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!

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!

 

 

 

Some ‘Grown-up’ Thoughts on School

Let’s talk about school and adulthood today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Love for Languages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life In The Time of Corona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck, take care and stay safe!

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

De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part Three)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is the last part of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa. If you haven’t read the previous parts, do go and read Part One and Part Two before you continue here.

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

Perseus’ story is quite the rarity in Greek mythology. Heroes are usually not happy or even, you know, alive at the end of their stories. Perseus falls in love, gets to marry her, she’s not related to him, no one opposes their match, he saves his mum, settles down in his new capital, has kids and lives a long, relatively happy life. Very few heroes, if any, get that. Think of any and all heroes you can; Orpheus fails at the last minute, Achilles dies and so on. After Perseus died, he and many characters from his story were also immortalised in the night sky and were made constellations by the gods. Perseus, Andromeda, King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia are all featured among the stars. That’s positively delightful by Ancient Greek standards.

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Oedipus’ story was clearly a tragedy, for everyone in the story. But here, the only tragic character is the apparent villain, Medusa. And hence begin my arguments to express my firm belief that Medusa was never a villain and did not deserve what happened to her. Hear me out. Medusa was born mortal and pretty, by luck. She had nothing to do with that. It was not her fault that the sea god Poseidon got tempted by her beauty. It wasn’t her fault that Poseidon and Athena had a rivalry going and thus, Poseidon decided to impregnate her in Athena’s temple to spite her. And it goes without saying that she did not deserve to be turned into an ugly monster by Athena. Neither did she deserve to die as she did or for her severed head to be used as a weapon for time immemorial.

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Medusa by Caravaggio

Some people believe that Athena turned her into a monster so no man could ever do to Medusa what Poseidon did to her. Is that fair though? Athena took away her life and eventually helped her murderer kill her. She also mounted her head on her shield after clearly ruining her life. If we look at the story from Medusa’s point of view, it’s clearly a tragedy and there are not just one but two villains: Poseidon and Athena, whose rivalry ended up ruining Medusa.

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Poseidon and Athena’s rivalry

Now that we are on the topic of the gods, this story has a lot of them being, directly and indirectly, involved in the story. Let us start at the very beginning. Zeus was capable of turning into golden sparkly rain and impregnating Danae who was imprisoned for no fault of hers, but not capable of rescuing her in the first place. He left her pregnant and trapped, alone to fend against her father who literally imprisoned her to prevent this happening. (You know, I have an idea. Let us begin a Douchebag God count. Zeus makes 1 DG.) Even when they reached Seriphus and Polydectes was after Danae, he didn’t smite him or anything and let him torture her till Perseus came back from his quest. (A Big DG move)

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Zeus by Pierre Granier

We already talked about Poseidon a bit(and enough to earn him a spot in the DG list and make it 2) so let us continue from there. Not only did he possibly rape and impregnate Medusa, but he also did it in the temple of his sworn rival, to spite her and when Medusa ended up facing the consequences of it, he did nothing and was as unbothered as can be. He also set a sea monster on a country for something as silly as a queen being vain and punished common people for no fault of theirs. (Another big DG move)

Athena we have mostly talked about, but just to refresh your memory, she made Medusa a monster for no fault of hers, she helped Perseus kill her, and she put Medusa’s head on her shield after all this, shamelessly. (And that makes 3 DGs.) Need I go on? Hermes gets a special mention because he did help Perseus on his quest with Athena, so he becomes a DG by association. And that’s 4 DGs and excellent examples of Greek gods meddling whenever is convenient for them, as opposed to, at the beginning itself to not cause the very problems that they expect heroes to fix.

This story, like Oedipus’ also began with a prophecy and here too we saw the self-fulfilling nature of prophecies. Acrisius imprisoned his daughter to prevent the prophecy from coming true and as a result, made his grandson a demigod who was trained by the very best. He escaped Argos when he heard Perseus was coming back and ended up dying because of this decision. Perhaps if he had stayed put, he would have lived longer. Perhaps if his grandson knew him all along, he wouldn’t have died at his hands. It’s a lot of if’s but that’s all they are. I know it might not have changed things, but the truth of the matter is that in this story, as well as Oedipus’, characters made choices to prevent an event that ended up making the very event they dreaded come true, in classic Greek fashion.

And with that, we come to the end of our journey with Perseus and Medusa.

Until our next Greek adventure! (Or wherever we choose to go.)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What were your thoughts on this series on Perseus and Medusa?Which myth should I do next? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part Two)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is part two of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

Let’s catch back up with our hero. Perseus has spent a few days wandering in vain on his impossible quest. Why impossible, you ask? Remember what I said about the Gorgon’s Lair that becomes relevant later? This is the later we were waiting for. No mortal knew Medusa’s location. Fortunately for Perseus, he got what few heroes were privileged enough to get before. Help from the gods themselves.

Athena(The Goddess of Wisdom and the person who turned Medusa into a gorgon) and Hermes(The God of Travellers) decided to support Perseus on his quest and told him to seek the Graeae, the sisters of the gorgons, as they were the only ones who could tell him what he needed to know to be successful. The Graeae were three grey-haired monsters who shared an eye and a tooth between them. Perseus managed to eventually track them down and steal their eye and tooth to blackmail them into divulging the information he needed. ( I know. This was as weird a sentence to write as it was to read.)

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Perseus and the Graeae, by Edward Burne-Jones

The Graeae told him how to find the Hesperide Nymphs(Nymphs who lived in the Garden of the Hesperides), from whom he could obtain objects crucial to the completion of his quest and the location of the Gorgon’s Lair. The Hesperide Nymphs were actually pretty hospitable and gave him a bag to safely hold Medusa’s severed head and more importantly, Hades'(The God of the Dead) helm of darkness which could make him invisible. They also gave him the address of the Gorgons.Zeus(His dad, if you remember and King of the Gods) gave him a curved sword to uh, decapitate Medusa, Hermes lent him his winged sandals to fly to the Gorgon’s Lair at the end of the world and Athena gave him a reflective polished shield which will go on to be the hero of Perseus’ armoury. (It is important to note that Perseus is the rare hero who had so much help. Not many were so lucky.)

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Perseus armed by Mercury and Minerva, by Paris Bordone

Now armed with his repository of godly and magical items part of the Anti-Medusa squad, Perseus headed (Read flew on his winged sandals with the helm of darkness on his head, making him invisible and terrifying to any and all birds) to the Gorgon’s Lair. When he reached their cave, he found the three sisters fast asleep. Perseus used the reflective shield as a mirror(I told you it would be the hero item) to see Medusa without directly looking into her face and you know, avoid being turned to stone and stuff. He managed to get close enough to use the curved sword to land a fatal blow on Medusa’s throat. The minute he cut off Medusa’s head, from the drops of her blood sprung the winged horse Pegasus and the Chrysaor, a giant or a winged boar. It’s believed that those two were Medusa’s children with Poseidon.

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Perseus with the head of Medusa, by Benvenuto Cellini

He put Medusa’s head in the bag and was now running to escape from her two sisters who were now awake and furious to avenge their sister. Here, being invisible and able to fly helped out a great deal, and Perseus managed to escape the angry gorgons, who eventually gave up and decided to mourn their dead sister. And with that, Medusa was dead and Perseus was off with her head to fulfil his quest.

However, Medusa’s story does not end with her death. While Perseus was flying home, he passed Ethiopia, the kingdom of King Cephus. The queen, Cassiopeia, had claimed to be more beautiful than the sea nymphs, or Nereids(As you do), so Poseidon had punished the country by flooding it and plaguing it with a sea monster. (Poseidon doesn’t look great in this story, does he?)An oracle informed the King that the ill-will on his land would cease if he sacrificed his daughter Andromeda to the monster, which he did. (I hope, reluctantly) Perseus, passing by, saw the princess chained to a rock near the sea and fell in love with her. He turned the sea monster to stone by showing it Medusa’s head and afterwards married Andromeda. (Aw look. A happy ending. And no one is married to their mom or their sibling or something.)

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Perseus and Andromeda, by Rubens

Perseus and Andromeda then headed to Seriphus where Perseus came to offer Polydectes his, “gift”, fulfilling his quest. However, when Polydectes would not tell him where his mother was, Perseus pulled out the head of Medusa and turned Polydectes and his entire court to stone, just as he learnt that Polydectes had been mistreating his mother and had thrown her in the dungeon. He freed his mother, he returned all the magical items he had been given and presented Medusa’s head to Athena, as a thank you for all her help. (I mean, she made Medusa a monster in the first place sooooo, okay I’m not saying anything) She placed it on the centre of her shield, the aegis. All seemed well. (Uh oh)

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Athena’s Aegis

Perseus, along with Danae and Andromeda decided to go to his native Argos, to make peace with his grandfather Acrisius. (Remember him?)Upon hearing this, Acrisius, still painfully aware of the Oracle’s prophecy, left Argos and went to Larisa. (This would not turn out to be a good idea)Ironically, that’s precisely where Perseus headed on his way to Argos so that he could compete in the funeral games King Teutamides held in honour of his dead father. When Perseus threw a discus, it accidentally hit an old man on the head, killing him on the spot. As you might have guessed, that old man was none other than Acrisius, his grandfather; thus, the prophecy was fulfilled. (Dun dun dun. You can’t escape prophecy in ancient Greece, you’d think they would learn.)

He consequently left Argos as he was too ashamed of the crime he had committed unintentionally and founded Mycenae as his capital, becoming the ancestor of the Perseids, including Hercules. And with that, the story of Perseus comes to an end. And a relatively happy one, from Greek hero standards. More on that next time, stay tuned.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: This story involves many Greek Gods.How are you feeling towards them at the end? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part One)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is part one of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa.

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

This story, just like Oedipus’, is very typically Greek and begins with a prophecy. Acrisius, the king of Argos, was told by the Oracle of Delphi that his own grandson would kill him one day. (So, as you see, only a slight change in “grandness” from Laius’ predicament) Acrisius had only one daughter, Danae. Now, Acrisius was a reasonable guy and reacted reasonably, and decided to lock Danae up in a tall tower, away from the world, to ensure that there was no meeting or mating with people and consequently no childbearing in Danae’s future. (Laius understands. Family is hard, y’all. Especially in ancient Greece.)

However, it is common knowledge that Zeus has no chill. So, the king of the gods came to our damsel in distress in the most extra form of a golden shower through a crack in her roof and yet again, had a dalliance with a mortal which resulted in the hero of our story, the half-mortal half-god Perseus. Eventually, Acrisius caught on and realised that his plan of locking away his daughter forever did not work and he now had a demigod grandson to contend with. (Now now, at least Oedipus was fully mortal) He then proceeded to in the best dad move order both mother and child to be placed in a chest and thrown into the sea to die. (Seriously, this guy and Laius could have been best buds.)

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Danae,by Giovanni Battista.

Zeus, however, had no plans of letting them die and allowed the chest to reach safely to the island of Seriphus. Here, the chest was discovered by Dictys, the brother of the king Polydectes, and its occupants brought forth to him. Polydectes was not a great guy and he immediately wanted Danae to marry him and could not handle rejection. Dictys however, managed to conceal Danae and Perseus from him and allow them to stay on the island where Perseus received a hero’s education from Chiron the Centaur, teacher to heroes like Hercules, Achilles and Jason. (We like Dictys.What a great guy.)

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Eventually, Polydectes realised that Danae and Perseus had been saying in Seriphus all this time and realised that the only obstacle standing between him marrying Danae was her son Perseus, now a grown man who was very protective of her and would not allow her to be married to a god awful man like Polydectes against her will. (Seems reasonable, but we are talking about a man who refuses to see reason) Polydectes then had a genius idea that would allow him to deal with his problems once and for all, a la every teenager in a teen movie, by throwing a party.

Now, this party was not just some ordinary rager. It was a large banquet where it was customary for each guest to bring the host a gift. Perseus was unaware of this custom and asked Polydectes to name his gift and promised that he could not refuse. Polydectes finally had him in his trap and asked Perseus to bring him the head of the only mortal gorgon, Medusa. (Gasp!) And thus, Perseus set off on his dangerous quest, one which all heroes before him had been unsuccessful on and our story gets juicier.

But, wait. This is not just a one-character story, unlike Oedipus. It is now time for me to introduce the other character of our story, our “villain”, the monster Medusa. Medusa was one of the three Gorgons and the only mortal one among them. She was a beautiful woman with long flowing hair and a gorgeous face, unlike her siblings who were monsters by birth. This is the irony of the story of Medusa, for she eventually turned into the most feared and most awful monster of them all.

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Medusa was so beautiful that even the mighty sea god Poseidon could not resist her charms and impregnated her in the goddess of wisdom Athena’s temple. (Yikes.) Athena was livid and in her fury transformed Medusa into a hideous monster with bronze hands and wings of gold, like her sisters. Writhing snakes were entwining her head in place of hair. Her face was so hideous and her gaze so piercing that the mere sight of her was sufficient to turn a man to stone. (Damn Athena. You could have chilled a little.)And what of Poseidon, you ask? Nothing, he got off scot-free because he is immortal and couldn’t care less. So much for a mighty sea god, huh? Oh and also, she was confined to live in a cave with her sisters called the Gorgon’s Lair whose location was known to no mortal. (Remember this, this becomes relevant later.)

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The three gorgons at the Secession building in Vienna, Austria

And now, both our character’s timelines are caught up and here they are, Perseus on a reckless quest, Medusa with her stony gaze(Hehe) in her cave while their destinies are about to get a whole lot tangled. Get settled, the fun is just about to begin.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What do you think of the characters so far? Are there any favorites or least favorite ones? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Visiting World Wonders: The Dawki River

Let’s talk about the Dawki River today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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