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ISSUE 20

 

mysteries, microscopes and magnification

- Snigdha

When I started writing for this column, at the very start of this magazine, I knew that I wanted this place to be a haven for all the flittering, unpunctuated ramblings that were strewn around in my head. Somewhere along the way, I lost track of what I was supposed to do. I lost sight, went off-balance, and wrote things that didn’t even remotely sound like the voice in my head. I owe all my readers an apology for my disconnected writing; but I owe a greater apology to myself, because I simply didn’t look deep enough to realise that I wasn’t making the best use of what lay inside me. 

 

Today, I understand the power of zooming in. Peering deeply. Magnifying the obstructed, the hidden, and the mysterious. What I initially set out to do was to enlarge the miniscule, and pay close attention to the details that were usually missed. But how do you know where to start? The world is, after all, gargantuan in itself. 

 

During Biology labs, I stared at slides of onion cells, screaming pink and purple that demanded my attention. Microscopes showed me what the sticky, tear-inducing skin actually looked like: hued, crystalline assortments that looked like tiles on a paved road. As I think about them, I tell myself that this is the path that it has set for me, one that implores me to look deeply at the simple things, because they hold the indefinite and infinite secrets that we’re looking for.

 

I’ve come a long way from onion cells. Because the world is made of all kinds of peels, parts and moving pieces. I took time to create my own internal microscope, one that surgically introspects what happens in my own life, and carefully sews it with my own understanding of how the world works. Because we are all microcosms of a larger whole, cogs and screws that operate the larger social machine that runs endlessly. 

 

If you think about it, it all started somewhere, from one person, one thought, idea, or mistake. Tracing back from this evolutionary line of actions and decisions, it puts into perspective just how much everything we do matters. A ripple effect; energy flowing out into the universe. We are all unequivocally making change, creating chaos, each second of every day. It’s not just baffling, but extremely interesting to explore just how much of the larger picture is painted by our own shuffling brush strokes that we consider to be detached from the way the world appears. 

 

Starting from within gives you the chance to not just understand yourself, but the world you find yourself in. Dig deeper. Place your memories on a slide, and see how they play out under the microscope. What secrets can you unearth? What questions can you answer with what you already have? Look closer. All you have to do is magnify. 

 

- Ananya

The Bell Jar: Misery in Art, Put Under Glass

tw// mention of mental illness, slight mention of self harm

I find that my co-columnist Shravan really enjoys playing games with our audience. Out of mild entertainment and for the sake of my curiosity, let’s play one that I’ve devised right now; the rules are quite simple. Simply open your Google Keep, Notes app, or any other means of journaling you use on your devices. How many drafts of melancholic poems do you have typed up right now?

When I was younger, I wrote poems about the most absurd things. Frogs adorned by top hats were my specialty, and I wrote incessantly about sparkled boots like they were going out of fashion (and they were. My first experience with untimely demises). The art that I consumed revolved around fantasies and fiction which, unsurprisingly, were targeted at the age demographic I was - ditzy six year olds, with far too many opinions about what their ideal palaces looked like. With nary a care for the fine line between inspiration and downright plagiarism, my writing reflected those fairytales. However, as I grew up, my style evolved ever so slightly; although I would still love to write about forest animals, I also write about my feelings and the like.

With the 20 issues that we have written, I feel like we have built an audience of at least 5 people - to those of you reading this, you are one of them. I trust you with my deepest secrets. And so, with a heavy heart, I must inform you:

My short-lived poetry career is coming to an end.

And this decision has not been made simply because my poetry is comically disastrous, but because I have no inspiration to write anything. Very sadly, there is nothing tumultuous going on in my life - no muse shaped from mental anguish, no turmoil to dissect with words. Although I hardly believe that agony is the sole reason we write, I found that every poem I attempted to write had some element of angst; even if there was no reason for it to possess any. I didn’t know how to write without sounding derivative of every heartbreaking song I had ever listened to. Often, it was implied that to be good at art, you had to be willing to cut your ear off, or in the very least, some unfathomable devastation. The very idea of art, at least in Greek mythology, was believed to be developed by something along those lines:

According to Aristophanes, ancient philosopher of the gods, Zeus had created people with two heads, four legs, and four arms. They were of 3 sexes - the children of the earth, who were fully female; the children of the sun, who were fully male; and finally, the children of the moon, who were half female and half male. The contentment they felt made the God of lightning furious, and so, he split the people into two and scattered them through the earth. They were destined to scour the earth, searching for their split half - their twin flame. However, there was one more sex that the hopeful forget to mention: the children of the dirt.

The children of the dirt were never given two bodies, and they were never split - they remained assembled in one piece, but that also meant they never had any soulmate. To cope, they came up with art as a method of relieving misery.

And it’s safe to say that this idea of our self-expression always reflecting our pain remained. Now, this is not to say that it isn’t a good way of helping us understand our harsh realities; however, in the last few periods of art, we see that not only is mental illness considered an important part of someone’s craft, but the mark of a “true” maker as well. The “tortured artist” trope floats in and out of pop culture, perhaps its most popular examples being people such as Hemingway and Van Gogh. More recently as well, artists such as Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift have also talked about how their music is considered as “coming from a place of devastation” and that when life is happier, they are scared they will lose inspiration - and ultimately, recognition.

But this idea is very dangerous. Art does not always come from suffering, and not only does this narrative require creatives to produce a certain type of content, but also defines them by their neurodivergence - putting them in inescapable traps. Society romanticizes their mental illnesses, not giving them the proper help they need in the hopes of exploiting another “mad” artist’s story and works. In reality, the treatment of artists is what hurts them the most - the dismissal of their cries for help. It also does not help that this perpetuates the idea that people with mental illnesses always make grand art to cope. The world then feels they are entitled to vulnerable work from neurodivergent people, when they either don’t want to share that part of their lives or have different coping mechanisms.

Art is a space for us to reflect on our complex emotions- that could be misery and our darkest moments, and that misery relates with countless and acknowledges so many people undergoing hard times. However, that does not mean that art always requires big, dark, feelings.

You don’t always need your heart to be broken to create something beautiful.

You just need it to be recalcitrant. 

 

Mimic Plants and Our Mentalities

- Grace 

The first plant I grew by myself was an aloe vera. It was easy, useful, and didn’t need that much care. Recently, my grandmother gifted me a climbing shrub and it’s been growing promptly. Its only support is a small tree branch I stuck in the pot. It’s interesting to see how the plant seems to reach for anything to hold on to and to coil around. It was around this time that I started reading about climbers and creepers, and I came across this interesting species on my Tumblr dashboard.

It’s known for its ability to do one thing- mimic. The plant itself is a climber and grows along the forest floor while going up rows of trees. There is something that sets it apart. It changes with each plant it vines on. The plant does have a way it traditionally looks- something like this.

But once it goes off the forest floor and onto the next tree, it changes. It moves from its own structure to an almost exact replica of the shape, size, and colour of the supporting tree.

Let’s set that aside for a while and talk about humans. [we’ll get back to the plants soon enough, promise]. Humans develop their base identity from the various groups and conditions they are a part of. This is a theory by Erik Erikson, who I call Freud Pro Max 2.0. Erikson had one commonality with Freud. He believed that personalities developed in stages. But rather than developing “psychosexually”, we developed our social interactions.

Erikson goes through a lot of stages: trust and mistrust, autonomy and shame, initiative and guilt, identity and confusion, integrity and despair, and a few more. Through these stages, humans go through mental changes. If they do well with them, they emerge mentally stronger and if not, they may never develop in that particular sense.

I want to talk about one stage- Identity and Role Confusion. In this stage, the person goes through several crises- their ideas, values, sense of self, passions and so on. 

For a lot of people, including me, their teen years are a period of constant change of self. You could have a whole different personality in the space of a year, and it would be understandable. Thinking about it from a more drastic point of view, I’d say changing entirely is terrifying. I couldn’t imagine being any different than I am now, but then again, the self I was two years ago couldn’t have imagined being the present me either. But it is also exciting, knowing that the person I am two years from today will be a better human, having known, read, and seen more.

Let’s go back to the plant. This is the boquila trifoliolata, and all the different leaf patterns you can see here, stem from the same plant. The only difference? The plant they’re growing on.

There is yet, a specific reason as to which the trifoliolata changes so much- It’s a defence mechanism. Some of these plants, which it grows on, are recognizably poisonous to animals. Changing itself to look like them discourages these animals from eating it, and allows itself to flourish freely.

We also change in these ways to survive the environments we are in. Our environments change often in our teen years, be it in schools, colleges, universities, or homes and moving out. People often say that your friend groups define you, and this is why. You adapt yourself to fit into those groups, and in a few senses, you become them. Although you could try to choose every social group you’re going to be in, the predictability of that is low. The trifoliolata is a close-to-perfect example of human survival through adaptation, and as humans, most of how it works is a mystery.

The trifoliolata is unlike humans in one way- it changes back to its original form once it stops vining on the host plant and goes back to the forest floor. Humans may never go back to their original form, so there is only one thing we can do. 

Accept change and love the selves we’ve been and those we will be. 

After all, they all have been our body and brain trying to keep us the safest we can be.

Sources:

You can read more about the boquila trifoliolata from National Geographic, this research paper, the tumblr post I mentioned, and this article on bacteria in the trifoliolata, which sent me down a rabbit hole.

env to person | the conversation: children + sense of self | APA: identity crisis | ASU: identity | identity statuses as developmental strategies

 

Sun Flares

- Ishana

Just to clarify, when I say “sun flares”, I mean the photographic phenomenon and not the huge explosions on the Sun. While this may seem out of character, I assure you that I am still the flaring pyromaniac you all know and love. 

 

I love sun flares because they remind me of sunshine and the kind of unadulterated happiness that can only be felt on a summer afternoon when you have no responsibilities. The kind of happiness I took for granted because I thought that I’d feel it again a thousand times.

Photos like this always make me think of summer and the times that I spent doing nothing but existing. Moments that felt suspended in the golden amber of a summer montage wherein everyone is happy and everything is okay. Even now, just thinking of those moments fills me with an inexplicable and overwhelming feeling that’s neither negative nor positive, but an amalgamation of every feeling I have ever felt.

 

This feeling is one that I’ve always associated with teenagerhood and coming-of-age movies. It reminds me that there are so many wonderful experiences that I have in store, but it also fills me with the fear that I won’t be able to experience them in the “right” way. These moments, unlike the sun, are fleeting, and don’t give you a thousand chances to capture them in a way that seems perfect to you.

 

I always imagined that while I was a teenager, growing up would feel like a movie. I didn't think that everything would be sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I did think that my life would always be interesting in a palatable way. I really don’t think that a spoiler alert is required when I say that my experience with growing up has been nothing like this.

 

I hate that I am messy in a way that can’t be romanticised. And believe me, I have tried to romanticise my life. Multiple times. I’ve even tried to recreate certain typical scenes from movies in the hopes that everything would magically fall into place for me like how they did for the main characters in those movies.

 

But lying down on my bed with my head hanging off the mattress and music playing in the background at 2 am only seemed cool until I was the one in the situation. Then, all I noticed was the pounding of blood in my head, the pins and needles in my arms, and how alone I felt. I’m still not sure if the headache after was caused by lying down like that or sleep deprivation.

 

Pretending like my life is a movie doesn’t make me happy, it just makes me slightly crazy in a self-destructive way. And the more that I think about it, the more I realise that I don’t want my life to be exactly like a movie. Because a movie only tells a part of someone’s story. 

 

I don’t want the hours spent with my friends to be reduced to a five minute scene; I want to remember every single inside joke, ridiculous story, and crazy metaphor that we come up with, whether my “audience” likes it or not. If my life truly were a movie shot and edited for other people to watch, a lot of the moments that I cherish would be cut from the main movie.

 

Even my favourite photographs aren’t the ones with perfect lighting and sun flares where everyone is looking at the camera and posing. They’re the blurry ones taken at night with my friends where we’re all looking at each other and laughing. 

 

Looking at those photos where I’m happy and laughing and just existing around the people I love the most, the same overwhelming feeling fills me up. The one that I feel when I watch teen coming-of-age movies. The strange thing is that I didn’t feel like that in the moment when it was taken because I was focusing on actually having fun rather than looking like I was having fun. The harder I try to induce this feeling, the further away I get from actually feeling it. 

 

I’ve been searching for an emotion that is impossible for me to feel in the moment, but it’s something that I feel after living in the moment. Almost like an aftertaste that lingers in my mind long after the moment has passed. Because feelings change with time. That’s why a once happy memory can make you sad, and a once embarrassing memory can make you laugh. As time changes, so does your heart and your perception of the things that happened to you. 

 

Sun flares can only be captured in photographs. In the moment, they feel like warmth and endless day. Similarly, the “teenager feeling” that I’ve been chasing for the past few years can only be realised through memory. In the moment, it feels like being truly alive.

 
 

IPL FEVER

- DIYA

I’m going to talk about one of my favorite things in the whole world: the IPL. It’s an abbreviation that’s supposed to be familiar to everyone in the country, whether they care about cricket or not – regardless of whether they know what it actually stands for. In case you were wondering (and I really hope you were not), it stands for Indian Premier League – the only summer staple common to all Indian households with televisions.

While it would be hard to imagine my summers without the IPL now, a little over a decade ago, the sensation of the T20 cricket format was unimaginable. This is because cricket used to be played in the Test format, where one match typically goes on for days on end. Limited-over cricket was only introduced in the 1960s, but was not regarded as pure cricket at the time. However, limited-over cricket allowed fans to enjoy the game in one sitting, and was a more attractive option to a younger audience.

With the introduction of the IPL in 2008, the explosive, action-packed, unbelievably entertaining, incredibly profitable, and legend-producing nature of limited-over franchise cricket was revealed to cricket fans, test zealots, and cricket boards across the world. And yes, I am very passionate about the IPL, if you didn’t get that already.

The course of T20 cricket was completely transformed due to this league. It has blown up into the huge phenomenon it is today, with many benefits to all parties involved:

  1. Indian cricket (and the BCCI) have grown into superpowers. The league has provided young, domestic players exposure to high quality coaching and high-pressure environments. This is conducive to helping train them to become viable candidates for international cricket. They also get to learn from the best players from all around the world. The IPL has nurtured so many of the successful players on the Indian international cricket team, which has been one of the top cricketing sides in all formats in the past few decades. The BCCI also gains a large portion of their revenue each year from the IPL.

  2. Sponsorship. The IPL has an extremely high viewership; every year, it attracts over 200 million viewers in the first week of the tournament alone. This means that advertisements aired during matches are exposed to a very large number of households across the country, spanning various demographics. The audience isn’t complaining either – the advertisements get increasingly more creative and entertaining each year. Even if they don’t, there’s always something to make fun of during the ad breaks (Cred bounty khelo baby, Cred bounty khelo!).

  3. Financial stability for players. Cricketers playing in the IPL now make huge sums of money from each match – even more than players in the English Premier League! In the past, cricket was not nearly as profitable; players often had to take other jobs after retiring from cricket. However, a contract with an IPL team usually means you’re set for life. Players can also profit by participating in advertisements.

  4.  Entertainment! This is pretty self-explanatory. The IPL is incredibly exciting to watch, with huge hitters, thrilling catches, and heroic victories. Some of my happiest (and saddest) memories are in front of the television with a plate of food on my lap, watching the IPL. Whether it is an easy victory, or an adrenaline-inducing thriller, I am always entertained by the match.  

  5. The very nature of the cricketing landscape has changed. Cricket is now not just viewed as a day’s worth of watching the same deliveries over and over again (sorry Test fans), but as a fast-paced, profitable piece of entertainment. Cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world, right behind association football. The IPL was a major contributing factor to the popularity of the sport – the effects of which can be seen in many households across the country. For example, most of my summer evenings were spent playing a game of cricket in the street.

While it may seem as though the country is divided into the IPL franchises they support, I believe that this beautiful league actually unites the country. Our shared passion is so strong, that the outcome of the match doesn’t matter - at the end of the day, win or lose, all we really want is to enjoy a nice game of cricket together. I cherish these shared ups and downs, the hope and the pain. We celebrate the victories and remain in denial after the losses, all while experiencing a great game of cricket. Which is why the IPL will always hold a special place in my heart.

Though, I have to say, as an RCB fan, it would really be nice to have a win…