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The A-Z of 2020

Let’s talk about 2020 today.

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

2020 has been a year of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Life Uncategorized

I’ve got ‘COVID FOMO’. Have you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

iStock / Special to The Forum

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!

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

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Mythology Uncategorized

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!

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Mythology Uncategorized

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!

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Books Uncategorized

7 Things I Realised When I Read Harry Potter as an Adult

Let’s talk about reading Harry Potter as an adult today.

After one particularly rough day, during the lockdown, I decided to cope with this unprecedented situation the way I have coped with many things: by reading the Harry Potter series. This has been one of my big personal projects during this time, apart from the work and school and all: rereading the entire Harry Potter series. (That is the 7 books J.K. Rowling wrote, I do not count the Cursed Child, there are fanfictions far better than that travesty.)

I last read the Harry Potter series in 2013 when I was 7 years younger and deep in the throes of my teenage rebellion. Now, in 2020, I’m a young adult, I have grown out of my rebellion and have realised that there is a lot about the world that I do not know. I also already knew the story and all the plot twists and was not going to get any big plot surprises through this read. What I did get was a lot of emotions, rediscovery of the ability to be sucked in a book that I thought I lost to my teens and a lot of realisations. These realisations are what I present to you today and so without further ado, here are 7 things I realised when I read Harry Potter as an adult.

  1. Just how tragic James and Lily Potter’s deaths and their whole situation was.

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As a kid,21 seemed to be a very grown-up and very far away age. Hence, James and Lily dying at 21, leaving behind their 1-year-old son seemed sad to me but the weight of the tragedy didn’t quite hit me. I am 21 now. 21 is way too early and to go the way they did? It is awful. Add to that the fact that Sirius Black, who was innocent and had just lost his best friends, got blamed for the whole thing by the man responsible for it, framed for another crime he didn’t commit and thrown in prison for 12 years, also at 21. That is such a terrible situation to be in so young and so incredibly tragic. (Also one of the reasons I stand by my belief that we deserve Marauders Era books and movies; they will be tragic but they will be so interesting and these people deserved to be remembered in more ways than the tragic tales they became)

2. Just how great a family the Weasleys were.

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The Weasleys were a great representation of being poor, but as a family, absolute gold. The way Molly Weasley immediately sent Harry a Christmas present when Ron realised he probably won’t get one, the way they always took Harry in and provided him with the best of what they could, always checked on him, cared for him, and how they all considered him family and became one when they didn’t have to, was amazing. Be it Molly Weasley’s protectiveness of Harry, the Weasley twins providing him with the Marauders map, Ginny, of course, being his future wife and Ron his best friend through it all and many more such instances, Harry had always had the Weasleys behind him at the moments he needed support. The Weasleys, Hermoine and Hagrid were with him, always and were his family and I did not give them enough credit for this as a child.

3. Just how wonderful a person Harry James Potter was.

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Harry Potter had a very tragic life. His parents were murdered, he lived in an abusive household and narrowly escaped death multiple times and lived through a war and lost many close to him. As a kid for me and I suspect many others, Harry suffered from what I call the Protagonist’s Curse. No one said their favourite character was Harry himself, mine was Hermione and people chose any character really, as minor as they could be but not Harry. This is stupid because Harry Potter was an absolute gem of a person. To have gone through what he did, to live through the abuse the Durselys put him through, to be the Chosen One, to lose your few loved ones to the cause and to still be brave and just inherently good when he was so young it absolutely wasn’t fair, is amazing. He was a deeply selfless and wonderful person and this time around I got very affectionate and attached to the kid and I think he deserves a lot more credit than he gets. I didn’t realise how he was just a child living through absolute hell.17 seemed old when I was a kid.

4. Just how wasteful all the deaths felt and, where and how much they (still) hurt. 

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All the deaths, right from Cedric Diggory to Remus Lupin, were impactful yet felt so wasteful. Cedric was a great guy and a good person, and he died so suddenly, so young. Sirius Black, who had lived a tragic fate he didn’t deserve, had finally built a relationship with his godson, just happened to get Stunned in the wrong place. Dumbledore, who is, admittedly a character with shades of grey, deserved a better death, not the one where he was disarmed and weak already. Mad-eye Moody too, as a brave Auror, deserved a better way to go. Dobby, and Hedwig, were too innocent and too pure to have gone out the way they did. Severus Snape, a very grey character, didn’t quite deserve that gruesome death. Fred Weasley, jokester and happy guy, did not deserve to die young. Remus and Tonks, who had just had a new baby boy, shouldn’t have died leaving him an orphan as an echo of the deaths that started this all, James and Lily Potter’s. All these deaths had a far-reaching impact and just really really hurt but were true to the fact that in war, the young, the innocent, the old and the seasoned die all the same. (Also dead: my heart after reading about all deaths these again)

5. Just how well-developed and well-written the Magical world was

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As a child, I knew the books were good because I loved them but as an adult, who has read a lot more books, I have come to realize just what a great piece of writing they are.  I can only hope and dream that one day I can write something half as good as these books. The world and its nuances are so well developed and so rare, J.K Rowling really made magic, in the most literal sense with these books. They are something special, something that only happens, once in a while. Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic, places like Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade etc. are just testaments to a world well developed. In fact, it is so well developed that many people(Myself included) would rather reside in this fictional world than our real one and that is saying something.

6. Just how much better the books were than the movies.

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Don’t get me wrong. the movies are great by themselves, I love them and will watch them if they’re on for nostalgia reasons. However, when stacked against the books, the books win by a wiiiide margin. With the books the places your imagination can go, the movies can not. So much is better in the books; Ron’s entire character, Ginny’s entire character(Travesties these two are in the movies really), Hermione is well, human, the entire battle of Hogwarts(And most duel scenes or fighting really) At the end of the day, the books are the OG’s and the movies simply can’t compare.

7.Just how much I love Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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When I was young, if you asked me my favourite Harry Potter book, it would, without a shadow of a doubt, be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was the most complex, it answered all the questions, it added depth to characters like Dumbledore, it revealed the huge plot twist that was Severus Snape, all in all, it was the perfect culmination to the series. My favourite movie, however, has always been Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as it is the truest to the book. This time, I enjoyed reading the Prisoner of Azkaban book and realised that it is my favourite Harry Potter book now. It introduces many new concepts like Azkaban and beloved characters like Sirius and Lupin, Hogwarts has great teachers for once so the education is fun to read about, the Marauders come into the picture and most importantly to me, it is the last happy book. With Voldemort coming back in the next one and the war starting, there is a very obvious tone shift and for me, the happiness in this book and in Harry, who as I mentioned I grew very attached to mattered a lot.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What have you realised about the Harry Potter books as you have grown up? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

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Life Uncategorized

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!