Visiting World Wonders: The Rhine Falls

Let’s talk about the Rhine Falls today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hey everyone! Today’s world wonder is a dreamy place straight out of your imagination; what you would think of if I asked you to picture a quaint town from a fairy tale. This natural wonder is none other than the largest, most powerful waterfall in Europe and one of the oldest waterfalls in the world, the Rheinfall or as we know it, the Rhine Falls.

The Rhine Falls is located on the High Rhine, next to the town of Schaffhausen, in Northern Switzerland. It is very ancient, much more than most if not all the wonders we have discussed here. The falls were formed in the last Ice Age, approximately 14,000 to 17,000 years ago. The river has shifted its course over the years but the waterfall has stayed strong with most of its volume attributed to snow-melt in the upper ranges. I visited the Rhine Falls in the summer of 2017 and as my first foray into the country of Switzerland, which I had built up in my head so much, it made quite the impact.

We were driving from The Black Forest(Which I actually have written about,to read my post about it, click here ) in Germany to Zurich in Switzerland, where we were staying for the night.The plan was to stop at the Rhine Falls for a gala lunch before we went our way. As we crossed borders, the scenery change albeit subtly. From the dark forests and high hills of the Schwarzwald mountain range, we were descending down towards flatter terrain. However, nothing convinced me that I am in Switzerland, land of snow, of castles and fairy tales, like the first time I saw the Rhine falls looking out my window. It looked like something out of a painting, a brilliant blue waterfall with a bridge going through it and a castle on its right.

The Rhine Falls is not very tall, I’ll give you that, but it more than makes up for it with just how wide it is, not to mention how absolutely stunning. It is without a doubt, the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few. Although there were viewing platforms on the river bank, we decided to take a boat up the Rhine, to a rock in the middle of the waterfall. (We are quite the adventurists!) The boat ride was great because it got me to see the waterfall up close and personal and it is, in my opinion, the best way to see the falls.

We went to the falls in the peak of the tourist season, so the rock was very crowded and staying on it became more of a daredevil task than we were expecting. I did manage to take a few pictures, despite being jostled around and holding on to my camera for dear life. It was worth it for the view, which was extraordinary and was like standing in the middle of the waterfall. The whole area around the waterfall also contributes to the imaginative aspect of it all. With the Wörth Castle on the hill next to it, a train crossing the bridge on the waterfall (I can only imagine how beautiful the view must be from it), the architecture of the buildings on the banks and the town of Schaffhausen, it was all,just like stepping into an artist’s imagination.

We then took our lunch, within view of the Rhine falls, so in my book, the best lunch we took all vacation. After that, we bid adieu to the gorgeous waterfall, which for me, had been such a surprise. I hadn’t expected it to be such a highlight of my vacation, but it was. Words fall short to explain what it felt like, to be in front of such beauty and natural grandeur: that aquamarine blue water, the rainbows the falls made with the sunlight, the greenery and the beautiful Medieval architecture all around. I hope the pictures do it some justice as it was the best possible introduction to Switzerland for me, and I hope even more, that I get to go back to this beautiful, magical place again.

THIS POSTS’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Rhine Falls? What was your experience like? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Why Were We Obsessed With Dystopias in the 2010s?

Let’s talk about the wave of dystopian fiction in the 2010s today.

“Dystopia /dɪsˈtəʊpɪə/
An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.”

When I was a teenager, which is basically, the majority of the 2010s, I and everyone around me was obsessed with consuming books, movies and tv shows set in dystopias. Think Panem from The Hunger Games, the post-World War 3 Illéa in the Selection, the alternate universe ‘Chicago’ in Divergent, the post solar flare world of The Maze Runner, or the setting of countless Zombie movies. What was with that? Why was everyone in the 2010s into reading about a world that was ending? Why was every girl I know having a zombie apocalypse phase? Why were we, as a generation so interested in consuming fiction set in a world in chaos?

Cut to 2020, where we have pretty much been living in the plot of a poorly written dystopia ourselves, and it has not been half as fun or exciting or as high stakes as the movies or the books made it seem. That was how I started thinking about this particular interest of mine in the first place and how my genre of interest as a teenager was Dystopia or Young Adult, which also indirectly meant dystopia in the 2010s. It wasn’t even just me. It was a hugely successful trope; hence the mass production in it, right? That explains the wide variety in it. But, the question still remains: why would we ever buy into all this apocalyptic tragedy, pain and suffering?

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Some of it definitely had to do with the “escape” factor associated with reading or even watching movies. Most people, myself included, enjoying consuming fiction that is set in a different world altogether so that you can escape into it. This is the entire allure of the fantasy genre, and I might even argue, period genre if you go back far enough. Maybe, dystopia can be thought of as a chaotic, apocalyptic sub-genre of fantasy with vestiges of its escapism, and hence people like me, who had grown up on Harry Potter and other fantasy books were only happy to get an escape again, even if it was to a world that was absolutely messed up.

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There is also the fact that while Dystopia as a genre might appear to be very superficial and simple, many of its classic examples are quite deep. I recently reread The Hunger Games, and I was quite surprised by the fact that the book is a great commentary on society, on politics, on war and on trauma as a whole. I was quite young when I first read it and thus, those subtleties were lost on me. As an adult, however, the more I read into it, the more I realise, that many of these were actually brilliantly written tales of caution, of what could happen and thinly veiled depictions of what already is happening in the world. Looking back, reading these books and watching these movies, intentionally or unintentionally made me more open-minded, brought to the fore the importance of equality and ended up making me quite sensitive to prejudice and discrimination. Helping me develop a strong moral compass was also, due in some part, to the fiction I consumed and for that, I am extremely thankful.mr-top-143407-1280x0

As far as the fascination for zombie apocalypses is concerned, I don’t think that its just a 2010’s exclusive thing. Since time immemorial, humans believe in the idea that we as a race are our own worst enemy and that humankind would be the one to end humankind, and zombies seem to be one of the ways we externalise that idea. Even books like A Song of Ice and Fire, or as it was popularly known, The Game of Thrones toyed with the zombie idea. This can be a separate post altogether and I can go on for ages so I’ll try to keep it short. I too had a zombie apocalypse phase, and as someone who has been through it, I can tell you how I think this surge in the popularity of the undead happened. The late 2000s brought us the cultural phenomenon that was Twilight with all its vampires, werewolves and whatnot. This increased interest in young adult fiction set around similar mythical creatures and I think the zombie fiction just rode in on the heels of that Twilight wave until it became a phenomenon itself.

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At the end, where it came from, where it went, we can only guess. All that I am sure of is that for the greater part of a decade, young adult fiction was ruled by stories of the world ending, and it developed values and moral systems in the adults of today. I don’t see it coming back soon, you know, what with all of us pretty much living through our own apocalypse plot in 2020(I’m pretty sure anyone who has ever wished to be able to live in one of these books, no judgment, has some regrets now) but I think we should prepare ourselves for there being future apocalypse fiction inspired from 2020. I’ve always wondered, and I’m sure more people have, what I’d do if there was an apocalypse and the answer is unsurprising as well as humbling: nothing, just sit at home and live life as normally as I possibly could. Oh well. Not all of us can be 16-year-olds navigating romance and saving the world from doom at the same time.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What was your favorite Dystopian fiction from the 2010s? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

De-myth-ify: Sisyphus (Part Two)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, a story from Homer’s Iliad of a man immortalised after his death, today. This is part two of a two-part series on Sisyphus. If you haven’t read the previous part, do go and read Part One before you continue here.

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

So, when we finished our story, Sisyphus was eternally damned to push a boulder and fail at it. This is also what Sisyphus has unwittingly become famous for. This story was quite different from the more ‘classical’ myths we have discussed before in many ways. Here, a guy brought his fate on himself, unlike Oedipus who was pretty much at the mercy of his terrible luck or Perseus who was destined to be a hero. For Sisyphus, he was seemingly receiving the ‘karma’, if you will, for his actions, i.e. his terrible fate came from his terrible actions. His life and decisions were completely in his control and he was (apparently) fully responsible for his punishment.

Although, it is never exactly stipulated what Sisyphus earned his punishment for; his scorn of the gods, his hatred of death or simply, upsetting the natural order of things? His punishment being fit for his crime is a controversial thing logically, at least in my mind because for that we have to consider which crime exactly he is being punished for. It seems like a teensy bit much, to eternally punish someone. (I know he was a murderer, he chained up death and stuff but still) Was it so harsh because the gods wanted to make an example out of him? To demotivate other mortals from trying to resist the natural order? To teach people to not incur the wrath of the gods and uphold their ideals; like Xenia? Is it really a justified punishment? This is all worth having a think over. (And maybe, Zeus if you’re listening, have a council answer?)

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Sisyphus by Titian

Nevertheless, I could not discuss this story without bringing up the French philosopher Albert Camus’ very famous and revolutionary essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus”, which uses this myth to introduce and explain the philosophy of ‘absurd’. (I highly recommend giving it a read, it is very thought-provoking!) In this existentialist essay, Camus dissects the ethos of the myth and gets into the nitty-gritty of it. He brings up the fairness of Sisyphus’ punishment, much like we just discussed. He also puts forward that the story of Sisyphus can be considered a tragedy like Oedipus Rex but unlike that story where events transpired because of the character’s lack of awareness about their destiny, the myth of Sisyphus becomes tragic because Sisyphus is aware of the futility of his fate, of the uselessness of his labour. We can even see this aspect of this myth highlighted in modern linguistics like in English, a Sisyphean task is one that is considered laborious and futile; a task that can never be completed. (I love finding such things in everyday life, its almost like pop culture reference but for myths that are thousands of years old, how cool is that?)camus

Camus thinks of Sisyphus as an ‘absurd hero’.His fate is very much his because he knows that the boulder will roll back down every time and still, he persists. He doesn’t stop pushing it despite being aware that it is pointless and useless, and for that, according to Camus, he should be considered a hero in his own right. Being set up for failure and still persisting takes its own special kind of strength and is exactly what makes Sisyphus an ‘absurd’ hero. From here, he uses the absurdity of Sisyphus’ heroics to explain the philosophy of the absurd. Camus puts forth the idea that human life, as we know it is just as futile as Sisyphus’ punishment, if not more. We still try our hardest at it, we still live each day, we acquire resources, we build connections and we don’t stop, even though it is all utterly useless. Life is inherently devoid of meaning but humans since aeons ago have not and will not stop searching for it. This is the absurdity of the human affliction and the absurd nature of humanity’s existence. (I told you it was existentialist. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As you might have realised, the genius of this myth is quite extraordinary. It might seem like such a small, dare I say, absurd(!) myth, but Homer really put forth a piece of genius through it. The more you delve into it, the more meanings you can find and the more wonderfully enlightened discussions you can have. It has been a joy to discuss this story and discover how much I had underappreciated it. With that, we come to the end of our journey with Sisyphus.

Until our next mythic adventure!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Albert Camus’ philosophy of the ‘absurd’? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

De-myth-ify: Sisyphus (Part One)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, a story from Homer’s Iliad of a man immortalised after his death, today. This is part one of a two-part series on Sisyphus.

For the previous series of posts on Perseus and Medusa in the De-myth-ify series, click here.

Today’s story is quite different from the ones we have discussed before. For one, this isn’t the story of a hero, of a good, brave guy just trying to exist without offending the gods, having a prophecy made about him or getting into other greek trouble. It’s someone who is quite literally the opposite, a man who lived to scorn the gods, did not care and just, wasn’t a great guy. His story is also quite different as in the most important part(and what he is known or) came after his death, after his story concluded. So, without further ado, let’s get into the story of the man who was in Homer’s words, “The most cunning of all men”, Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was the sly, deceitful and ruthless (and if you didn’t figure it out, very Slytherin) king of Corinth. He was super extravagant, lived in general disdain of and did not care about the wrath of the Greek gods (Which is almost I daresay, refreshing). To prove himself an iron-fisted ruler, he would often kill the guests and travellers that came to Corinth. (What else would you do?) This was a big no-no in Ancient Greece and a direct violation of Xenia, the concept of generosity and hospitality shown to guests. The patron of Xenia was Zeus(who you know, isn’t that great himself), who obviously was really angry with Sisyphus and wanted to punish him. Zeus ordered the God of Death, Thanatos to chain him up in Tartarus, the deep abyss in the Underworld, for all eternity. (Punishment fitting the crime indeed)

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Zeus de Smyrne discovered in Smyrna in 1680.

When Thanatos came for him, genius trickster as he was, he asked Thanatos to demonstrate to him how the chains worked, trapped him in them and escaped. (Say what you will, but that is smooth) Since the literal personification of death was chained up, people stopped dying. You could be chopped up to bits and still make it to dinner. The gods were mortified and finally, Ares, the God of War went and freed Thanatos because with no one dying, his wars had become boring. (Great reasoning) So now, our protagonist has literally cheated death and effectively levelled up. Would you believe that he will cheat death one more time? (You’d think they’d learn, right?)

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Thanatos sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, c. 325–300 BC

The second time around, Sisyphus instructed his wife, Merope to not perform the proper burial ceremonies for him after his death and throw his naked body in the middle of a public square as a test of her love( Seems a bit extra, but okay) Due to this, when he reached the Underworld, he manipulated the Queen Persephone into letting him go back to scold Merope and ensuring that the proper rites occur. She lets him go because she is great and then once back, he shows no signs of coming back to the land of the Dead. Thanatos is understandably too terrified of the man and thus refuses to go to bring him back and Sisyphus ends up living to a ripe old age. (I know he’s a murderer and stuff but what an icon)

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Statue of Persephone. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

When he finally died, the gods knew they weren’t going to let him go this time. Now, we get to the most famous part of the story, the part you knew, if nothing else about Sisyphus. He was eternally punished to push a boulder up a hill, futilely because as soon as he would reach near the top, the boulder would roll back down and he would have to start over from the bottom of the hill. (Not sure if the crime fits the punishment here exactly but we’ll get into that later) So, as the legend goes, Sisyphus is still at his hill in the Underworld, pushing a boulder up a hill, doing an arduous task that is doomed to fail. And on that, laboured(Ha!) note, we come to the end of the story of the very grey character that was Sisyphus.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you think Sisyphus deserved his punishment? Why/Why not? 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!

 

 

 

Visiting World Wonders: Vatican City

Let’s talk about Vatican City today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is quite different from the ‘wonders’ we have discussed till now in that it not exactly a singular ‘wonder’ but more of an amalgamation of many ‘wonders’ if you will. It comprises of many important UNESCO world heritage sites and is one that I’m so excited for because I absolutely enjoyed my visit there and I really just want to geek out about it. (Also I might as well warn you right now because there will be lots of geeking out and fact spouting, so you know, proceed with caution) Without further ado, let’s get on with talking about the world’s smallest sovereign state, home to the Pope(and some of the most culturally significant art and architecture in the world), the Vatican city-state, within the city of Rome, Italy.

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Vatican city comprises of many important sites like the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Since we have so much to cover, I’ve decided to go about this post a bit differently. I will be walking you through the city exactly as I did, in that order, one Wednesday morning in June 2017. I remember it being a Wednesday because that had turned out to be not a very ideal day to visit. We were unaware that it was the day the Pope addressed the state, every week, so it was a bit of a crowded day with many things blocked off and chairs laid out all over the centre of the city.

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For the Vatican, we had a lovely, very bubbly and cheerful tour guide, Letizia, who I for one, definitely bonded with based on my excitement and fact-dropping when I saw in front of me, all the famous art and sculptures I had only heard of till now. We met Letizia at the main doorway to the city, where she began her tour by telling us that in the sculpture right above us, the great artists Raphael and Michaelangelo (On the right and left respectively) were represented, for their many contributions to the beauty and grandeur of the Vatican.

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The doorway with Raphael on the right with a palette in his hand and Michelangelo on the left with a mallet. (I love how that rhymes)

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We walked in and the first thing we saw was the beautiful Vatican gardens with the dome of the St.Peters Basilica peeking above them.

Then, we walked into the first of the Vatican Museums. The museums surprisingly, became one of my favourite parts of the visit, because there was just so many famous paintings, sculptures and frescoes there and I could not stop obsessing over them. We saw many originals, as well as recreations of famous art pieces and even the ceilings, were so gorgeous! (Letizia was just as excited about the art as I was, which was actually the best and made all this much more fun!)

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A recreation of the famous sculpture, Discobolus or the disk thrower.

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The aforementioned ceilings.

Next, we went to St.Peters Basilica, a gorgeous specimen of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. It is the largest church in the world and considered one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It is also home to Michelangelo’s Pietà, a sculpture that depicts Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after his crucifixion. It is also the only sculpture that he ever signed. I am not Catholic but even for me, the church felt so grand, so solemn and so unbelievably beautiful.

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St.Peter’s Basilica

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The Pietà

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The Dome of the church from the inside.

We then walked into the Raphael Stanze or the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican museum which are pretty much exactly what they sound like and are just covered head to toe in Raphael’s most famous paintings and frescoes. For the uninitiated, Raphael was an Italian Renaissance artist, considered one of the best and part of the traditional trinity of the great masters of that period, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo(Who by the way, comes up later.) These rooms were unbelievable, and it was like walking into history, being surrounded by all these gorgeous, really famous pieces of art and I was completely besotten by the beauty of it all.

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Some of Raphael’s most iconic artworks.

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Finally, we got to what you(maybe) and I (definitely) had been waiting for: The Sistine Chapel. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite part of the visit. Seeing Michelangelo’s iconic frescoes through my own eyes was a once in a lifetime experience. Finding the classic god creating man fresco in front of me gave me literal chills. The entire ceiling and every wall is covered in magnificence and I, a mere mortal, was just trying to do the seemingly impossible task of capturing it all and bringing it back with me. It has to be one of the best moments of my life and no words are ever going to be enough. I was lucky enough to see something special, something unbelievable, something from 500 odd years ago. I had only ever seen it in pictures and in my opinion, no picture can capture the grandiose of it all. (Also fun fact courtesy Letizia: Michelangelo saw himself as a sculptor and not a painter and thus took offence at being commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel and rather cheekily painted everyone, god, mortal and whatnot in every fresco, naked. One of his friends came and painted clothes on everyone to save Michelangelo from the church’s wrath. Talk about petty.)

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The ceiling frescoes. Try to find the next picture in there!

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The close-up you were really waiting for.

Then we walked around the centre of the city, where we saw all of the Vatican standing together, all imposing in its grandeur. The buildings, the gardens, the fountains, it is such a  gorgeous place and each and every part is so striking. It was here that I had a wonderful moment with Letizia, that I’ve actually talked about before in my “Hermione Complex” post. She was lovely enough to tell me that I reminded her of her father, who was a great poet and one of her favourite people and that I  was going to grow up to be a very wise person. It is one of my most cherished memories and Letizia if you’re reading, thank you so much, it was very kind. On that warm and fuzzy note, let’s wrap up on our Vatican adventure. I hope I was able to express at least some of the joy and wonder I felt when I visited the place. See you next time!

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

 

 

The Thing with Book to Movie Adaptations

Let’s talk about Book to Movie(and TV show) adaptations today.

Imagine this. You read a great book and it is now one of your favourites. Once you’re done with it, you looked it up. You find that there’s a movie(or TV show, just assume I said TV show even if I don’t say it explicitly here on out) based on it and excitedly you clear your schedule and decide to watch it. Things can only go two ways from here.

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The first scenario is this: You watch the movie, it rocks your world and it was the best thing ever to see what was, till now, in your imagination come alive. It was exactly as you imagined and you were crying-laughing after. You recommend it to everyone you know and thank whoever you believe in for its existence.

The second scenario is this: You watch the movie and it is such a travesty to watch what you love and cherish so much be tarnished this badly. It is devastating and you swear off the movie and let everyone who will hear you know that the movie does not count.

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And in case you’re wondering, there is no middle ground. If you’re passionate enough about a book, you’re either obsessed with the movie or hate it, there is no in-between. The polarizing nature of the subject that is Book to Movie/TV adaptations is what makes them a bit of a controversial topic. It is also why we’ll discuss both the case for and the case against Book to Movie adaptations today and maybe if all goes well, you’ll at least have an understanding of the other point of view. Let’s begin with the case for Book to Movie adaptations and talk about why they such are a great thing.

The case for them is easy to get. You have a story, which is already written, already loved, already structured and broken down and already has a fanbase. All you have to do is adapt it to your medium. Not everyone likes to read or can read in the language of the original book, but movies and TV shows are a universal medium and subtitles can solve all those problems. If done well, it brings new fans to the books and brings a resurgence and major growth to the fanbase of the series. It allows for sequels and if you put in the effort, the people making it can earn a lot of money and fame and the fans can find a lot of gratification and joy, so everyone’s happy. If you make a great adaptation, the fans will keep the movies alive, elevate them to ‘cult’ status and make them a part of the ‘pop culture.’

I think the best example of a book to movie adaptation that has achieved this is the Harry Potter movies, which are not perfect but made people realise how lucrative this could be and paved the way for many future book adaptations. Other great movie adaptations are The Hunger Games movies, the Maze Runner movies, The Chronicles of Narnia and in a bit of an unpopular opinion, the Twilight movies. (I think they were great adaptations, I just don’t think they were that great books, Sorry Stephenie) The best TV adaptation that I have to mention is of the Song of Ice and Fire books,i.e Game of Thrones. (but only the initial seasons when they were actually adapting from the books, not what happened after)

The case against might either be very obvious to you or not obvious at all. (Depending on what adaptation you have watched, oops.) Adapting a story for celluloid or for a TV show is hard. You might have to modify structuring, add scenes or delete scenes and it is effort. There is also quite a lot of pressure because the books already have fans and those fans have certain expectations. If you do it wrong, those fans will let you know. it will be rejected, will tank and will earn hate and notoriety. It might even drive away fans; the movie might be so bad that people develop the wrong opinion that the books too, are not good and might end up missing out on what was a perfectly good book. Also as a reader, you develop a very personal relationship with a book and sometimes there’s a bit of possessiveness in that. You don’t want the book to become a ‘mainstream’ fanbase because it is yours and almost too sacred to be touched so you don’t want it to be adapted.

I think the prime example of a book to movie adaptation that has proved this is the movie adaptation of the Percy Jackson books, which was an utter and complete tragedy and only ever gave us Logan Lerman. (Thank god, they’re making a new TV show for the books now because the movies were just disrespectful) Other such movie adaptations are the Divergent books and the Mortal Instruments books. (I’ve heard the show is better but I’ve outgrown the series honestly, so haven’t watched it myself) The best (or rather actually worst) TV adaptation that I can think of is Thirteen Reasons Why. It was a thought-provoking, decent book which spoke of mental health and it ended up as a very dramatic social issue exposé which was just traumatising and attention-seeking.

So, by now, either you’ve picked a side or found more material to fuel your already set opinion, or hopefully, just understood both sides better. The bottom line with adaptations is this; if you do it well, a Book to Movie adaptation is a great, amazing thing but if you do it badly, it is disrespectful and sad. It’s all about finding the balance and bringing great stories to more people because stories are important and wonderful and in the words of Joan Didion, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live”.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Are you for or against Book to Movie/TV show adaptations? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

De-myth-ify: Matsyavatara (Part Two)

Let’s talk about Hindu mythology and the story of the first of Vishnu’s 10 incarnations or Dasavatara, the Matsya or the fish, today. This is part two of a two-part series on the Matsyavatara.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

So, where were we? Matsya or Lord Vishnu fulfilled his devotee Manu’s life long desire of seeing him. He also gave him instructions to build a boat and put the seven sages, seeds of all plants and males and females of all the animals(Plus the snake god Vasuki) on it. (And we all thought of a certain biblical hero) Then, he set off to find the horse-headed demon Hayagriva, who had stolen the Vedas from the Lord of Creation, Brahma and was hiding at the bottom of the ocean. Now, let’s focus on that part of the story.

Matsya, a fish as large as the ocean itself, made its way to where Hayagriva sat, guarding the Vedas. Hayagriva saw the huge fish from afar and was terrified of this unnaturally sized fish. (You get that, right, just a giant fish coming at him, anyone would be terrified.) Before he could even think of how to protect himself, the fish attacked him and sent him reeling. There was a brief and with no offence to Hayagriva’s demon abilities, highly futile struggle, at the end of which, Hayagriva was dead and the Vedas promptly returned to Brahma, to their rightful place. (Sorry, no major action sequence here, you guys)

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Our Hindu(Read biblical) hero, Manu on the other hand, had successfully built his ship. He had brought the seven sages, seeds of all the plants, male and female of all the animals and Vasuki, on board. He patiently awaited his Lord, while the Earth was ravaged by torrential rains and flooded to such an extent that it seemed that all of the earth was one giant ocean. The boat almost capsized several times as the water level rose, however, all the occupants of the boat had complete faith in Lord Vishnu.

They were rewarded for their faith as the fish eventually turned up and told Manu to use Vasuki, the snake god as a rope and tie the boat to its horn. The flood swept over the land but the boat was safe because it was protected by Lord Vishnu. Watching the death and destruction, Manu wondered why humanity had earned such a deadly end. At this, Lord Vishnu told him that he was the only moral man left on earth and he would go on to be the father of future generations of mankind, or the Manavas. After the storm abated, Matsya dropped them all off at the Himalayas, for them to begin the new Yuga and continue human civilisation.

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With this, the story of the first of the Dasavatara of Vishnu, Matsyavatara, as well as the Satya Yuga comes to a somewhat mixed end.

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

This story is not a ‘classic’ Hindu myth. It is relatively unknown, and a very simple story, which I see as being representative of the simpler times it was set in. It is set in the era where people were the nicest, even if they did go immoral by that standard. (Can you imagine? What is immoral to people who never ever lie?) It does still have some features of Hindu mythology that are unique and quite different from other world mythologies.

For instance, it is highly reverent. Hinduism is a present and thriving religion, even to this day, and is one of the oldest religions in the world. So, Hindu mythology is usually about gods or their incarnations and they are very much involved in the stories. (Which is wildly different from the Greek trope of demigods, or heroes) They are also quite positive and tend to have morals associated with them. (Basically, in a very un-greek fashion, they make great stories for little kids) For this story(In my opinion), the moral is that God will always protect you if you’re a good person. There’s many more, but I think this story makes a good foray into Hindu mythology and as the first of the 10 major incarnations of Lord Vishnu(Who is usually quite prominent in Hindu myths), a great beginner tale.

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Vishnu’s Dasvatara

Now, let’s talk about the elephant(Or giant fish, more aptly) in the room. The really really obvious similarities between this story and the story of Noah’s Ark from Biblical mythology. Both stories have God telling a good man that there will be a flood(Which also implies both have a great apocalyptic flood), both have him instructed to build a boat(Or an ark), both have him bring seeds and male and females of all the animals on it, both have the boat survive as it is protected by God and finally, in both, civilisation begins afresh. (That was an excess of the word both, I don’t ever want to do that again)

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So, the obvious question is, who cheated off whom? Who copied? To which, I say, I genuinely believe there was no copying as such. Hindu Puranas are much much older than the Bible but I really think that as people travelled in the old world, they took stories with them and stories would grow and modify with each retelling, making them similar but different stories that stand on their own and represent the people who believe in them well. Hindus like to visualise God, make him tangible and real and thus, in their version of the story, God is a giant fish. Christians, on the other hand, believe in a capital G- God, and thus God is not physically present to protect Noah, but his protection is with him. All in all, it is just another coincidence in the wonderful world of mythology, and these coincidences are something that I have always loved to find in various mythologies.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: How did you like this story and what do you think of the differences and similiarities in various mythologies? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

De-myth-ify: Matsyavatara (Part One)

Let’s talk about Hindu mythology and the story of the first of Vishnu’s 10 incarnations or Dasavatara, the Matsya or the fish, today. This is part one of a two-part series on the Matsyavatara.

In this myth, unlike in Greek mythology, I cannot just launch into the main story because it is far too complicated and far too confusing if you are not aware of the background in which it is set. This series is an attempt to simplify the story found in the Matsya Purana, and among the oldest stories in the eighteen major Puranas in Hindu literature. So without further ado, let us begin with somewhat of a prologue and set the scene for the story, hope you’ll enjoy it.

In Hindu mythology, time is considered cyclical and is divided into eras or Yugas. Each Yuga is supposed to be approximately 4320 million human years and equivalent to a day in the life of the Lord of Creation, Brahma. When evil overrules the good, there is Pralay or an apocalypse and a new Yuga begins afresh. Also at the end of every Yuga, Brahma goes to sleep, after a whole day of creation having tired him out. (Cmon, he earned that nap, let him have it, its been literal million years.) Brahma’s knowledge of creation came from the Vedas, which are the oldest religious scriptures of Hinduism and which he kept on his person and will be very important in this story.

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Lord Brahma, the Hindu god of Creation with the Vedas in his right hand.

Humans were becoming immoral day by day and the Satya Yuga was close to ending. (This immorality is by the standards of an era when people were the most honest they ever were or will be. So, you know. Go figure.)  Right on schedule, Brahma decided it was time for his ‘daily’ slumber and as he started to close his eyes and go to sleep, he yawned and the horse-headed demon Hayagriva came out of his nose, stole the Vedas and went and hid at the bottom of the ocean, thinking that no one would find him there. (Can you blame him? 95 per cent of the Earth’s oceans are still undiscovered, to this day. It was a good plan, you know, apart from the thieving and stuff.) Vishnu, the God of Preservation was worried by this development because if the Vedas were stolen their knowledge could not be used in the next Yuga which was about to begin. Since it was his job to ensure the preservation(of knowledge) for the next era, it was time for Vishnu to take his first incarnation and come to Earth and that is where our story, truly, officially, begins. (Finally.)

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Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God of Preservation

On Earth, there lived a man named Manu, who was very pious and devoted to Vishnu. He used to pray and perform penance to fulfil his lifelong dream of seeing Vishnu with his own eyes. One day, as he began his prayers at the river and took some water from it in his hands and was about to pour it back, he noticed a tiny fish in his hands. The fish was begging him to not put it back in the water as other bigger fish might eat him. (This is very ancient times, he can speak fish, its not a big deal) He decided to help the fish and took it to his house and put it in a small pot. When the fish outgrew the pot, he put it in a bigger one. Soon, it outgrew that pot as well and went on to outgrow every other pot in Manu’s home. So, he put the fish in the river. Then a bigger river. Then an even bigger one. Soon, this fish outgrew all the rivers and Manu put it in the ocean.

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When put in the ocean, the fish grew to the size of the ocean, a horn grew out of its head and it revealed itself to be Vishnu. Manu bowed in reverence and was overwhelmed to see his dream fulfilled. He asked him what the Lord wanted of him. Vishnu then told Manu that the Yuga was going to end in 7 days; there would be a great flood, and all life on earth would perish. He instructed him to build a big ship, take seeds of all the plants, male and female of all species of all the animals, and the Seven Sages on it. (The Seven Sages or Saptarishi are a big deal in Hindu mythology. They are considered the patriarchs of the Vedic religion) He also told him to bring the god of the snakes, Vasuki on the ship. (Did it remind you of a very famous story yet? If not, ‘Ill give you a hint. Think biblical.)Matsya avatar

Having given his instructions and completing one half of its mission on Earth the Matsya Avatar,a.k.a Lord Vishnu set off to the bottom of the ocean to find the demon Hayagriva and bring the Vedas back. That tale though is for the next part.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: This tale begins with the idea that time is cyclical. Do you agree or disagree? Let me know what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!