented circumstance has brought with itself a myriad of fears and anxieties that all sit and chitchat under the “FOMO” umbrella.

Half the time, I am convinced there is a class or an assignment that I forgot or am missing out on. I also feel very out of the loop with things that I take for granted, like knowing about how the placement season is going, when events are scheduled or even just gossip you can’t help but overhear like who is friends/not friends with who, who is going to whose party, you know, very pointless things that I used to usually scoff at. This anxiety of just missing out on the most mundane idiosyncrasies of my regular life has been a hard adjustment that 6 months hence, I am yet to fully adapt to.

I don’t, however, think, it’s just an issue those who are “Back to (online) School/College” are facing. I can imagine that it probably extends to those who are working from home as well. Maybe they are afraid of missing out on deadlines, meetings or just regular water-cooler talk. Maybe it isn’t such a widespread issue, feel free to correct me, I swear, I won’t mind.

You always hear, “Man is a social animal”, but nothing quite drives the idea home-like difficult times like these. Our innate need to have connections is so strong and so fundamental, that take them away and we feel unsettled and try to reach out to even those who we haven’t spoken to in many years. (Yes, here’s looking at you, having family reunions or childhood friend catch-ups on Zoom all of a sudden, I love it, keep ’em going.)

For me personally, as someone who is going through placements in the middle of a pandemic and will most probably be graduating in one too, this fear also extends to my future. All my future plans have been thrown for a lurch, and I’m living suspended in uncertainty. I have anxieties about how I might be missing on options or paths because of the current situation and how this pandemic might end up being why I miss out on a future I wanted and have worked towards.

I understand quite well that for me, this is not an earth-shattering problem. I am privileged enough to come out at the other end of this just fine and I fully acknowledge that. It is just that I am sitting at the cusp of growing up, of being independent, of building the life of my dreams, ready to spread my wings and soar, and the sky that seemed so clear before is now foggy and ridden with obstacles.

I am a dreamer, to a fault. I had and still continue to have, against hope, so many dreams and ambitions for what I want to do, where I want to go. With each passing day spent watching the Coronavirus case count rise, those dreams seem to go further away from me and it becomes hard to not feel afraid that I would never be able to achieve any of them.

As depressing as this has been, I am also an unflinching optimist at my very core. (Verrrrry deep inside.) I always believe that at the end of the day, I will be okay. Things will be okay. I will be happy. And it is with this belief I forge ahead, in the face of my FOMO, which is still very present but I am getting better at handling with each passing day. I don’t expect it to be gone but I do hope that we can come to a peacefully coexistent negotiation, mostly for my sake. Wish me luck.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you faced or are facing ‘COVID FOMO’?How are you dealing with it? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!