Issue 5.png

ISSUE 17

 

- Ananya

Highlighting the Narrative: Coloured Stationery and Indoctrination 

I’ll be the first one to say it: I thoroughly despise highlighters.

Before you make a face at your laptop screen (or any screen, for that matter- don’t let me be the judge of which device you choose to bask in glorious writing right here at Riot!), let me make my case here: Highlighters have been sent down to Earth to make magnificently clumsy students, such as myself, feel bad about themselves. I cannot express in words how many times I’ve been on the verge of tears because of my poor highlighting abilities; every time an attempt is made to highlight in straight, neat lines, the baleful device goes off by an inch, giving colour to every piece of text other than the one I meant to (I tried to highlight Dune too, but quite literally nothing will be able to give it the color it lacks. But I digress). However hard I try, the highlight is always at an angle much different than 180°, and it is either too thick or barely visible (much like the representation of highlighter-haters in mainstream media). Frustration seeps into my skin at the tips of my fingers, along with the chemically-imparted neon colours of said stationery.

Another reason for my very valid mistrust of highlighters is one that is deep-rooted. A memory that I have carried around for years through the Indian schooling system. A phrase, so commonly used, that it brings almost an instant reflex action in me to take out my pencil case and start underlining :

“This part is important for the exams, highlight it”.

While this may seem like merely a good suggestion from my nothing-but-kind and well-meaning teachers, it never fails to amuse (and simultaneously, baffle) me how certain information or certain pieces of knowledge are more worthy of testing students on- inherently, making them more valuable than others. I don't love the ICSE education system- this isn't new information at all. And one of the biggest problems I have with it it is that we are made to learn certain topics that are ‘sureshot’ questions from the boards, deemed far more important, and word-vomit them, purging the remainder from our memory. Just recently, it had been announced that the CBSE board had decided to remove topics such as ‘Democratic Rights’ and ‘Secularism’ from their syllabus. It’s rather frightening, honestly- children are expected to learn about ‘Liberté, Égalité, et Freternité’ while learning about the French Revolution, but we fail to teach them about how the same principles are being taken away from them in their own country in the present time.

A recent conversation I had really illuminated how what is highlighted in textbooks changes with the political party in power- much like how beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, the parts of history highlighted through time differ with the opinions of the people wielding power, mostly to fit their (for lack of a better phrase) ulterior political motives. Taking the Babri Masjid incident as an example, the movement for the building of an Ayodhya temple was not spur-of-the-moment, but cultivated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an RSS arm that was subsequently adopted by BJP during the Palampur session in 1980. It is an example of how, through education by different political parties, consensus can transform a lot. To stay on theme, the keywords that I, as your metaphorical teacher, will give you here are: ‘political agenda’, ‘narratives’, and ‘indoctrination’.

And that’s the thing: the keywords in your textbooks will change with the different governments that come into power. All you have to do is highlight your experiences.

Let the highlighting be as messy and convoluted as your history.

You make the keywords.


SOURCES:
https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2013/aug/12/Keep-history-books-out-of-government-control-506041.html
https://www.wionews.com/opinions-blogs/no-one-demolished-babri-masjid-331563
https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/trends/story/cbse-removes-chapters-on-democratic-rights-secularism-demonetisation-from-syllabus-263449-2020-07-08

 

Letting Yourself Breathe

- Brishti

It’s hard to look life in the face, good and bad both, and decide to stay hopeful. Sometimes things suck. Sometimes things are fantastic. Most of the time, it’s neither. It’s tempting to create a black and white world in your head, one in which there is no confusion, no bothersome nuance. 

 

In an earlier article, I pushed for readers to realise we are alive right now, in the in-betweens. I said it is our choice to make a life worth enjoying. But even if you have the best of intentions, there will be times when there is no salvaging a bad day. Times when your black and white world is all black.

 

My favourite parts of my bothersome nuanced world are the colours. As Marty McConnell says in our first poem recommendation today, “Maybe it’s time to celebrate the hideous. Not / to confess with some hope for absolution, / but to gather all the terrible selves and minutes / and show them the trees, and the way the rain // has just abated so the air has ocean in it / though we’re dry and waiting.”

When they say you can’t go home again, what they mean is you were never there by Marty McConnell

Part of the vanguard of poets fusing and refusing and queering the delineations between literary and oral poetry, Marty McConnell’s work blurs the lines between autobiography and personae to comment on and illuminate what it means to live and love outside the lines in 21st century America. (martyoutloud.com)

https://theadroitjournal.org/issue-seventeen-marty-mcconnell-the-adroit-journal

 

Instructions on Not Giving Up by Ada Limón

Born March 28, 1976, Ada Limón is originally from Sonoma, California. As a child, she was greatly influenced by the visual arts and artists, including her mother, Stacia Brady. In 2001 she received an MFA from the Creative Writing Program at New York University. Of Limón's work, the poet Richard Blanco writes, "Both soft and tender, enormous and resounding, her poetic gestures entrance and transfix." (Poetry Foundation)

https://poets.org/poem/instructions-not-giving

 

Lines for Winter by Mark Strand

Mark Strand was recognized as one of the premier American poets of his generation as well as an accomplished editor, translator, and prose writer. The hallmarks of his style are precise language, surreal imagery, and the recurring theme of absence and negation; later collections investigate ideas of the self with pointed, often urbane wit. (Poetry Foundation)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50977/lines-for-winter

 
 

- Ishana

Sour Candy

In my opinion, sour candy is one of the most enjoyable things to eat. When I was in middle school, my friends and I used to play a game where we'd stuff as much sour candy as possible into our mouths and try to eat it with a straight face. Some of my more adventurous friends would raise the stakes and play this game during class. 

 

I never did, because I was terrible at it. The second I put a piece of sour candy in my mouth, my face would inevitably contort itself into the spitting image of my demon cousin and I would shake my body like a wet dog drying itself off. 

 

You could say that this shows how sensitive I am to the world around me and how I always feel things very intensely, but that's just not true. The truth is, I can't eat sour food without acting like I've been possessed by a demon. 

 

After several humiliating experiences involving sour candy, I decided that I had to improve my sour tolerance. The obvious next step was to start drinking freshly-squeezed undiluted raw lemon juice. Unfortunately, this technique didn't work out as well as I’d hoped. It only caused my mother to worry and hide the lemons from me. Pity.

 

I find it fascinating how we all see the world completely differently. What my friends and I saw as a fun game with amazing candy, our teachers must have seen as an obstacle that stood in the way of them having a peaceful and well-behaved class. Similarly, whenever I look at gasoline, I think of a pleasurable hobby, but the people around me have made it very clear that they don't see eye to eye with me here. 

 

While it may be difficult, I think that we should try and see the world through other people's eyes if we want to form meaningful connections with them. My perception of the world is largely determined by the thoughts going through my head at a particular moment. Since the people I love are almost always on my mind, I see them everywhere I look. 

 

The colour green is one of my friends' favourite colours and looking at a sprawling meadow or plants growing through the cracks of mossy walls always reminds me of them. I can't look at a lizard crawling on a window without remembering the lizard musical that my brother and I co-wrote a year ago. When I look at solid colours, the first thing that comes to my mind is a flag-loving friend of mine. 

 

A lot of things have a special meaning in my head because I associate them with a fond memory or a person who means a lot to me. These little inside jokes I have with the world always bring a smile to my face even when I'm having a terrible day. Looking out for the seemingly mundane things in my life that remind me of the people I love always makes me feel a little less alone and I’ve been told that it’s a better coping mechanism than setting things on fire. 

 

On that note, I'm going to go search for some lemons (and a fire extinguisher).

- Chaand

Rahul is a sixteen year old teenager. 

 

Everyday, he wakes up at 5:15 in the morning. After making his bed, he immediately uses the washroom and brushes his teeth. He then picks his uniform out from the closet and goes for a bath. He comes out of the bathroom soaking wet, and dries himself up before he puts on his uniform. He goes to the dining table and wishes his family good morning as he eats breakfast with them. It is now only 6:00 in the morning, but Rahul’s bus leaves for school at 7:15. What does Rahul do with this time on his hands?

 

He spends half an hour doing maths sums. He does his trigonometry, dotting off the “i”s on his sine and cosine. He then spends the rest of the time practising the piano, getting ready for his piano exam. But he does not spend a second packing his bag. Why? Because it was packed and ready the previous night itself. At 7:15, Rahul puts on his bag and gets on his bus. During the entire bus ride, he has his History book open and he is glued to it. When he gets to school, he immediately gets to his class so as to not get late and reaches in time for attendance. During the entire school day he takes notes during lectures and does all the work that he is given.

 

He doesn’t mind missing lunch if it means he can finish his Biology work and he never talks to his friends so as to not get distracted. Throughout the day, he is focused on his studies. Rahul gets home after school, attends tennis class, practises for his tournament, and then spends his entire evening doing homework and studying. One hour of physics is followed by an hour of chemistry and then an hour of biology. He has a headache? He drinks coffee and gets right back to his work. After about 5 hours of homework and studies, it is dinner time and Rahul quickly eats before packing his bag and going to bed by 11:30 at night. 

 

Rahul is a class topper; he gets a consistent 98% in all his exams. Rahul follows the same routine everyday. On non school days, he spends 10 of the 16 hours awake studying and doing homework. Rahul seems like the perfect student, but is he happy? Rahul wants to go out and play with his friends and wants to spend some time not studying and reading books or watching TV, but he feels pressured to do work all the time. Not only from people around him, but also from himself because he feels he needs to be perfect.

 

Enter Mohan, Rahul’s classmate.
 

Mohan wakes up at 6 in the morning, brushes his teeth, and uses the washroom. He stares at himself in the mirror and grins at himself. Today he was going to try to have fun like he tries every single day. He has a bath and he cleans himself up properly before putting on his uniform while humming the tune of his favourite song and going to the dining table to wish his parents good morning. He talks to them and eats breakfast; before he realises, it's 7 and he has only 15 minutes to pack his bag. He does it in no time and leaves to catch his bus. 

 

During the bus ride, Mohan talks to his friends and laughs with them. He tells them stories about how he won a cricket match last evening and how he enjoys playing with his cats. He sometimes even reads novels as he finds comfort in them. Like Rahul, Mohan too plays the piano, but he does it because he enjoys it, and not because he is forced to write exams by his parents. 

 

At school, Mohan does his best to pay attention in classes but also makes it a point to not overwork himself. He takes a minimal amount of notes because he gets distracted at times, but otherwise, he understands and makes a mental note of what is taught and is not afraid to ask his teacher doubts and queries. Mohan always takes breaks and never misses his meals. Mohan spends his evenings after school playing cricket with his friends, doing homework to the best of his ability and studying only the little that he learnt at school that day, or sometimes not studying at all. He ensures to prioritise his mental health over a deadline whenever he can.

 

Mohan consistently gets 85% in his exams. He is happy with how his life is. He may not have his notebooks filled to the brim with notes or study more hours in the day than he sleeps, but he gets work done. You don't have to be a “perfect” student to be a good student. Doing the work that you feel is enough and in between the underworking and overworking extremes is, although not always easy to identify, the best thing for you. Good studying doesn’t always mean studying for long amounts of time.

 

Sure, studying is important. Going to a good college, getting the best grades, all that sounds really appetising, but there should never be a tradeoff with your mental health. Because even though Mohan may not fill his books with notes, you can bet on the fact that he will tear out the empty pages on all his old notebooks and bind them into new ones for the next year, when he will get closer to filling it up.

 

There is no single definition of a good student; you’re a good student, as long as you look to be better with each day. You should always make it a point to take time away from your work when you can just have fun and do the things you love. But it is incredibly important to aim towards being a realistic student like Mohan and not an extremely idealistic student like Rahul. Because it is incredibly important to acknowledge that it is impossible to be even close to Rahul; no single human being can (or should try to) work for that amount because it is incredibly unhealthy. 

 

Rahul is not a person, he is an unrealistic idea of a person who does not, and will never exist. Finding the middle ground between overworking and underworking is sometimes incredibly difficult, and while being Mohan too is something that is hard to achieve, I think we should all look to be like Mohan. 

 

It is important for us to strive to be a person and not a caricature.

The Perfect Student

 
 

TROPHIES ON A SHELF

- DIYA

I have several trophies that I keep in chronological order on a shelf in my room. They each represent different times in my life where I’ve accomplished something more than just winning those trophies.

For example, the 3 individual championship trophies from sports days in my old school were defining moments in my life, helping me realize that I was a good athlete, as well as teaching me the importance of team spirit. The Most Promising Player award I won for soccer in 8th grade was the year that I tried my best not to miss even a single after school practice, and also the year I tried out for the state team. It showed me that hard work and determination are rewarded (and that a little serendipity can’t hurt). The last trophy I won was the Player of the Match award after coming into the match in the second half, and also losing 5-0. Either I was rewarded for pulling off a stepover and then accidentally doing a Maradona turn, or they meant to give the award to a different Diya (I’d bet on the latter).

That’s enough bragging for the next year or so.

The point is, I’ve come to realize that these trophies don’t mean as much to me as they used to. I can’t look at them to get a confidence boost anymore because they’re now just memories of how simple things were before. Before the pandemic, before IB, before I had access to the streaming trifecta of Netflix, Prime Video, and Hotstar. I feel like everyone has a little part of themselves that they’ve lost in the past few years, maybe not because of the pandemic itself or because school has become more demanding, but because they’ve had to grow up and move on. I’m slowly trying to believe in my trophies again, because I think they’re an important part of me that I can’t afford to lose.  

I decided to write a poem about these trophies. The first part is based on the days where you could be carefree and spend the whole day playing hand games with no consequences. The second part is about the murky present.   

 

Trophies on a shelf.

More than five, less than twelve;

Eight neat in a line

From grades one to nine.

Made of plastic, glass, or wood,

I don’t value them like I should.

Some look silver, some look gold,

Looking at them makes me feel old.

Twenty eleven to twenty nineteen,

Not before, nor after, only in between.

3 years since I’ve added to the collection.

No more! Time for daily disinfection!

No sports, no trips, no time to think –

Last two years gone in a blink

 

of an eye. I am lost in a never-ending day.

The future always too far away,

but all the memories collect dust

on a shelf. Hard to cope.

I’m waiting for a glimmer of hope.

I know these trophies seem like mere mementoes,

but dust them off, pick them up,

hold on to them for dear life and

step back into the unknown,

knowing that they are yours and that

you earned them.

 
 

MOONLIT PATH

- ROBERT YATES

I walk a moonlit path,  

starving myself of sleep  

and sanity - sometimes.  

A symphony of night calls me,   

The last act for the   

evening - a cricket's encore   

is a lullaby for lovers,  

dancing down the bricks   

of a river park.  

   

Quiet.  

   

I watch each  

porch go dark,  

and wonder what it's like   

in there - a room with  

Christmas dinners and  

stupid sweaters.   

"Where are you?"  

When I'm running late-  

  

Crash.  

   

A raccoon tips over a   

trashcan with his wife  

and kids.   

   

I walk a moonlit path, alone,  

but at the very last notes  

the whole world sings for me. 

YELLOW FEAR

- SHAURYA ARYA

Corrine Bailey Rae knew what she was saying when she sang, The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.

Sure, I’ve grown up. Crossed the line into adulthood and become the man I am today. And, believe me, I’m happy. But there’s something that still lingers, refusing to escape even as the years roll by and old memories and experiences get whitewashed with new ones. Something that either you are too scared to let go of or that it’s too strong that you just can’t. 

Monsters. 

Monsters under the bed. Monsters watching you from behind the curtains. Monsters in the shadows. 

Monsters living within you. 

Today, while taking my evening walk, I slipped into a hole – metaphorical, but every bit real – where I confronted a monster I thought I had left behind years ago. Beside the track I walk on is a patch dominated by bushes. I heard a couple of kids giggling there, and a faint snatch of “I don’t think he can find us.” One of these kids, a boy, brought up his head from behind the bush and looked around. His eyes met mine for a second, but, in that fleeting moment, I found myself sliding through the tunnel leading to my monster.

 

The same monster I had met as a kid playing hide and seek with my friends in a park just like this. I had decided to hide behind a bush and find a place to sit against the ten feet wall that separated the park on one side and the neighbouring locality on the other. Faint music floated from there; a disco tune from the 80s my mum loved.

A lamp glowing behind me allowed me to make my way through the bushes. Finding my way was difficult; I had to do it silently. The crunch of the leaves on the ground as I stepped on them was audibly loud. Even though it was only 5:30, it was almost dark. A couple of times, something – a thorn is the most logical guess – pricked my thigh, and I think I yelped.

But I still made it to where I wanted, and sat down. The light from the lamp ended a little further away, affording me unnoticeability. I was on my hunches, my back against the wall. After a minute, shifting my weight from one leg to the other, I moved my foot; crunching a leaf underneath it. The disco track behind me ended, giving way to another.

I felt a prick at my neck. I slapped it and wiped whatever it was away. It felt moist. Ugh. I rested my head against the wall, and…

I must have dozed off. I think I heard a voice from somewhere far away. My eyes flew open. It took a few seconds for the world around me – the sound of the crickets, the thump of the disco – to fill my mind. 

And, with it, came a fear as sharp as an icicle. 

I lifted myself a little, enough so my head poked out of the bushes. There was no one in sight. I started deliberating if I should call out to my friends. I had left my wrist watch back home, so I had little to no idea what time it was. The last of the colour had left the sky, and I was terrified. Surely, I remember thinking, the park was closed for the day by now. My friends were naturally not able to find me, and had to give up eventually. They must have told my parents. 

But what if… No one was looking for me. What if my parents were happy I was lost? A week prior, mum had said, no doubt in a fit of rage, what a bad son I was when she discovered I had stolen money from her purse. I knew she was angry, but was she angry enough to wish I would go missing?

An urge to scream was forming inside me. It began as a tiny bubble, and started expanding, gaining mass; until it became too big to be contained within. 

“Help!” I cried out. 

And help did come. I heard footsteps further ahead, away from the cone of light the lamp was casting. I could make out an outline. I wanted to call out, but only managed a feeble, barely audible whimper. “Help, please.” His footsteps were slow, deliberate. Just as he was a step away from the cone of light, I saw, or at least I think I saw… 

Were those yellow balls of light where his eyes should have been?

“Arayan!” I heard my mom cry out. I whipped my head, and saw my mother running towards me from the far right. The pink robe she loved as dearly as the 80s disco flapped about her. I felt a jolt of happiness and relief wash over me. I stood up, and ran out from the thick bushes; scratching my thigh as I did. But the pain didn’t matter then. When we met, she lifted me in her arms, and we both cried tears of joy. I told her I was sorry, and she said it was okay. 

I turned my head, and, as I had expected, I saw the man with the sick yellow eyes. He stood beside the lamppost now, conveniently away from the light; just a shadow in the envelope of darkness. 

Except the eyes. They were looking at me.

Half an hour later, I was in my bed, a cup of cocoa in my hand. My mum sat at the foot of the bed, looking at me. Into my eyes.

The eyes behind which the image of the monster burned. 

The same monster I would see years from then – on an ordinary evening when I thought I had cast those silly childhood fears away. 

How wrong I was.

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.