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!

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!

A Changing Sense of Time During Lockdown.

Let’s talk about the concept of time during the COVID19 pandemic today.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The opening lines of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities really capture how I feel about the lockdown during the current coronavirus pandemic. The reasons to dislike it are obvious and many; I can’t go outside, can’t meet my friends, can’t go to college, the economy is being ruined, so many livelihoods are affected and obviously, so many people are getting ill and dying, the aforementioned worst of times. I have been privileged enough to, however, find some nice things about it too; a whole lot of gratitude for what I had taken for granted before, all this time to spend doing things I love, how I have been able to work on my blog and have a transformed outlook on living every day to the fullest, not the best but very special times. (As of today, I am still very much in the thick of the pandemic, so the day I get back out there is a bit far for now)

I have talked about the coronavirus pandemic, its impact on the world and most majorly, its impact on my world in two of my posts before, which you can find here and here. In both of these posts, I talked more of the immediate reaction to suddenly finding myself in the middle of this pandemic and stuck at home, than the effects of being on lockdown for what is now the majority of 2020 and the contemplations that come with it. In this post, I’m getting into that aspect of life through a pandemic. (And I admit that this is through my undoubtedly privileged lens)

One thing I have noticed and have actually discussed with a few people is that time seems to be standing still and whizzing ahead at the same time. Like, how I for one feel like I have just been living the same day over and over and have not registered the passing of the months after March. (How is it literally almost August?) But also, there is the fact is that somehow 4 almost 5 months have passed and my 21st-year in life and 4th(and last) year in University are just passing me by, without me having registered it.

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This realisation that time stops for no one, not even a crippling,world-stopping pandemic, is not a new one. We choose not to think of it but even so, we do sometimes realise this in regular life too, as we look back and think, “Oh, I was just in school!”, “I just became a teenager!”, “Didn’t I just get my driver’s license?” and many more such quips, but never as acutely as now. This has been bothering me since at least May when I realised my third year of college was effectively over, abrupt as it was. This worry has only grown since and thus, obviously, I have done a lot of (over)thinking about it.

All this thinking has brought me to conclude that we, as a society, as human beings, measure the passage of time through milestones, through events, through watching the world around us change. Being stuck at home means that the big occasions; the birthdays, weddings, graduations look quite different or are cancelled. Not getting to go outside means that we don’t get to watch the seasons change, through the trees and the sky, not properly, so we miss out on nature’s signs that time has passed. We tend to make plans for the next few months and countdown to them and in such uncertainty, all plans have been thrown for a wrench. We can no longer plan vacations, parties or even, going to college far from home. With nothing to look forward to, we don’t quite feel the months as they pass us by.

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As depressing as that sounds, I also came to realise that the best way to handle lockdown is to live one day at a time, even if it is the same day over and over, try to find something new to do every day, to do things that make you happy, to socially distance but not emotionally distance and to use this crazy time to come out better at the end of it. With that thought, before I go, I’d love to wish you good luck for the rest of the year and take this opportunity to say that I really hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe. Please take care!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you felt like time is going by too fast during the lockdown or do you think it is going too slow? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

What I Wanted to be Growing Up

Let’s talk about all the jobs I have wanted to have today.

When I was 5 years old and anyone asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always said, without skipping a beat, “A pilot!” I’d promise to take them around the world on the aeroplanes I flew, I was absolutely certain and I just knew I had made my decision. Then, one day, I watched a movie with my family in which, a plane crashed and the pilot died. The next morning, I knew only one thing: I did not want to become a pilot.k-125-m-356

When I was 7 years old and I was asked, “What is your dream job?” I said, without a  thought, “A teacher!” I loved all my teachers, I loved pretending to teach all my stuffed toys(and my then, 2-year-old sister) and I just thought, this would be so fun. Soon I realised, however, how difficult it really is and how little respect is afforded to teachers(The biggest tragedy of our time, really) Thus, I drifted away from this dream of mine.kisspng-drawing-royalty-free-illustration-a-little-teacher-who-lectures-5a9ad6afc716a8.4707962715200969438155

When I was 9 years old and someone asked, “What do you want to be when you’re an adult?” I answered, quite excitedly, “A scientist!” Science was my favourite subject in school(Apart from English, of course) and if you ask my parents, I was born far too curious and with the need to know everything there is to know about the world, which made this seem like the job for me.320-3202517_little-girl-scientist-clipart-scrappin-doodles-clipart-science

When I was 11 years old and anyone asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I said, as someone who had recently come to that decision, “An astronaut!” We had recently learnt about space and the universe in school. Traversing galaxies and planets, seemed like an upgrade from being a scientist, so astronaut it was. ee7734dd87fef70eb1e639c3f43f33a3

When I was 13 years old and I was asked, “What is your dream job?” I answered, a bit nervously, “An author!” I had always been someone who used words and writing to deal with situations but this was when I was realising that people thought my words were good and wanted to read them. As someone who read a lot myself, I saw nothing better to do. And then, I grew up.depositphotos_61857307-stock-video-little-girl-typing-on-a

When I was 16 years old and someone asked, “What do you wish to be when you’re an adult?” I said, as someone who had discovered something to be passionate about after years, “A blogger!” I had recently made this blog and I had been quite successful from the get-go thanks to the wonderful community here. It had saved me from the abyss I seemed to be falling into, with the last two years of high school being probably the toughest years of my admittedly, very short and barely lived life. And then, I grew up some more.preview

When I was 18 years old and everyone asked, “What do you plan to be in the future?” I said, in a resigned tone,” I don’t know.” I was finally the adult who all these plans had been made for, over the years, but when I actually got there, I couldn’t see any of them materialising, for they were too imaginative, too frivolous, too idealistic and just, too impossible.4XTFNGL

Today, I am 21 years old and I still do not have the fixed, permanent answer to what I want to be when I grow up. Not in the way 5-year old I had it.As far as where I am? I am going to be a Computer Science engineer next year, in what I hope, will be a post COVID world, emerging after facing unprecedented circumstances.

I am at a place where I find myself going back to many of my dreams, like how I’m really interested in research, so being a scientist sounds great. Being a teacher, or more specifically, a college lecturer is something that I can be along with being a scientist so that interests me too. If someone gives me a chance to go to space, I promise you that there is no way I’m saying no. It is still one of my biggest dreams and a major item on my bucket list, to write a book and get it published. As far as being a blogger is concerned, it’s quite simple really, I’ve been doing writing on this blog for the last 4 years, which means I already am a blogger. (I just don’t make money off it, which I am okay with)

There are so many possibilities, so much I can do, just so much I want to be and I don’t want to limit myself to just the one I decide on. Pardon me because while I may have become more practical compared to my childhood self, I am still far more imaginative than the average adult so I can now, somewhat naively, find some pride in my answer of “I don’t know” because honestly, isn’t it just lovely, there’s just so many places I could go!

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Yes, that was a Dr.Seuss reference, very much in line with this post’s theme of growing up.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What all did you want to be when you grow up? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Some ‘Grown-up’ Thoughts on School

Let’s talk about school and adulthood today.

I graduated from school in 2017; about three years ago. In the three years I’ve been out of school (and in college) I have come to gradually realise how much of a bubble school really puts you in. When you’re in school, life is easy and very sorted. You have to do your homework, give all your tests and study the syllabus. There are no big surprises or plot twists, it is how it was years ago and it will continue to be the same way.

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This post is one I’ve been considering making for quite a while, as this is something I’ve been thinking for some time. I have almost made it several times, but I felt a bit greedy making this post. I already had a great school life, all 14 years if it, I had my share of it so what more do I want? This is all you get, that’s the whole deal. But this time, my Instagram followers voted for this post so, here you go. (If you too want to one of the unfortunate souls that will be blamed for my future posts, please, by all means, follow my Instagram )

In school, your worries include not being on top of your assignments, the marks you get on those assignments, who you will be sitting within the class, where you will be sitting when the break is if you can convince your teacher to give you a free period, how to sneak into the ground to play, teachers and subjects you like or dislike and other things which in hindsight, seem extremely pointless. You know, I do concede that it might have been pointless but you can’t deny it was dependable. It is a whole world that swallows you in and you don’t realise just how sheltered it has kept you till it coughs you out when you become an adult.

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I realise that as someone who is still in college I haven’t quite escaped the bubble yet and so maybe I haven’t earned the right to talk about this yet. However, since I’ve started to feel the bubble thinning, I will be talking about it and since this is a blog post you cant really stop me. (Haha) In school, you are protected from the real world. You are protected from any real worries. There is a discipline, a timetable, a uniform, most of your big moments are moments that would not matter much once you’re out of school.

In the real world, you have to worry about getting a job and building a resume and getting a house and rising higher and getting fired (Basically money) and your mom is not going to be able to stand up for you if she thinks you’re being unfairly treated. In the real world, people aren’t as nice, or as disciplined. Things don’t follow such order or schedules. There are surprises, plot twists and life takes you in completely different and unexpected directions.

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When my “real life” gets especially hard, I often find myself missing that bubble, that comfort, that sense of home that I associate with school. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be grown up and an adult and my 10 years old self could not imagine anything better but sometimes, I miss school. I know this isn’t a universal opinion, I was lucky enough to have had a great school experience and to have loved school. I miss the biggest things in my calendar being tests and competitions and doing many things at the same time and having silly things like annual functions to look forward to. I crave the comfort of a life that is sorted; I do my homework and I study well and I get good grades and things are well. To put it simply, I miss the predictability of school.

I’ve been in three schools over my schooling and while they were certainly not all of the same standard(Major major divides here!) I miss each differently and depending on what I am nostalgic for at that moment. I have also realised that more than my individual schools, I miss the institution itself. The stability, the security. “Real life” is full of far too many surprises and twists and turns, it is like being put on a roller coaster after having ridden only a carousel before.

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Even as I say this, I realise, of course, the bubble has to be popped. I know that. I know we have to grow up and fly out, spread our wings and build our lives. It is the curse of the affliction that is being human. For the most part, I love being an adult, I love the independence and I like having control and choices and all the other delights that come with it. All I’m saying is, sometimes, just some very times, I miss the simple joys and blissful ignorance I lived in as a child. I really hope someday I will stop feeling this way but I strongly suspect that it’s a lifelong thing. Oh, the Shakespearean nature of it all, as a child I envied the grown adult’s independent life and an adult I crave a child’s sheltered one. Well played, life, well played.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you miss school or are you happy to have left it? Comment below with what you think about t,I’d love to hear from you!

My Love for Languages

Let’s talk about my special fondness for languages today.

Hello, welcome! Hallo, willkommen! Hola, bienvenido! Namaste, swagat hai! Bonjour, bienvenue!

Now that you are properly(and a little insanely) greeted, let’s get into it, shall we?

Ever since I can remember, I have loved stories. As a kid, I loved having my parents read me bedtime stories and when I could read myself, it was instant love. (And I no longer needed to bargain or annoy my parents into reading me a story, so it was a win-win all around) I had found my passion.No, not stories like you think, but words and in a nutshell, the English language. This passion would eventually grow to encompass not just English and not just reading.

Throughout my schooling, all 14-16 years of it, the one subject that has never wavered from my favourite subject list was English. Other subjects came and went, depending on marks, general understandability, how much I liked the teacher and so on. I studied in an English medium school so, English was everywhere for me and has been one of my strongest assets through the years, due to in part the heavy reading I have done and the amount of attention I have always paid in English. I always tried to have a great relationship with my English teachers(Even when they seemed impossible to my teenage self) because I just really really loved it so much. Just to put this in perspective, my love for it was so all-consuming I sat and read a whole children’s English dictionary for fun. (Really, just get that I was just a giant language nerd.) It is the language I think in and the one I eventually chose to write in, when I discovered a different passion of mine.

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My actual mother tongue, Hindi, was a language I struggled with for a bit majorly with writing it, speaking was very natural(obviously); it’s a completely different script, we were not exposed enough to it, writing it didn’t come to me as naturally as English did(again, probably a lack of exposure thing) and whatnot but I eventually found the beauty within it too. During 9th-10th grade my Hindi curriculum was composed of mostly heavy-duty old and new Hindi literature and classics and these two years did wonders to my vocabulary and command in the language. It was then that Hindi became enjoyable for me, I had been good at it for a few years by then but now I liked being good at it and using it. Still, not as much as English because that was my comfort zone, my proverbial home within the world of languages.

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I was 11 when I realised I had a major soft spot for languages. We had to choose a third language to study alongside Hindi and English. I took German and absolutely loved it. I loved learning new words, learning to count, trying to read, practising pronunciations, listening to people speak in German and whatnot. I just loved learning languages. Languages, I was certain, were my thing. So, I thrived learning German till 8th grade and even gave the FIT in Deutsch exam(The official exam administered by the Goethe Institut to prove proficiency in german) I ended up getting the highest marks in Speaking and missing the full score by a very little margin. I also loved my german teacher, as has already been mentioned, the teachers were an important part of the equation to me because they had all the knowledge and I wanted nay needed it.

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I consider people who know multiple languages to be extremely wise and knowledgeable and the best people all around. (Did you know Audrey Hepburn spoke 5? How cool is that?) It is my most ardent dream to know and speak as many languages as I possibly can. For now, I am somewhere on the road between bilingual and trilingual; I know, understand and speak Hindi and English extremely well and know just enough German to get by, if I absolutely had to.

I’ve realised that my love for languages stems from how I find it crazy how we humans, so different yet so similar, found a way to strings sounds and noise together to mean the same things and eventually figured out symbols and a whole way of representing it written down. I find the different alphabets and scripts and quirks so fantastic. I find the little similarities you can sometimes find in Germanic languages, Romance languages and languages like Hindi fascinating. Did you know that most languages around the world use a word with ‘M’ in it for their mothers? Like ‘mother’ in English,’mata’ in Hindi,’ mutter’ in german,’madre’ in Spanish? How bonkers is it that all these people in all these different geographically distinct places with their own thriving cultures and value systems found similar ways to describe a mother, something they all had in common?

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There is much more fascinating stuff about languages that someone far more knowledgable(or the internet) would tell you. (I am warning you though, it’s quite the rabbit hole) The reason I wanted to talk about this particular fondness of mine at this moment in time though is that I think, in tough times like these, it is more prudent than ever to realise that despite our differences, despite the different tongues we speak, the ways some of us roll our R’s or seem to be speaking in cursive(Looking at you, French) we are all at the end of the day, the same; just human beings. On that note, I wish you well and bid you farewell, in the same few languages I greeted(Read scared) you with, in the beginning.

Goodbye! Auf Wiedersehen! Adios! Alvida! Au revoir!(Did you notice the A’s everyone uses here and the H almost everyone uses in their greetings? Languages are SO incredible.)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: How many languages do you speak? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Life In The Time of Corona

Let’s talk about my life and experiences with the coronavirus pandemic today.

Let us begin at the very beginning: my birthday. I turned 21 on March 10, 2020, and my family was in the Corbett National Park, on vacation. There was not much talk of the virus there, except the sanitiser bottles provided at the reception and restaurant. It was business as usual. After all, there were 50 total cases in India, no deaths, some people had already recovered and they were only in cities, not a town like the one we were staying in. We came back to Delhi, where I go to University, and I realised that things were not okay when I saw the kind of panic and flurry of masks everywhere. New Delhi was debating locking down the city and closing all schools and colleges to stop the spread of the virus. In 2 days, my University was shut and I told my parents, who were going to Mumbai, our home, on the 16th, to take me along.

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Together, we came back on the 16th of March, armed with our masks, sanitisers, constant hand-washing and being very very careful. Less than a week after my birthday, things were so drastically different than what I could have ever imagined. I was home and have not left the house since. My University began online classes and I was, if possible, more exhausted by them than regular college. It was hard to learn through just the video because my teachers through no fault of theirs, were struggling with this new medium, the classes were published for longer hours, staring at a screen with earphones in for 8-9 hours a day was physically tiring and sitting with assignments after that made it worse. Though it was a rough time, I was busy. It made it easier to deal with things and major life changes like the whole country being on lockdown, the world suffering at the hands of the COVID-19 virus and being far from friends and loved ones.

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My semester officially ended on April 1st and finishing up all the assignments and stuff I was fully done with it by the 3rd. By this time, the country had 50 times the cases it did on my birthday, we were on a country-wide full lockdown, all flights had been completely stopped and, economy and humanity were both suffering. My college then decided to prepone our Summer Internships and think of the exams we would have ordinarily had when the situation “normalises”(So they hoped.So I hope, to this day.)It was made 4 weeks instead of 8 and was scheduled to begin from the 13th, giving me a 10-day ‘holiday’, in which I somehow had to conjure an internship in an environment where people were losing their jobs of many years. Eventually(and thankfully), I got into a company through my college and had an internship in the nick of time(Got my acceptance literally the day before we were supposed to start.)

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In my 10 day ‘break,’ I took the first day or two to chill, which was great but then I realised how the empty mind really is the devil’s workshop. I now had all the time in the world to stress and worry about the current situation, the fast-spreading disease, the people who were ill, the people who had died and the pandemic’s impact on the future, especially as someone who was supposed to find a job this year and graduate next year. All my internship plans had clearly fallen flat, and offers I was pursuing were withdrawn. It was a horrible time, mental health-wise. This is when I first began to be active with blogging again because it helped me cope and gave me something to do. I also made a bunch of mug cakes, made the viral whipped coffee(and realised I should not have coffee, ever) DIY decor things, did a good amount of housework and read some books. (You know, usual pandemic activities) I was always an introvert and would have gladly chosen to Netflix over going out to socialise pre- corona, but I was beginning to realise the value of social interaction, of my university, of being able to be surrounded by people your age.

After the break, I began my internship and my time was filled with meetings with your guide, meetings with my team, working on our project, reading and watching stuff to work on our project and other things that all come down to the project. I am about to finish with my internship and will then be occupied by writing reports on it, for my University. In these 4 weeks, however, I have watched quite a few shows with my family (like Downton Abbey and The Good Place, both of which I highly recommend), watched the news every night to hear about the current COVID cases count, began rereading the Harry Potter books(which I am documenting on my instagram so if you’re interested to join in!), had many baked goods(Thanks mom!) and wrote more blog posts than I have ever written in a month. Musings of A Whimsical Soul has never in the last 4 years(Except the very beginning where I was publishing posts ever two days like a maniac) had a twice a week posting schedule and blogging have become my escape, my recluse and my coping mechanism, yet again.

That brings us to now,2 months into lockdown, no end in sight, with 74K cases in the country, 4.28 M in the world(At the time of writing this post) and us as a world living through these extraordinary times and our new ‘normal’. Most of us have not lived through a pandemic before, the whole world has been brought to a standstill by one virus and we have all realised the value and delights of the good old ordinary life, the life I for one, so easily criticised before.

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I have to admit that I speak from a place of privilege. I am lucky enough to have a roof over my head, be able to eat and sleep and live with very little major change in my life, have an internet connection, not worry about losing my job, I am with my family, I am not at risk by the virus itself and so much more. I am highly and deeply privileged in these times and I would be remiss to not acknowledge it. My objective with this post was not to flaunt my luck but simply to tell my story, to share my highs and lows, to feel connected with all of you across the world, to pay my respects to the unfortunate loss we are facing, stand with all those who are fighting this terrible illness, to let you know that we are all in this together, even if our stories may be vastly different.

This is a much harder time for many of us, and the only thing I can say is, please help if you are privileged enough and able to, please understand what other people are going through, please be empathetic and please, be human. These are unprecedented times and it is in times like this that we realise just how fragile the world we have built is and how important it is to support each other. These are hard times, difficult times and we can only get through them together. Support local businesses and practice social distancing, if not for you and your family then do it for the essential workers risking their lives for all of us at the frontlines. Stay strong and be brave. Give yourself credit, and don’t feel the pressure to ‘hustle’ and be productive right now. That’s not to say do nothing, but we must change our definition of ‘productive’ to one that fits the new world we live in rather than the world we were in before.

Good luck, take care and stay safe!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What is your COVID-19 story? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Visiting World Wonders: The Dawki River

Let’s talk about the Dawki River today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is a natural one and a pretty obscure one at that! I seriously doubt that you would have heard about this place before reading this post unless I told you or you have been there yourself. If you have, kudos, you’re a chosen one. Pick up your prize on your way out. I am proud to take you, virtually to the magical and mystical Dawki River, about 82 km. away from Shillong, the capital of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya, in India. What is so magical about this place, you ask? Join me and read on, as we go together to this gorgeous river in north-east India.

I first saw a picture of the Dawki river on a travel Instagram account in 2018. It was a photo taken by a drone and it made it look as though a boat was floating on nothing, literally and it was just suspended mid-air. Me being quite the cynic was convinced it had to be edited. There simply was no way this place was real. Then I googled it and saw many more similar photos, still not fully convinced but closer to convinced than not. Then I spoke with my parents about this seemingly, incredible place and one thing led to another and we ended up planning a vacation to North East India for the winter holidays of December 2018.

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December finally came and we here in Shillong at last, after a long day of travel. We were finally going to Dawki! Northeast India is very beautiful, but nothing had me as excited as this fantastical place that I had only seen photos of. We drove out of Shillong and soon our driver told us that we were here and we had to climb down from the road to the valley where the river was through stone stairs. I still couldn’t see it, not properly with all the greenery and thus began climbing down, almost jumping in excitement. Suddenly, the trees parted and in my line of sight, in a very storybook moment, were the emerald green waters of the Dawki River and a tiny boat floating on nothing, looking every bit as breathtaking as I had imagined and then some.

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The Dawki River is smack dab on the India-Bangladesh border. One bank of the river is in India and the other in Bangladesh so tourists from both countries visit it. It is still kind of unknown and is not a widely renowned place, which may be why its beauty is so well preserved and relatively untouched. It is very clean, so much so, that you can see the rocks at the bottom of the river i.e. about 15 ft. deep down, as though they are right next to you. The sunlight bounces off the water, making it look clear as air and the water reflects the green on the mountains around it, making it look the gorgeous emerald green colour that we see. There are tiny wooden colourful boats available to take a ride around the river and these add to the beauty and charm of the place.

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We also ended up taking a boat ride which was a wonderful, unimaginable, breathtaking experience which I mostly spent marvelling at the beauty that I was blessed to be witnessing and awed by the grandeur of the place. It was the best experience of my vacation, one of the best experiences of my life and for once, no words are enough to express just how entrancing and magical it was and is. I hope that the pictures I am sharing speak a thousand words, and speak the right ones because god knows I am not talented enough to do that. I absolutely recommend visiting this extraordinary river in the northeast corner of India to be humbled by the magnificence of nature and to be reminded of the magical world we live in.

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THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you been to any place that you thought was ‘magical’? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

Visiting World Wonders: The Leaning Tower Of Pisa

Let’s talk about the Leaning Tower Of Pisa today.

For the previous post in the series click, here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is a pretty famous one and one I have been excited to write about for so long! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, a staunch member of the 7 World Wonders list, the most curious combination of architectural fault and circumstance and the icon of the town that gave us the genius of Galileo Galilei, it is none other than the Torre pendente di Pisa or the Leaning Tower of Pisa as we recognise it, known worldwide for its famous tilt!

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Now the thing about this post is, I have actually written it before and I completed it with pictures and everything and almost scheduled the post. Then I lost it due to my laptop losing power and it not getting saved to draft and I absolutely lost it. I cried and was generally pretty devastated as it was days of effort and it was a good post. I tried everything but it couldn’t be retrieved. This happened in September 2018 and I am finally getting to this post(and series) now in April 2020, so you can imagine how distraught I was by it.

I would be remiss to not mention that I realise writing travel posts in the middle of a global pandemic when none of us can actually leave our houses is pretty sad and counterproductive but I hope I can take you on some virtual trips with me because I think it is better to travel virtually than not at all. I also express my deepest heartache and dedicate this post to Italy and its wonderful people, who have been devastated by the ravages of COVID-19. It is a proud, beautiful country with a rich heritage that I have had the privilege to visit and I know it will get through this.

I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the summer of 2017 and had been deathly ill the night before when we had been travelling from Venice to Padova, where we were staying. Like, sick enough to have no memory of that night whatsoever, even to date. Pisa originally seemed like it would be impossible to squeeze into our tight schedule in Italy but I finally managed to convince my family that we couldn’t possibly do an Italian vacation without seeing THE Leaning Tower. It is a landmark and an icon and it would be tragic to miss it. So, now you know, there were trials and tribulations involved in me getting to see the Leaning Tower. (And also in writing this post.)

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We took a green bus from the Pisa Centrale that took us to a bus stand quite close to the entrance of the courtyard where the tower resides. By courtyard, I mean the Piazza de Duomo or Cathedral Square where the tower resides and is actually surprisingly not the first thing you notice when you enter. The Square has the Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistry, the Monumental Cemetary and of course, the star of the show or the bell tower that we know and love as the Leaning Tower, just peeking from behind them.

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The Baptistry upfront, the Cathedral and cemetery in the centre and the bell tower in the back.

The Tower is actually only the third oldest structure in the Square and was constructed between the 12th to 14th century. As for the tilt, it’s quite a funny story. Due to the soft ground, the tower was built on being unable to support its weight, it began to tilt during construction. Its tilt actually worsened so much over the years that by 1990 it was leaning a whopping 5.5 degrees. Then the structure was stabilised through restorative work and the tilt currently stands at about 4 degrees.

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The curious statues right opposite the tower

It was quite surreal to see the tower in person. I had read about this tower for so many years, had always rattled off its name as one of the 7 World Wonders, had a childhood fascination with this monument that was so impossibly tilted and had seen so many photos of it. I imagined it to be more massive and grander than it was but honestly, it is surrounded by much grander buildings. It really is the most amusing sight, seeing these gorgeous, imposing Romanesque buildings and then this ‘little bell tower that is just tilting away cheekily.

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Pisa, which is a city in Tuscany has maintained its architecture and old-world charm and even just sitting in the bus and looking out or the in the little walk to the Piazza it felt like in a way we were travelling through time and just stepping into history. Dont get me wrong, our trip to the leaning tower was absolutely worth the hype. It really is a World Wonder and leaves you full of wonder and I absolutely recommend going to see the tilt live and in action. I would love to go there again and perhaps explore more of the city and its history.

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In conclusion, you can’t help but admire the spirit of this tiny bell tower that has made the city so famous and was clearly not intended to be its defining feature. It became so by what was an architectural fault as well as a twist of fate, and essentially a flaw, which made it so unique that people from all over the world come to Pisa and Italy for it, to this day, even centuries later.

For the next post in the series,click here.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa? How was your experience? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Tale of my “Hermione Complex”

Let’s talk about my “Hermione Complex” today.

Hi, before we get into the post itself, here’s an update from the last post(The Dance of Hobbies Lost.) If you follow me on Instagram you already know but for the blog-only followers here we go. The update on my re-learning Odissi i promised you. I am pleased to report that Manglacharan is coming along nicely and I am actually done with re-memorising the steps of the whole thing and am now cleaning and polishing it! It was surprising how much came back to me when I started to try to learn it. If that doesn’t inspire you to pick up your lost hobbies, I don’t know what will! Now, let’s hop out of the old one and back into this post.

Since I have been a kid, I’ve been a very curious child. I would ask A LOT of questions about everything(Think everything ranging from why the sky is blue to why can’t cars run on nitrogen) and in hindsight I might have been a very annoying child. I was also obsessed with knowing little tidbits or facts about EVERYTHING and could not be stopped from announcing said facts if the topic arose, which again seems to be making me a very annoying kid. My parents bless them, mostly encouraged my behaviour, which I really appreciate now, it must have been hard.

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The blue sky due to scattering of different wavelengths of sunlight, of course!

To fulfil my apparently bottomless thirst for facts, I used the many encyclopedias I hoarded and was absolutely besotten with, other people’s encyclopedias that I borrowed, eventually, the internet and in a move that was probably not appreciated a lot, adults around me. I also had a loyal subscription to many magazines that were essentially mini encyclopedias or factbooks, like Manorama’s Tell Me Why. I still have some of my encyclopaedias with me which I sometimes glance through, although tragically my younger sister never quite learned to love facts the way I did.

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In fact, this habit of mine was bad enough that I got a reputation in our friends and family of being a know-it-all. If something has come up, Arushi definitely already knows something about it. If we went to a vacation, I seemed to announce facts right off the bat, often from what I read on the little info boards no one bothers to read, if we were eating something new I announced facts about its country of origin or whatnot, if we were looking at the sky I announced facts about stars and as I am writing this I realise I haven’t changed that much, and so I should probably take this moment to say sorry to everyone who has had to suffer through my fact-telling. All that has changed is that I’ve learnt to tell my facts to people who actually love me or truthfully can’t escape them, that is, my closest friends and immediate family.

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A gorgeous shot of the Milky Way which, did you know, is never still and is always rotating?

At first, I was quite affronted with this reputation I didn’t want to be treated differently because I knew stuff about stuff. Eventually, I embraced it and realised that all my role models like Matilda from Matilda and Hermione from the Harry Potter series were huge know-it-alls, I loved them for it and should be happy to join this club. However, embracing it meant that as I grew older and lived and loved the “Matilda” life I also got really good at knowing very little about something and being able to convince people I knew much more, which is you know, bad. But my fact-knowing self loved being the go-to person for knowing stuff and wanted to be the most knowledgable person at all times which is, obviously not possible.

This habit of mine extended everywhere but as I grew into a teenager surrounded by the pressure to fit in and be on top of all the latest trends, it applied most notoriously to pop culture. I was effectively toeing the line between what was true and untrue(Not properly lying because I never said I knew a lot about that thing or that I had watched that entire show or movie) but I was faking it and honestly, although it isn’t something to be proud of, I was also getting away with it. Only my best friend has ever really caught me on this but getting caught triggered me realising that I had a problem and had developed, as I called it, a “Hermione Complex”.

Realisation is the first step in recovery and I knew it. I needed to get better. Over the years, as I have grown out of(thankfully)the joys of my insecure teens and into a more confident adult, I have actively checked myself and tried to stop pretending I know things I know very little about. I can admit to Pop culture blanks of knowledge or even regular blanks of knowledge. I still have a Hermione Complex, a much calmer, tamer version of the same. I don’t think I will be outgrowing it and honestly, I hope not. I want to have random knowledge about British royalty and the production process of Gouda cheese. I am still the person who knows a lot about everything, is your girl for trivia quizzes, is some of my friends’ pop culture dictionary, will knock down Buzzfeed quizzes about random knowledge and am still a lot of people’s go-to person when they want facts on something new or random.

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Told ya!

I still spout facts about vacation spots, but in a good way, leading to fun experiences, like when our tour guide at the Vatican loved me because I knew so much about the art and the sculptures that we ended up chatting away and bonding. She really was the sweetest soul and told me I would grow up to be a very wise person, the best kind of person and that I reminded her of her dad, who I suspect was another “Hermione complex” affected individual. That is something I really appreciated hearing and value, from a complete stranger. Lastly, the important thing to note about the Hermione complex is that while it is named for one of our favourite female know-it-alls, it is gender-neutral. Anyone can have it and it is not something to be scared of if you have it or if someone around you does because, as annoyed as we pretend to be, we all need people in our lives who will tell us about how moon dust tastes, on-demand. (like, gunpowder, according to the astronauts on Apollo 17)

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THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you have the “Hermione Complex” or know someone who has it? Did you out-grow it? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!